Editor Emily Melcher Business Manager Jefferson Stall Staff Anthony Botezatu Sean Duranovich Maria Jose Philip Jurkowski Shalaleh Kasebi Alyssa Monroe George Morkos Redouane Ourlissene Rachel Pisano Daâ€™Carla Strong Faculty Advisors Assistant Professor Tadd Heidgerken Associate Professor Noah Resnick Funicular Casino by Aaron Jones http://jonesaaron.com/
PRICE $50.00 US University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture 4001 W McNichols Rd Detroit, Michigan 48221 313.993.1523 Our digital archive can be found at: http://dichotomy.arch.udmercy.edu
Printing: Rocket Printing, Royal Oak, MI Copyright ÂŠ 2019 by Dichotomy | University of Detroit Mercy All rights reserved. No par t of this issue may be reproduced in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from Dichotomy. ISSN # 0276-5748
mission Dichotomy, a student-published journal of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture, strives to be the critical link to the discourse on design, architecture, urbanism, and community development. Like the institution, Dichotomy focuses on social justice and critical thought concerning intellectual, spiritual, ethical, and social development issues occurring in and outside of Detroit. The aim of Dichotomy is to disseminate these relevant investigations conducted by students, faculty, and professionals.
celebrating 40 years 1978 - 2018
006 007 008 009 016 018 020 022 034 034 036 038 048 050 052 054 064 066 068 070 080 082 084 086 098 098 100 102 112 114 116 118 Emily Melcher: Editors Note
George Dodds: Introduction
010 024 040 056 072 088 104 120
011 026 042 058 074 090 106 120 128 134 140 146
James Timberlake: Upon reflection
Dr. Alberto PerezGรณmez: Charles Francois Viel
012 028 044 060 076 092 108 124 130 136 142 148
014 030 046 062 078 094 110 126 132 138 144 150
R. Buckminster Fuller: Old man river
Charles A. Blessings: Urban Design in Perspective Detroit 1950 -1980
Dr. Thomas W. Brunk: The House that Freer Built
Daniel Libeskin: End space
An Interview with Gunnar Birkerts
James Timberlake with George Dodds: Learning from Architectural Drawing
Helmut John Hammen: Katsura
24 Jerzy Staniszkis: Chalk Talks
Lucien Kroll: For Demilitarization of the Act of Building
Stephen Vogel: The Suburbanization of Detroit
The Play of Architecture [Re] Production Eugenia Victoria Ellis: Eugenia Victoria Ellis
152 168 184 200 216 234 250 266 282 298 314 330 346
154 170 186 202 218 236 252 268 284 300 316 332
156 172 188 204 220 238 254 270 286 302 318 334
158 174 190 206 224 240 256 272 288 304 320 336
160 176 192 208 226 242 258 274 290 306 322 338
162 178 194 210 228 244 260 276 292 308 324 340
164 180 196 212 230 246 262 278 294 310 326 342
166 182 198 214 232 248 264 280 296 312 328 344
Thomas W. Brunk, Ph.D.: The Original Freer Gallery of Art Christian Zapatka: The Natural and the Artificial Christian Zapatka
Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de Leon: Constructing a Different Future
Sheila Kennedy: Looking Again...
Julie Ju-Youn Kim: [Investigation in] Electrorganic Landscapes
Ronit Eisenbach: filum aquae: The Thread of the Stream
Ania Jaworska: Confetti Tower
Thomas Provost: 707PX
Jimenez Lai: On Types of Seductive Robustness
Ida D.K.Tam: Reconsidering Authenticity
Issue 25: Call for Entries
Perry Kulper: Space Oddities
Ivo Pekec and Fereshteh Assadzadeh Sheikhjani: Subversive Tehran
Dean Will Wittig: UDM SOA NEWS
Jeannine Shinoda: m(eat)
Some may say we were “out of service,” however, us at the Dichotomy Student Journal have been hard at work. Over the past two years, our students have been curating this special edition issue - sustaining the past 40 years of the Dichotomy journal tradition, celebrating this milestone anniversary, and planning for the future as we enter our next decade. Traditionally, it is said that the 40th anniversary symbolizes an eternal inner flame. Issue 24, Out of Service, offers a glimpse into our fervor through the past, present, and future. In our time “out of service,” we have handcrafted a unique selection of articles spanning twenty different issues and dating as far back as 1979. Although every article included in our past twenty-three issues has contributed to our success as a student journal, we have chosen specific articles to recapture the timeless essence of Dichotomy. In this issue, you will find older articles that capture the past, however, are still relevant to today; new reflections by our original contributors; and an ever-so-present optimism for our future. As we return to service our readers and begin our next chapter as both a student organization and school of architecture, let us not forget to acknowledge our past and celebrate our future. So please join us as we flip back through the pages and journey through our ruby years.
introduction During a recent second-year design studio, I asked my undergraduate students to discuss with me the meaning of the word artifact. Their cockeyed contributions were wide-ranging: the most useful was “something old.” As we parsed the term and how it applies to anything human-made, their interest increased, particularly as I expanded on how the concept applies to more than a building or chachka, but includes all human relations, institutions, language, music, even nature. All are artifacts and as such, culturally situated. Dichotomy is an artifact, having emerged out of a particular time, place, and people. While I was the principal partner responsible for developing and realizing this artifact, the institution in which it was housed, the human relations out of which it was forged, and the geography (physical and cultural) of place were all agents of change during the 1978-79 academic year. Its name, as with so many important events during my tenure at The University of Detroit, is due to Professor Robert Tucker’s influence. Now an emeritus professor, at the end of the 1970s, he was very much a force of nature on the faculty: mercurial, thoughtful, and an infinity of Buddha-like remarks offered up in a Newport menthol haze. When asked what he thought the name of the journal should be, without missing a beat he responded: “dichotomy.” Tucker never liked explaining himself – what self-respecting Buddha does? Hence, when asked why that name, his response was terse: “Because that’s what architecture is!” The next sound was the door to his office closing behind him. Ideas and desire, even the most well intended, require backing: political and financial. Fortunately, during my undergraduate studies, I was taught history and theory by the likes of Steve Vogel and Dan Hoffman; urban design by Detroit’s former City Planner, Charlie Blessing; architectural design by Bob Tucker, Tony Martinico, Steve LaGrassa, and Lou Gauci; and I enjoyed the liberality, in all its shades of meaning, of Dean Bruno Leon. Bruno not only backed the idea of the journal, but agreed with my proposal of an annual student fee to pay for it, as long as the student-body voted in favor; it carried unanimously. The culture of the time out of which Dichotomy emerged could not be more different than today’s, nor could the students of the mid-to-late 1970s. When we chafed at the lack of history & theory in our curriculum, I led a small group into the dean’s office to request that he change our required curriculum. Almost overnight we had two semesters of theory courses offered by Dan Hoffman – the first he’d ever taught. Remarkable. Today it’s far more likely for students to kvetch that too few of their courses are directly applicable to the job market, or the wait times at the 3-D printers are too long. Among the most outrageous things about Dichotomy was the chutzpah required to solicit original articles from such great historians and critics as Reynar Banham and Udo Kultermann; the legendary educator John Hedjuk; the influential second-generation modernist Harry Weese; and the infamous Philip C. Johnson. Unlike the others, Johnson refused, replying in his two-sentence letter: “Read my book.” Another of Dichotomy’s quirks was my insisting we always secure space to publish the essays of students. Unprecedented at the time, it was extremely important to me, not only because students were underwriting the journal, but also because I believed they too had much to say that was worth reading. I still do. I know there’s more to today’s students of architecture than mere technocrats. Journals such as Dichotomy can help prick up the ears of students willing to listen, and polish the eyes of those who appreciate the difference between reading a text and apprehending a work of architecture. Fortunately, the latter still requires a haptic presence in one place, at one time.
George Dodds University of Tenessee Founder of the Dichotomy Student Journal‘80
upon reflection Learning from Architectural Drawing In 1983, I submitted an article for Dichotomy entitled “Learning from Architectural Drawing,” which I wrote with the assistance and editing help of George Dodds, Class of ’84, who is now a professor at the University of Tennessee School of Architecture. The article was written while I was a Fellow at the American Academy in Rome in the 1982-83 academic year, and was inspired by my thesis for my Rome Prize Fellowship application, which stated that “drawing styles were intimately related to the development of architectural style,” and proposed that a study of 15th- and 16th-century drawings would “discern how the advancement and development of drawing technique might have influenced how we think about architecture.” The published article outlined this thesis and provided several examples of drawings found during my study in Rome. While the thesis could not be definitively proven—at least not by a Registered Architect with stilldeveloping research abilities and skills—it nonetheless contributed to the evolution of thought about drawing and design and the direct interrelationship of the tools we employ to begin, communicate, develop, and visualize the architecture we make. Now, over 30 years and a diverse portfolio later, I have not only honed my research skills but have also witnessed architecture’s notable transformation since my days in Rome. Most significantly, the profession has arguably seen the most profound and broadest changes to communication methods since the first master builder placed a stroke of a line on a parchment skin. When I was trained at the University of Detroit, a school that was then only about seven years old, communication was limited to ink pen and pencil, hand-drawn with a T-square or Mayline using triangles, templates, or a variety of sketch methodologies, and of course collage, photography, and transfers. Over the next 45 years, with the advent and development of digital technologies, computers, cloud storage, and related applications, we have moved mostly—but not entirely—to work conceived, developed, produced, and communicated digitally. Even those things we draw directly with hand-brain coordination using oldschool media can now be scanned, transferred, altered, enhanced, and re-composed even after the creation of an initial sketch. This transformation means that in architecture we can do anything, communicate anything, imagine anything. There are no limits. When I think back upon my thesis, I am reminded of the trajectory of both my own career and the field of architecture. The ideas were conceived during the rise of postmodernism architecture and while I was hard at work for the late Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, honing and perfecting the drawing style that best communicated their work at the time. The narrowness of those limits, and the naïve, uninformed notion that a singular style of drawing was inextricably linked to the outcome of the work, seemed natural to me. Now, we invent “styles” of drawing simply to help communicate a single project. As today’s plethora of communication choices becomes increasingly unlimited, we see new architectural boundaries made and broken and remade within nano-moments. Change is good. And more change will come. As Venturi once wrote: “Plus ça change!”
James Timberlake ‘74 KieranTimberlake 30 Years Later
James Timberlake, conceptual sketches, 2009-2017, pen on yellow trace (photostated), US Embassy in London
VOLUME 3, No. 1, arbitrary extrusions, 1979
Old Man River R. Buckminster Fuller R. Buckminster Fuller (1895-1983) - Architect, Engineer, Planner, Scientist, and Mathematician. He was all of these yet none of them, for at his finest, Buckminster Fuller was simply a curious man. For more than half a century he had looked at the world with the eyes of a child. He viewed both the mundane and the fantastic with the same intellectual verve of a never ending youth. In 1972 the British magazine Architectural Design dedicated their entire December issue to “Bucky” Fuller in which the first published article by Fuller on the East St. Louis Project was printed. The development of “Old Man River” has spanned the decade and it will not be until the year two thousand that it will be reasonably near construction; yet, we see in this project, as we do in all of Fuller’s work, a respect for humanity that was as much a part of him as was his love for the unknown.
Old Man River
R. Buckminster Fuller
Old Man River’s City undertaken for East St. Louis, Illinois, takes its name from the song first sung by Paul Robeson fifty years ago, which dramatized the life of Afro-American blacks who lived along the southern banks of the Mississippi River in the days of heavy North-South river traffic in cotton. Cessation of the traffic occurred when the East-West railway network outperformed the NorthSouth Mississippi, Mexican Gulf, and Atlantic water route, which left many of its river bank communities, such as East St. Louis, marooned in economic dead spots. East St. Louis is America’s Calcutta, with its poverty equally devastating. Its population of 70,000 is 70 per cent black. I originally came to East St. Louis to discuss the design and possible realization of the Old Man River’s City having been asked to do so by East St. Louis community leaders themselves, being first approached by my friend, Katherine Dunham, the famous black dancer. At the community leaders’ request I presented a design that would help solve their problem. It is mooncrater shaped: The crater’s truncated cone top opening is a half mile in diameter, rim to rim while the truncated mountain itself is a mile in diameter at its base ring. The city has a one mile diameter geodesic, quarter-sphere, transparent umbrella mounted high above it to permit full, all-around viewing below the umbrella’s bottom
perimeter. The top of the dome roof is 1,000 feet high. The bottom rim of the umbrella dome is 500 feet above the surrounding terrain while the crater-top esplanade, 250 feet radially inward from the umbrella’s bottom, is at the same height. From the esplanade the truncated mountain cone slopes downwardly, inwards and outwards to ground level 50 feet below. Both the moon crater’s interior and exterior slopes each consist of fifty terraces their floored terraces tiered vertically ten feet apart. The entire interior of the moon crater’s terraced slopes is used for communal life, and its outward sloping tree-planted terraces are entirely for private life. The outward circular bank of private home terraces are subdivided by trees and bushes to isolate them one from the other. This garden divided exterior terracing hides the individual private-home terraces from one another while permitting an unobstructed view outward to the faraway landscape. Thus landscape-partitioned from one another, the individual homes beneath the umbrella dome do not need their own separate weather roofs. The experience will be that of living outdoors in the garden without any chance of rain and out of sight and sound of other humans, yet subconsciously aware that your own advantage is not at the expense of others’ zonal advantaging.
OLD MAN RIVER
Arnold Toynbee (left) and R. Buckminster Fuller (right)
The floors of the individual homes on the outward terraced slopes penetrate inwardly of the “mountain side” to provide an 85% enclosed family apartment set back into the “mountain’s” surface. Each family’s apartment floor area totals 2,500 feet, being 100 feet inwardly extended and 25 feet 1 inch wide at its outside terrace front line and 25 feet at its innermost chord line. Each apartment occupies only 1/600 of the circle’s 360° of arc. In addition there will be 1,300 square feet of public space for each of the 25,000 families which Old Man River’s City will accommodate on the 50 interior communal terraced slopes of the crater city.
The geodesic sky parasol-umbrella protects the whole of Old Man River’s City from rain or snow. The sky dome is transparent. Its aluminum and stainless steel trussed structure will be glazed with wire reinforced glass, ergo, and fire proof. The dome will admit all biological, lifesupporting sun radiation. The great umbrella is a guttered watershed whose runoff is directed first to a roof level water reservoir for a fire sprinkler system after which the overflow is piped downwardly to a surrounding “moat” reservoir and purified to provide for all interior needs where and when needed. Many of the lower tiers of Old Man River’s City’s interior terraces have enough horizontal
surface to accommodate groups of tennis courts, whole school and playground areas, supermarkets, outdoor theaters, etc. The terraces are of graduated widths, with the narrowest at the top. They become progressively wider at each lower level. Inside, that is below the moon crater’s three mile-and-a-half-around, surface terraced, mountain mass are all the communal services not requiring daylight; for instance, all the multilevel circumferential trolley ways, inter level ramps, roadways and parking lots with numerous radial crosswalks and local elevators. There are radial-crosswalk bridges at every four terrace levels. These provide bridges never more than two decks up or down for walking homeward outwardly from the interior community bowl to one’s individual, terraced, tree-hidden dwelling area. In addition to the foregoing interior structuring and facilities, the factory and office space within the crater mountain is colossal, being about ten million square feet. The city is complete as a living, working, studying and playing complex as is a great ocean passenger ship but without the space limiting imposed by the ship’s streamlined form to accommodate for its swift passage through the seas. Because its life style will be so vastly improved over present day living, Old Man River’s City has been designed to accommodate 25,000 families, i.e. 125,000 humans, though East St. Louis has now only 70,000 humans grouped in 14,000 families.
There are many exciting consequences of Old Man River’s City community life being introverted and its private life extroverted. Within the interior community bowl everyone can see what all the rest of the community is doing, as do the 125,000 member audiences of our present day great “bowl games see all the other humans present though very dimly at the farthest distances. From the individual external home-terrace on the “crater’s” outer slopes one can see no humans other than those within their own family’s home-terrace domain. They can look outwardly however, from Old Man River’s City as far as the eye can see at the interesting Mississippi scenery outside the “moon crater’s” umbrella limits. The Old Man River City’s home view is analogous to that of individuals living in dwellings on a mountainside such as that of residents on the hills of Hong Kong Island or those above Berkeley, California. Such hillside dwellers overlook vast and mysteriously inspiring scenic areas ever changing with the nights, days, and weather. The total roof surface area of the one-mile diameter, (quarter sphere) dome is only 2 percent that of the total roof and exterior skin surface area of all the buildings standing on an equal ground area in any large conventional city. The amount of external shell surface through which each interior molecule of atmosphere can gain or lose heat is thus reduced by 98%. Another energy conservation factor is operative, for, every time we double the diameter we increase its surface by four and its volume by eight. Therefore the energy efficiency doubles
OLD MAN RIVER
each time we double the dome size. This means that the structural efficiency, useful volume, and energy conservation are all at optimum in the Old Man River’s City Project. Throughout the year, Old Man River’s City will have a naturally mild climate. With a large, aerodynamically articulated wind and weather controlled ventilator system atop and around the dome together with the 500 foot high vertical opening running entirely around the city below the umbrella, the atmospheric controllability will guarantee fresh air as well as energy conservation. The umbrella will jut out above and beyond all the outer slope residential terrace areas below as does a grandstand roof so that neither rain nor snow will drift horizontally inwardly being blocked from doing so by the mass inertia of the vast quantity of atmosphere embraced by the umbrella as well as by the vertical mass of the crater’s cone within the dome. Optimum efficiency also characterizes the way in which Old Man River’s City is to
be produced. The three mile-and-a-half circumferential moon crater and its terracing will be developed entirely with modern, high speed, highway-building equipment and earthmoving techniques as well as with suspension bridge building and air-space technologies. Construction will begin with installation of a set of concentrically inter-switching railway tracks with tangential shunting by-pass tracks on which great cranes and other machinery will travel. The mammoth 500 feet high and 2000 feet wide based “A” frame shaped circumferential segments of the crater become highly repetitive and economically producible. There will be one hundred columns rising from the “A” frame tops at the crater’s top rim esplanade. These one hundred columns will be 500 feet high and will be spaced 40 meters apart mounted above the “A” frames. The tops of the 100 columns will be 1000 feet high and will be capped by a circumferential ring. The whole terraced crater structure inside and out will be of thin wall reinforced concrete. This terraced shell will be cast-mounted upon
Elevation view of the model of the Old Man River project, East St. Louis, Missouri. R. Buckminster Fuller and James Fitzgibbons.
and will thus encase an inverted, kitchen-sievelike, domical basket consisting of an omnitriangulated geodesic suspension web of fine diameter, high tensile steel rods and wires. The spider-fine, steel web basket will be suspended from the “A” frame tops at the base of the one hundred columns. The whole structure is in effect a circular triangularly self stabilizing suspension bridge with the human occupants and their goods constitute only a small fraction of the stress loads of highway traffic bridges. The fifteen hundred meter (one mile) diameter dome itself will be a horizontal wire wheel suspension consisting of an octahedronaltensegrity trussed, one quarter sphere geodesic dome suspended horizontally from the 100 circumferential columns. This method means mounting the dome one quarter of a mile inwardly from the one mile diameter parasol dome’s outer rim. This results in an inner clear span of only one half a mile, a distance comparable to that of the Golden Gate bridge’s central clear span between its two masts. I said to the East St. Louisans at the outset that our first resolve must be not to compromise our design solution in order to qualify for any private foundation or government subsidy funds. Three quarters of the United States national debt of almost half a trillion dollars and much of the private debt, which altogether transfers twenty-five billion dollars a year “interest” from our nation’s pocketbooks to the banks and insurance companies, has
been amassed through government building subsidies that were designed strictly as “moneymakers” for bankers, real estate, and handcraft building-industry interests. The funds were not amassed in the interest of the individuals and the community. I advised the East St. Louisans that we must develop our design and its production and assembly logistics strictly in terms of the individual and the community’s best interests. I said that if we solve the human problem and do so in the most economical and satisfactory manner, independent of building codes, zoning restrictions, etc., while employing air-space technology, effectiveness and safety, we will do that which no subsidized housing thus far has done. I pointed out that with increasing socioeconomic emergencies the economic support will ultimately materialize simply because we have what world-around humanity is looking for and needs. The moneymaking solutions of housing are exactly what humanity is not looking for, but has had to accept lacking any alternative. The East St. Louis school children are soon to be provided with a fifty-foot diameter miniature OMR moon crater city with which (and on which) to play, simulating actual living conditions. The children will furnish its terraces with miniaturized, scale model equipment, landscape material, athletic facilities, interior transportation equipment, factories, et al., which they will design and make. As the political leader of St. Louis, who was formerly principal of its largest high school says: “By the time it gets completed, the present high
OLD MAN RIVER
Plan view of Old Man River. In celebration of his sixtieth birthday I am officially identifying my solution of this problem on all my drawings and modeling of Old Man Riverâ€™s City as being inspired by my good fortune in being a ten times participant in the Delos Symposion of Constantin Doxiadis and by his human settlements studies, his experimentally derived principles and his lucid lectureship.
school students will be the grown occupants of Old Man River’s City, and they might just as well start right now using their imaginations to play living in and operating it.” Fabricating and assembling the model itself will be in strict conformity with the full scale operation.
University in St. Louis and above all by Prof. James Fitzgibbon, of Washington University’s architectural school. As I am absent a great deal, due to my world traveling, Jim, who is one of my best, lifelong friends, has been locally in command of the development.
At the outset meeting of our OMR’s City’s development, I told the East St. Louisans that I would develop the design and models at my own expense and do so without fee. I said that what I would design must be so “right” that the entire community would fall in love with it or it would be dropped. I said that if they did fall in love with it I would carry on with all the development expense and that they must not allow the project to become a political football. It was fortunate that the East St. Louis Community did fall spontaneously in love with the design. This held the project together through many critical moments of preliminary challenges of its validity and practicability. There were many critical meetings wherein skeptics, some of them powerful political activists, declared that this design, with its domes over interior community and exterior, private dwelling terraces, might be part of social enemy’s conspiracy to entrap them. Fortunately the design gradually explained itself until all the leaders of the community’s diverse factions, political, ethnic and economic as well as the city’s engineer all agreed on its desirability.
Both the East St. Louis and St. Louis newspapers, radio and television stations have given good and favorable reception of the project. Now world-around interest in the Old Man River project is beginning to be manifest. As interest grows, more and more articles are being published about it despite its having no public relations or advertising promotion. Quite to the contrary, I have asked the community to let the project gestate at a natural rate. Answer questions faithfully when they are asked of us, but otherwise be silently at work.
I have been greatly aided in the Old Man River’s City development by a group of volunteer architectural students from Washington
As the first favorable publicity occurred it was inevitable that Illinois’ political representatives quickly offered the East St. Louisans their aid in securing government funds, which funds however, would involve so many restrictions and compromises as to utterly emasculate the OMR City’s design rational. Thus it was a second victory of the project when I was able to dissuade the community from being tempted by the “millions’ of dollars tendered them. I have never engaged in a development that I have felt to have such promise for all humanity while being at the same time so certain of realization, because its time is imminently at hand.
OLD MAN RIVER
Photo Credits 1) 2) 3)
Prof. Charles A Blessing, FAIA, U-D School of Architecture Prof. James Fitzgiggons, Washington University of St. Louis School of Architecture Prof. James Fitzgiggons, Washington University of St. Louis School of Architecture
VOLUME 3, No. 2, Visions of the Eighties, 1980
Charles Francois Viel Dr. Alberto Perez-Gรณmez
On Charles Francois Viel and Instrumental Thinking Dr. Alberto Perez-Gómez, 2019
Charles-François Viel accurately diagnosed at the outset of the nineteenth century a radical shift in the nature of architectural theory, transforming from a meditative vehicle of thought capable of articulating broad ethical questions to a mere instrument of production. He lamented the change and contemplated its impact on architectural education and practice. I returned to Viel’s work and compared it to that of his brother, Jean-Louis Viel de Saint-Maux, in my 2006 book titled Built upon Love. The problem identified by Viel has worsened in recent years with the introduction of digital tools of fabrication, both in practice and in academia. In our present world architecture is driven by instrumental concerns, by the efficiency of production and a fascination with novelty. The proper nature and role of architectural theory is often misunderstood. We think it is capable of controlling everything (i.e., Building Information Modelling software) and yet it is thoroughly thoughtless. Philosopher Martin Heidegger explained this dilemma in his essay entitled Discourse on Thinking, (1959). He writes: “man today is in flight from thinking. This flightfrom-thought is the ground of thoughtlessness. But part of this flight is that man will neither see nor admit it. Man today will even flatly deny this flight from thinking. He will assert the opposite. He will say and quite rightly that there were at no time such far reaching plans, so many inquiries in so many areas, research carried on as passionately as today [...] and this display of ingenuity and deliberation has its own great usefulness. Such thought remains indispensable. But it also remains true that [this] is thinking of a special kind.”2 This is what Heidegger called “calculative thinking,” at the heart of science and technology; one which I have argued has also driven Western architectural production since the early 19th Century, even in cases where seemingly artistic intentions were expressed, such as formal “composition.” Heidegger explains that what characterizes calculative thinking is “the fact that whenever we plan, research, and organize, we always reckon with conditions that are given. We take them into account with the calculated intention of their serving specific purposes. Thus, we can count on definite results (efficiency or stylistic coherence). This calculation is the mark of all thinking that plans and investigates. Such thinking remains calculation even if it neither works with
CHARLES FRANCOIS VIEL
numbers nor uses an adding machine or computer. Calculative thinking computes ever new, ever more promising and at the same time more economical possibilities. Calculative thinking races from one prospect to the next. Calculative thinking never stops, never collects itself. Calculative thinking is not meditative thinking, not thinking which contemplates the meaning which reigns in everything that is.â€? 1 Alberto PĂŠrez-GĂłmez, Built upon Love, Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics (Cambridge MA: MIT Press, 2016), ch. 7. 2 Martin Heidegger, Discourse on Thinking (New York: Harper and Row, 1966), 43-56
Charles-Francois Viel and the Instrumentalizing of Architectural Theory Dr. Alberto Pérez-Gómez
Dr. Pérez-Gómez received his doctorate in architectural history and theory from the University of Essex, taught at the University of Toronto and the AA in London and has authored five books to date. Although there have been many comparisons made recently between the architecture of revolutionary France and Modern architecture, most of them occur primarily on a visual level rather than a theoretical one. In his article, Dr. Pérez-Gómez contends that Viel, who has been relatively ignored in the history of architectural theory, is the theoretical link which unites the 18th century visionary architecture of revolutionary France with the architecture of the 20th century. Charles-Francois Viel was born in Paris in 1745 and died in the same city in 1819. He studied architecture with Chalgrin and was appointed Architecte des hopitaux et hospices de Paris in 1780. Except for a few private commissions, mainly farm-houses, which he mentions in the general table of contents of his work, in Vol. IV of “Principles of Composition and Construction of Buildings,” his main realizations were hospitals and other institutions intended to take care of the needy and afflicted. Viel was undoubtedly neither a prolific nor an outstanding architect. His work as a writer and
18th Century contemporary - (37) Ledoux: House of Millie Guimard
theoretician, which I intend to examine here, however, has a much greater significance. The importance of his critical writings on architecture published during the first two decades of the 19th century has never been properly appreciated. Although some historians have noticed his acute sensitivity to the “revolutionary phenomenon,” particularly in his criticism of the excessive imagination which motivated architectural projects towards the end of the 18th century; in the end, Viel has been considered simply a speaker of the academic reaction after the French Revolution. Viel’s critical attitude however, as I wish to show in this article, has a much deeper meaning: It implies the first outspoken and thorough understanding of the evils brought about by the increasing instrumentalizing of architectural
CHARLES FRANCOIS VIEL
18th Century contemporary - (38) Boulleé: Perspective view of the Metropolitan Cathedral
theory and understanding of the limitations inherent in the attempt to control architectural design through an all-embracing conceptual scheme that would include a structural analysis determined by the laws of geometry, a detailed description of the building process, working drawings, exact quantities of materials to be used and cost estimates. Such a process of instrumentalizing, which had started at the level of theoretical intentions with the subversion of the Medieval Aristotelian cosmos in the 17th century thought, had a growing impact upon all spheres of architectural practice throughout the 18th century. Viel believed that late 18th century architecture was in a decadent state and devoted his whole work proving this appreciation. His writings are important because they show how, before his time, theory of architecture had kept its traditional role as a transcendental justification of practice; a role which it finally lost about the turn
of the century, as is clear from the theoretical works of Viel’s contemporaries. After Viel’s time, architectural theory was to become a mere instrument for the technological domination of practice based on values like economy and efficiency. Viel’s writings had little impact: It was J.N.L Durand ‘s “Precis de Lecons...“and Jean Rondelet‘s “Arc de Batir...“that were to become extremely influential throughout Europe. Viel’s critical position however, can cast much light on this crucial moment in the process towards the instrumentalizing of theory. The conception of theory as a specialized instrument to the exclusion of transcendental philosophical considerations became an unquestionable belief among most 19th and 20th century architects and is still the source of many contemporary misunderstandings. The key of Viel’s criticism is to be found in the “Conclusion” of his “Principles of Composition
and Construction of Buildings” (1812). Viel believed that the relationship between the theory of the orders and that of construction had to be intimate: there must be no distinction between the art of design. The science of composition and the rules for building. The division between theory and practice accepted and commended by many architects and geometricians, is in his opinion the main cause of the decadence of architecture. His main theme, as it will become explicit further on, was the fundamental continuity between theory and practice; between a theory that was not merely a book of recipes but primarily a metaphysical framework and a practice which was therefore meaningful and not only an efficient action without an end. Already in Viel’s first theoretical work, Vol. I of the “Principles...” (1797), one can find a clear exposition of his concern and background. He admired Buffon and Batteux and still derived his principles from the rich mythical concept of nature that pervaded the 18th century thought. Viel wanted to apply in architecture a notion that Buffon had used in natural history: “ ..by becoming familiar with the same objects, observing them often, they constitute gradually lasting impressions which become allied in our mind by means of fixed and invariable relations.” Viel believed it was better for artists and amateurs to get acquainted with the rules “more through feeling than through theory, this touch being more sure and fine than that which would derive from a dry study of principles.”
Chapter One is devoted to the elucidation of the “true source of rules.” Viel took Batteux Le Beaux Arts reduits a un meme Principe as a point of departure. Most significantly, he still considered the human body as a source of beauty, as a prototype of harmony and proportions. Viel then points out that sciences should enlighten the arts but once acquired, observations and comparisons must follow: “Without them, any definition would only leave a weak impression on our mind.” Viel’s position was clearly influenced by that “transcendental empiricism” which permeated all 18th century thought, an approach derived originally from Newtonian epistemology. Nature was the source of ultimate rules which could be established through observation. Further on, Viel criticized those architects that worked only by “blind routine” and possessed no true knowledge of principles; but he distinguished theory of architecture, the knowledge that one can obtain through the study of books, thought, travel and meditation, most proper for the amateur, from practice, the knowledge that architects derived from the execution of buildings. Viel devoted three chapters of this volume to the problem of style. This is, to my knowledge, the earliest explicit formulation of what was to become the popular 19th century notion of style to appear in an architectural treatise. He discussed the problem of purity of style and emphasized that “...style should be rigorously observed in all architectural compositions.” The notion of style as a closed, independent formal
CHARLES FRANCOIS VIEL
(39) Vitruvius: Drawing of Man, “A prototype of harmony and proportion.”
(40) Soufflot: Le Pantheon, 1791.
system is also explicit in Durand’s Receuil et Paralelle... (1801) and in Legrand‘s Essai sur l’Histoire de l’Architecture... (1809). Viel’s earlier contribution, which undoubtedly needs further elucidation with reference to 19th century art history, is perhaps the first instance in which style is considered a problem in architectural theory.
mountains, the pyramids which resisted the attack of four thousand centuries. It is therefore most important to keep these principles always in sight. Disgrace will come to the daring architect who, in charge of important buildings, disregards the fundamental principle which we have indicated and pretends to overcome the limits established by Nature!”
In chapter XXXI, Viel emphasized his belief in Nature as the source not only of the elements of architecture (the traditional Vitruvian myth) but also of the fundamental principles of construction: “ ... based on these general principles of construction the Egyptian architects, attentive observers, built those famous artificial
Viel believed that in spite of these evident rules and the examples of construction which could be easily derived from the most beautiful ancient and modern monuments, it was characteristic of his own time that architects had totally abandoned these sound principles. That which he
meant to criticize starts to become explicit in his following chapter entitled “On the dangers and abuses of the science of geometry (science du trait) applied to the construction of buildings.” There he points out that distinguished and learned scientists like De la Hire, Parent, Frezier and Belidor established, in the course of the 18th century, algebraic formulas which could be applied to the construction of buildings. Such discoveries, according to Viel have brought to the surface the exactness of building procedures used by ancient architects...“It was only natural to believe that such discoveries would multiply the means of building. Nevertheless, the immoderate application of these new procedures has become a real disgrace for the composition (ordonnance) of some pieces of architecture.” Viel writes that he has nothing against a sensible application of geometry to stone-cutting or the use of algebra to determine the point in which a structure loses its stability. Nevertheless, he believes that these speculations are only clever theories which don’t lead to absolute results that would allow an architect to obtain totally assured equilibrium in building. Stability (solidite) can only be obtained through the establishment of the correct proportions of points of support and their foundations in relation to the masses which they must carry. Viel thought that such relationships had to be found through the distribution of solids and voids, deriving essentially from the proportions of the architectural orders themselves. He pointed out that this “admirable correspondence” has been felt by architects of the past and that
it was through their experience that modern professionals were supposed to constitute their taste and, on this basis, provide their buildings with correct proportions and thus achieve both beauty and solidity. Viel criticizes contemporary architects who are “more competent in the mathematical sciences than knowledgeable in the beautiful proportions of architecture; complete foreigners to genius and to the arts of taste,” have pretended to apply mathematics directly to building. He then compares Perronet‘s “new bridge in Paris” with Du Cerceau’s Pont Neuf as well as Soufflot‘s Pantheon with Mansart‘s Dome des lnvalides. In both cases he finds the modern 18th century examples lacking not only beauty but solidity as well. Viel emphasized throughout his work that symmetry and eurythmy, contained in the traditional proportions of the classical orders, also lead to solidity. He refused to accept the disintegration of values normally taken for granted in architectural theory after Durand; he rejected the exclusion of myth and its substitution by a faith in pure reason capable of totally controlling practice. Never, before Viel’s work, had the instrumental intention of theory of architecture nor the reduction of practice co - comprehensive project, been put forward as fundamental problems capable of hindering the production of excellent buildings. The argument introduced by Viel in the first volume of his “Principles...” was pursued
CHARLES FRANCOIS VIEL
with greater detail in four of the independent publications which were to constitute volumes II and III of his work. In 1805 he published “On the incapacity of mathematics to assure the stability of buildings.’’ The limitations of geometrical hypotheses when architects pretend to apply them to real problems of building had been insinuated as early as the first decade of the 18th century in the debates of the Royal Academy of Architecture. Viel was the first, however, to consider the problem as critical. Viel admits that the study of mathematics is generally useful: Whenever mathematics determine quantities fixed by the mind all results are true and positive; on the other hand, when they attempt to operate upon physical quantities whose qualities are not determined, constituted by substances which can be infinitely varied, the results cannot be equally certain. Viel emphasized here that “...all the parts of one same art are interrelated.” He thought that this proposition was indeed the “fundamental theorem from which all the truths that constitute the art of construction derive.” This is why he constantly maintained that only great pieces of architecture could provide the rules of the art. Architecture derived its perfection from the imitation of those mythical ancient and modern buildings whose value was never questioned. “The mathematician’s skill in mechanics and statics is not enough ... without knowledge of eurythmy, they can only produce miserable architectural compositions.” Viel showed how geometricians emphasized the pretended
advantages derived from the application of science to the art of building. He categorically rejected this assertion and dedicated his entire book proving it wrong. Through numerous examples, especially the failure of the piers of Soufflot’s Pantheon, he developed arguments to prove the inutility of statics which substituted abstract indirect forces for the real and direct soliciting stresses that had to be considered in order to achieve effective stability. Viel believed that quantitative experiments on the strength of material were not enough. It is, in his opinion, the quality of building materials that the architect must consider primarily. In his “Dissertations on the projects of domes... preceded by general and particular principles on the construction of vaults, peristyles...(1809) he pointed out that “the density of the stone does not determine the height limitation of projects nor the maximum span in a large vault.’’ He rejected the view that dimension could be determined through the quantitative chemical analysis of material. The thickness of a vault must be established in relation to the module of the building and the wall, never in relation to the quantitative resistance of the stone. He criticized the famous machine for the determination of strength of materials which Perronet, Soufflot and Rondelet had used. He held that the results it provided were insufficient. Viel concluded his refutation, “On the incapacity of mathematics...”, by asserting once more the comprehensive nature of architectural value: Building consists essentially in the determination
of volumes of material necessary to achieve stability. This however, cannot be established through mathematical calculations. Viel thought that it derived directly from the proportions themselves which the architect chose, from the traditional proportions of the orders that guarantee both beauty and solidity, founded on the “inter-relationship of all parts of the art.” Positive solidity always derived from eurythmy, not from mathematics that only yield an artificial and precarious stability. Viel maintained that therefore, the famous assertion voiced throughout the 18th century that “to be an architect one must necessarily be a geometrician” was completely false. On the contrary, if a geometrician wants to put up a valuable building that may have some degree of perfection, he must first of all be an architect. In his “Dissertations...” Viel wrote that knowledge and study are never enough...one must be born an architect, provided with a delicate and sensitive spirit capable of discovering the mysteries of construction through the observation of famous examples. Francois Blondel, the famous 17th century architect and mathematician, had subjected the technical and aesthetic aspects of architecture to geometry and number in his “Cours d’Architecture.” Viel seems to have distinguished between Blondel’s use of geometry: geometry as a universal science still pregnant with symbolic power, the geometry of the baroque world; and 18th century geometry which became, after losing its transcendental power in philosophy,
free to be used as an instrument in independent technical operations. Concluding his “Dissertation...,” Viel argued that vault construction depends essentially on the excellence of the plan: “The resistance of vaults depend on the relationship which the genius of the architect is capable of inspiring...these relationships derive in their totality from those inspired by the three classical orders...” In his work “On the solidity of buildings derived from the proportions of the architectural orders” (1806), Viel attempted to give the rules that must be followed in order to achieve stability in building. After repeating his criticism of applied geometry, he devoted some 30 pages to give examples of his method. But it is his conclusion which is most significant: The establishment of rules is not, according to him, a matter of providing a table of dimensions or a formula which anybody could apply to the execution of buildings. Viel stresses his refusal to summarize his rules in this manner and points out that he prefers to leave the writing of his works, “so harmful in their consequences,” to those contemporary authors devoted to producing, under the banner of simplification and facility of application, mere undigested and controversial compilations. He writes that his method, on the contrary, in spite of the fact that it does provide fixed rules, demands from the architect a constant study of the classical orders and an empirical understanding of construction. The architectural orders are like the stars guiding a ship, being the “basic principles of composition and building:
CHARLES FRANCOIS VIEL
they illuminate the architect to achieve harmony in all the parts of his composition and to build with sufficient solidity.” Viel’s rejection of an architectural theory reduced to “ars fabricandi” couldn’t be more explicit. In his “Dissertation...” he clearly pointed out that “today...the idea upon which the science of construction is founded are so confused that teachers believe to be giving principles while their lessons comprise only the theory and practice of masonry, stone-cutting or carpentry.’’ For the first time ever an architect complains here because the generally accepted theoretical framework lacks real supporting principles ... Theory had been reduced here because the generally accepted theoretical framework to a series of recipes and no longer implied a transcendental justification of practice. Viel’s early perception of the problem is indeed extraordinary. He is writing at a time when traditional metaphysics are dying and when physics, still firmly grounded on a cosmology and concerned with ultimate questions in the 18th century, is being substituted by positive science. He lives at the time when the mythical dimension is finally expelled from epistemology, and thought pretends to become exclusively positive reason, at the time when Laplace perfects the Newtonian system of the world and is capable of dispensing with God in the realm of scientific explanation. Nevertheless, Viel is already capable of realizing the limitations of this reduction of theory into a mere technological tool. It cannot be surprising to find that Viel had much to say about new trends in architectural
teaching. I have already shown how he remarked that young architects were no longer taught principle but only the theory and practice of techniques for their own sake, i.e., drawing, stone and woodcutting, masonry etc.’’ To teach the principle of construction one must be an architect: to profess the theory of stone or wood-cutting it is enough to be a geometrician.’’ Among the works in which he considers the idea on the essence of architecture to be disregarded or confused, he mentions one in which the use of descriptive geometry is explicit. Viel thought that mathematics were easy to learn and apply: “ ...any student, even one whose mind is not above the ordinary, can become in a few years a marvel in this type of science.” To prove his statement, Viel reminds us, most significantly of the great number of students that achieved outstanding results in the competitions of the Ecole Polytechnique. Viel devoted another of the intended sections of his “ Principles... ,” also published separately, to defending old academic tradition of teaching: In “The ancient studies of architecture and the necessity of implementing them anew...” (1807) he observed the incoherence and lack of positive results of architectural education in his own time. He wrote that “most young architects that complete brilliant studies in the first school of Europe, that of Paris, in spite of the advantages of their trip to Italy, do not fulfill the hopes one had placed on their realizations, neither in the area of composition nor in that of building.” Viel openly criticized the fundamental notions about architecture common at the Ecole Polytechnique.
(42) Mansart: Dome Des Invalides, 18th century.
Following a theory that provides no fixed principles for composition, each architect would be free to modify the proportions of the classical orders at his own will. Viel realized that if all possibilities were equally pleasant and beautiful, it would be impossible to distinguish a good from a bad building. He rejected relativism and popular notions such as the one that “architecture should be placed among the exact sciences” instead of
amidst the arts and that “the authority of ancient masters is null to the eyes of reason.” Not without exasperation in face of the contradictions that he could observe Viel exclaimed: “What a delirium of perfection shakes this physico-mathematical faction, some accepting and others refusing the existence of a universal principle; all devoted exclusively to the exact sciences!”
CHARLES FRANCOIS VIEL
Students were only taught, according to Viel, geometry and drawing: “The study of architecture is reduced today in our schools to making designs (dessins) ... Young architects, ignoring the principles, abuse their imagination.” He believed that the students’ taste was incoherent since it lacked guidance, and that exercises produced in the schools, even those for competitions, were only “simple images of compositions which for the most part are impossible to actually get built.” Viel opposed the notion of efficiency, one of the objectives of Durand’s “mechanism of composition.” He refused to accept the value of those “immense buildings,” the typical projects of his contemporaries, which formerly had taken months to be designed and in his own time took only a few weeks. Viel maintained that an important building had to take long to be conceived; that it had to be the result of a synthesis between a vast and fecund imagination and an eminently judicious spirit: “This rapidity of the hand propitiates the belief that architecture is very easy to practice” whilst the real talent of an architect can only be measured through the execution of buildings. Viel is clearly making reference here to the great number of projects produced towards the end of the 18th century which were influenced by the megalomaniac conceptions of Boullée and Ledoux. Many scholars have already pointed out Viel’s criticism of this architecture, product of a “licentious imagination.” Nevertheless, the simultaneous criticism of such formal manifestations and the work of the engineers, “inheritors of Perronet,” had never been
explained properly. In “The decadence of architecture at the end of the 18th century” (1800), Viel pointed out that never before had the art of building been altered. He wrote: “The 18th century is remarkable for two periods equally fatal to architecture. The first that of Lajoue and Oppenort. The second is the present one. The same century toward its end, saw the appearance of two architects, extremely popular, one by the extension of his ruinous enterprises, the other by the multitude of his designs, products of a vagabond and licentious imagination...” In light of this analysis of Viel’s work, his simultaneous criticism in the areas of composition and construction is totally comprehensible. It is certain on one hand, that Viel no longer understood the strong symbolic intention behind Boullée and Ledoux’s architectural projects. For him however, it is the separation between conception and execution manifested at all levels that became critical; the emphasis on imaginary projects over and above buildings; the split between theory and practice present in the designs and theory of these late 18th century architects. E. Kaufmann and J.M. Pe’rouse de Montclos think that the architects Viel is referring to in the above quotation are Boullée and Ledoux; Petzet has thought that he is criticizing Soufflot and Ledoux. I would tend to agree with Petzet and regard Viel’s criticism as a sharp and brief summary of his entire thesis: “Composition cannot be reduced to the art of designing nor can construction be reduced to a mathematical formulation.” That famous quotation should be regarded as a clear proof of Viel’s understanding
of the problems brought about by the division between theory and practice and the overall instrumentalizing of the former. It is the lost synthesis between theory and practice that Viel considered indispensable in architecture. Throughout his work he made this point: In his “Dissertations...” he demanded a total interdependence between theory and practice and declared that one of the particular causes for the decadence of architecture is the fact that such a relationship is disregarded or taken for granted. In “On the incapacity of mathematics...” he wrote that “... architects must be able in theory and practice.” It is not enough to have imagination... It is not enough to possess the theory of construction; in both cases practice is essential. In the concluding chapter of Vol. I of “Principles . . . “he emphasized the same notion: the construction of buildings is the fundamental objective of architecture; although architecture, being a liberal art, is in this respect “somehow independent from the obstacles posed by the administration and direction of buildings,” a synthesis between the proportions intended to assure beauty and those that guarantee solidity is essential. And the skill to achieve this synthesis can only be learnt through experience. For this reason Viel thought that young architects had to follow the example of the ancients and refuse to accept any new theories: “Experience is ... the most skillful and reliable of masters ... “; even the most positive theories are overcome by it. “Experience is the main compass of the architect.”
I have already pointed out that Viel’s work as a whole was ignored by his contemporaries and successors. The reasons are now obvious. His thought, still nourished by 18th century sources, by Batteux and Montesquieu, by the most traditional notions of nature derived from Buffon’s natural history and Newtonian epistemology, was clearly reactionary in a world that reprinted time and again the works of Navier, Durand and Rondelet. Architectural theory in the 19th century was to be founded, as is widely known, on the belief that all variables of reality could be reduced to the conceptual sphere and that the result would be a direct function of those variables. Viel‘s perceptive writings, through the contrast of a still-traditional 18th century theory that had become explicit, with the problems derived from its development on the lines opened by technological intentionality and positivistic thinking, clearly reflect the moment when the functionalizing to which I have alluded actually became “operational,” and therefore critical for the first time.
CHARLES FRANCOIS VIEL
E. Kaufmann in his still popular Architecture in the Age of Reason, 1955, p. 167; as well as L. Hautecoeur in L ‘Architecture Classique en France, vol. V, p. 246, believe that the architect Charles- Francois Viel and the writer Viel de Saint-Maux are the same person. Thieme-Becker and the Dizionario Enciclopedico di Architettura e Urbanistica list them as the same person. Kaufmann thus wonders about a radical change of ideas which he observes between his early writings (actually Viel de Saint-Maux’ Lett res sur J’Architec wre) and his “later “ work. P. Collins in Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture 17501950 doesn’t mention him. I took some biographical data from the above mentioned works. C.F. Viel, “Principes de l’ordonnance et de la construction des batimens ,” op. cit., vol. IV, pp. 53-97. All of Viel’s publications were intended to be part of a four volume work under this general title. Vols. I and IV were published as planned. The rest of his work, intended as chapters of vols. II and Ill came out independently. According to the “Table” in vol. IV the full names and dates of his publications are as follows: “Premier Volume. Principes de l’ordonnance des batimens; premiere partie, 1797.” “Second Volume,” meant to include: “De la decadence de I’ Architecture a la fin du 18e. siecle. 1800.” “De l’impuissance des mathematiques pour assurer las solidite des batimens. 1805. “ “Des fondemens des edifices publics et particuliers. 1804.” “De la solidite des batimens, puissee dans les proportions des ordre d’architecture. 1806.” “Des ponts d’appui indirects. 1801.” “De la construction des edifices sans l’emploi du fer.” “De la construction des entablemens et des plafonds.” “De l’usage du fer dans les batimens particuliers, 1803.” “Troisieme Volume, “ meant to include a series of studies on vaults, pedi ments and peristyles as well as specifically dissertations on the domes of the Pantheon and the Halle au Bled etc. This volume was actually published under the title “Dissertations sur les pro jets de coupoles de la Halle au Ble de Paris et des moyens de confortation des murs exterieurs cont re la poussee de la voute annulaire de cet edifice, precedees des Principes generaux et particulieres sur la construction des voutes, des peristyles, de frontons et des supports des domes, 1809. The “Quatrieme Volume “ is essentially devoted to “Notices sur des edifices publics et particuliers.” It included a “conclusion “ and a work that was also published separately, “Des
anciennes etudes de I’ Architecture. 1807.” Besides these works Viel published “Project d’un monument consacre a l’histoire naturelle, dedie a M. le Comte de Buffon,’’ 1779; “lnconveniens de la communication des plans d’edifice!. avant leur execution .. . “ 1813; and “De la chute imminente de la science de la construction des batimens en France, des causes directes et indirectes qui l’accelerent’’ 1818-19. All publications were done in Paris. 3) Viel, “Principes ... “ vol. I, p. 13 4) Ibid. p. 18 5) Ibid. p. 26 6) Ibid. p. 28 Ibid. pp. 46-49 7) 8) Ibid. pp. 96ff. 9) Ibid. p. 108 10) Ibid. p. 198 11) Ibid. 12) Ibid. p. 199 13) Ibid. p. 200 14) Viel, “Del’lmpuissance des mathematiques pour assurer la solidite des batimens,” 1805. 15) Ibid. p. 5 16) Ibid. p. 6 17) Ibid. pp. 7-8 18) Ibid. p. 11 19) Ibid. pp. 11-25 Viel, “Dissertations sur les pro jets de coupoles ... “ p. JS, op. cit., supra note 4 20) 21) Ibid. Viel, ‘’De l’lmpuissance ... “op.cit. p. 47 22) Ibid. p. 74 23) 24) Viel, “Dissertations ... “ op. cit. p. 43 25) F. Blonde I, Cours d’Archicecture, Paris, 1675, 1698, up. 47 Viel, “De la Solidite des Batimens, puisee dans les proportions des ordres d’architecture 26) ... “, 1806. 27) Ibid. pp. 49-50. 28) Ibid. p. SO Viel, “Dissertation ... “op.cit. p. 46. 29) 30) Cf. E. Kant, Prolegomena co any fuwre metaphysics On the issue of the final instrumentalizing of scientific thought see E. Husserl. The Cns,s of European Science and Transcendental Phenomenology and F. Hayek The Counter’-Revolulion of Science.
CHARLES FRANCOIS VIEL
31) 32) 33) 34) 35)
Viel, “Dissertations ... “op.cit. p. 47. Viel, “De l’lmpuissance ... “op.cit. p. 70. Ibid. p. 57. Ibid. Footnote. p. 57. Viel, “Des anciennes etudes d’architecture, de la necessite de les remenre en vigeur ... ,” 1807 p. 1. 36) Viel, “De l’lmpuissance ... “op.cit. p. 8. 37) Viel, “Des anciennes ... “op.cit. p. 5. 38) Ibid. p. 6 39) Ibid. .l Ibid. p. 2. 41) Ibid. p. 3 42) Ibid. 43) I was not able to find a copy of Viel’s “Decadence de l’Architecture...” in the Bibliotheque Nationale. This quotation is taken from E. Kaufmann, Three Revolutionary Architects. 44) Perouse de Montclos., op. cit. p. 223, note 1 45) Viel, “Dissertations ... “ op. cit. p. 23 46) Viel. “De l’lmpuissance ... “op.cit. p. 7 47) Viel, “Principes ... “ vol I op. cit. p. 234 48) Ibid. p. 235 49) Ibid.
Volume 3, Issue No. 3, 1980
Urban Design in Perspective Detroit 1950-1980 Charles A. Blessing, FAIA The Legacy of Charles A. Blessing, FAIA Professor Stephen Vogel, 2019 This compelling essay by Charles Blessing gives a succinct overview of the physical formation of Detroit, as well as his compelling proposals for the future development of the city. Charlie was head of the City of Detroit Planning Department (1953-77) and, after being unceremoniously let go by Mayor Coleman Young, he became part of the faculty at the University of Detroit School of Architecture. As a young assistant professor, I vividly remember walking by his studio one night around midnight and saw this hunched over, aged man, in his ubiquitous black suit, still meeting with his students. This exemplified the commitment he had in all that he did. A number of things stand out to me—he was a visionary, something lacking in Detroit; he was an outstanding urban designer and planner; he could draw wonderfully and quickly, including off-the-cuff aerial perspectives of the major cities in the world; and he was a great teacher. Nationally, he and Edmund Bacon of Philadelphia, were considered the premier city planners in the country. I first met him as part of AIA Detroit’s Urban Design Committee who, with William Kessler, FAIA, critiqued my firm’s proposal for the Linked Riverfront Parks Project (now largely built), which he politely complimented, but in true Charles Blessing fashion said we “did not go far enough”—he was always pushing the envelope. If he were alive today, he would see that his vision for the city, particularly the waterfront, was at last starting to be fulfilled. The current designs for the east and west riverfront, recently published, immediately reminded me how Charles was decades ahead of his time. He thought that the Detroit River was the most beautiful in the country and Detroit, like all great cities, should take advantage of this natural asset and make it assessable to the public. My final thoughts about Charlie was when Emeritus Professor of Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Michigan, Gerald Crane, FAIA, asked me to bring the 80-yearold Charles, who could no longer drive, to a critique of his students in Ann Arbor--I readily agreed. Although sometimes incoherent in the car, which concerned me, once the jury started he was the same Charlie, having great discussions and interactions with the students and critiquing projects “that did not go far enough.” Two months later he had passed and Detroit has struggled to have a coherent physical vision ever since he left the city.
URBAN DESIGN IN PERSPECTIVE DETROIT 1950-1980 by Charles A. Blessing, FAIA
Charles A. Blessing, FAIA was with Detroit’s City Planning Department for more than 20 years and has few rivals among his peers in the field of urban design. His article is an appeal and challenge to current decision makers in Detroit to carry forth the high design goals previously set forth.
Historical Growth of Detroit 1701-1980 Period of French Farms
(48) Governor And Judges Plan.
By the year 1776, marked by the Declaration of Independence, there persisted a pattern of growth set down by Cadillac who arrived in Detroit in 1701. The growth of Detroit for nearly a century under the French settlers was in the form of long narrow strip farms extending perpendicular to the Detroit River and the shores of Lake St. Clair, in some instances a mile or more. These boundary lines of the French farms have persisted to this day, noticeable by abrupt breaks in the alignment of some east-west streets as a result of uncoordinated subdivision of the separate farms at different times.
the major radial streets which persist to this day: East Jefferson Avenue, Gratiot Avenue, Woodward Avenue, Grand River Avenue, Michigan Avenue and West Fort Street. Several local streams, Conner Creek, Bloody Run, just west of Mt. Elliot and branches of the Rouge River remained uncovered, later to become lost as covered sewer lines. By 1879, Detroit had a full system of railroad lines which basically set the pattern for Detroit’s future industrial corridors and determined largely the location of Detroit’s automotive industries. By this date, Elmwood Cemetery had been established and growth had progressed eastward on Jefferson Avenue to Belle Isle and northward along Woodward Avenue as far as the Michigan Central Railroad, just north of the
By 1826 the Governor and Judges Plan, prepared by Augustus Woodward, overlaid the pattern of the French Farms and formed
URBAN DESIGN IN PERSPECTIVE DETROIT 1950-1980
(46) Detroit Fabric of 1776.
(47) Detroit Fabric of 1826.
present world headquarters of the Burroughs Corporation.
By 1976, the City of Detroit had completely developed out to its present boundary lines from Grosse Pointe on the east, Eight Mile on the north and Rouge River on the west. Metropolitan Detroit had expanded in a scattered pattern over much of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties, eastward to St. Clair County, to Livingston County on the northwest, and Monroe County on the south.
By 1926, more than a half century ago, the Grand Boulevard had been constructed and the land within the boulevard was fully developed with significant extensions to the east, north and west beyond the Grand Boulevard following the lines of East Jefferson, Gratiot, Woodward, Grand River and Michigan Avenues. Also by 1926, industry had absorbed virtually all of Detroitâ€™s water front from the Rouge River on the West to the Belle Isle Bridge on the east, and north along the Conner Corridor from the Edison plant to Gratiot Avenue.
Also by 1976, Detroitâ€™s freeway system which had stimulated and facilitated a heavy outward migration to the suburbs in all directions, was nearly completed, and the F.H.A. mortgage policies had clearly favored development of large tract subdivision in the suburbs.
(49) Detroit Fabric of 1876
(50) Detroit Fabric of 1926
The Form Shaping Elements The given-natural form of the region: the river Detroit is a river city. This fact was fundamental in the choice of the site by Cadillac, in the early settlement of French strip farms, the pre-emption of the riverfront by industry and commerce and now after 275 years of change, the return to the river-as the city’s greatest environmental asset. The straits between Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair gave to Cadillac’s original settlement the name De-troit. Belle Isle was developed in the 1880s as “the most beautiful urban park in America”! It is Detroit’s most accessible and most significant city park. It serves as the eastern terminus of Detroit’s Grand Boulevard and is one of Frederick Law Olmsted’s most beautiful American city parks.
(51) Detroit Fabric of 1976
The Topography The topography of Detroit, an ancient inland lake bed, is almost level-rising little more than 100 feet from the Detroit River to its northern boundary at Eight Mile Road. The only visible articulation of grade is at the Rouge River valley on the west and a forty foot change of grade at Bloody Run, a small stream in Elmwood Cemetery. With these few exceptions, little prevented the spread of an unrelieved gridiron street and block pattern except for the Indian trails which set the pattern for Detroit’s radial avenues. Later, the diagonal railroad routes and during the last three decades, the freeways, further complicated the intersections with the gridiron street pattern.
URBAN DESIGN IN PERSPECTIVE DETROIT 1950-1980
The Man-Made Elements: The Gridiron Street Pattern
around the perimeter of the city to connect by bridge with Belle Isle, purchased in 1879.
Thus, Detroit grew as a typical Midwestern gridiron city which departed from the hexagonal street pattern of the Governors and Judges Plan of 1806, of which the only vestiges remain are a few of the major streets in the Central Business District, and the major radial avenues. Today, Detroit has more than 13,000 city blocks ranging in size from 3 acres in the older areas, to 5 acres in the later subdivisions.
In 1915, Detroit employed Edward Bennett who, at that time, was associated with Daniel Burnham in preparing the famous 1909 Plan of Chicago. Bennett suggested a ring of parks around the city which resulted in the enlargement of Palmer Park and the organization and development of Chandler Park, Rouge Park, Baby Creek Park and Conner Parkway. The Outer Drive Boulevard system provides a nearly complete circuit around the city.
The Grand Boulevard was built in Detroit in 1891 as a 150 foot wide boulevard running
During the 1940s, the mayor of Detroit, Edward Jeffries, instructed the Detroit City planning Commission to prepare a comprehensive city plan, making full use of the Detroit Land Use Survey prepared with federal funds during the depression years of the 1930s. This survey provided the essential tools for Detroit’s first Zoning Ordinance in 1940 and for the subsequent preparation of Detroit’s comprehensive City Plan completed over most of the decade of the 1940s as part of Detroit’s 250th birthday celebration in 1951. It was this plan which was recognized as the overall context-the general two-dimensional land use and circulation framework for the Urban Design Concept Plan published in the report Detroit 1990. Detroit 1990, prepared by the Detroit City Plan Commission, was cited by HUD in its first national award to a major city for excellence in comprehensive urban design.
The Land Use Pattern An underlying form-shaping element in a city is the basic land use pattern. Thus, a heavy industrial pattern might contain power plants, heavy steel plants, foundries and massive industrial complexes such as the Ford Motor Company’s Rouge Complex. A central business district would usually accommodate the tallest skyscraper office buildings of the region and outlying commercial office districts would contain highly visible landmark buildings such as the Fisher Building and General Motors
World Headquarters Building in the New Center area of Detroit. A single family residential zone would be characterized in visual terms by treelined streets with buildings, usually one or two stories in height, with few landmark buildings. The buildings accommodating various community and neighborhood services such as schools, churches, auditoriums, gymnasiums, and community centers, often constitute the only significant nodes of primary visual interest within residential land use areas. In general, the size, shape, distribution, and texture of building types, considered as a composite factor, represent the most significant three-dimensional urban form element in the city. The most significant two-dimensional form shaping element in the city clearly is the overall green, life enriching pattern of public and private open spaces for parks, playgrounds, golf courses, wooded areas, etc.
The Architectural Element The third form shaping urban design element is the architectural element, the major, essential, three-dimensional element giving substance to the fundamental form and shape of all cities. The greatest cities of the world, Rome, Venice, Florence, Paris, London, Amsterdam, New York, Chicago, Peking, etc. have been known for their architecture as well as their unique natural settings.
URBAN DESIGN IN PERSPECTIVE DETROIT 1950-1980
(53) a. CBD b. Woodward Center c. New Center d. University Park e. Forest Park f. Civic Center West
Certainly, natural elements are essential factors in the image of these cities, but in the final analysis, it is what man has done with and to these natural sites that has determined the design of the city. The report - Detroit 1990 - documenting an urban design concept plan, has demonstrated the fundamental importance of designing in three-dimensions in the urban context. Since 1950, Detroitâ€™s urban renewal projects have been planned as constituent parts of the physical form of the city.
Lafayette Park and Elmwood Park together offer an example of a large scale redeveloped urban environment characterized by efficiency, convenience, and beauty. These two neighborhoods, combined as a single community, constitute a planned residential environment with the following services and facilities: access thoroughfares from other parts of the city to the community, where possible bordering but not traversing the separate neighborhoods, local access streets serving all residential areas (either forming cul-de-sacs or local loop roads), and a full complement of community services, which can generally be reached by a coordinated system of pedestrian
(54) The Detroit Plan, 1947: The city began its own redevelopment program without help from the federal government.
(55) The Citizen Redevelopment Corporation Plan, 1955: Prepared by Walter Reuther, Oscar Stonorov, Victor Gruen, and Minuri Yamasaki.
URBAN DESIGN IN PERSPECTIVE DETROIT 1950-1980
land, 20 acres could be secured simply by the savings in local street patterns. All alleys have been removed and the previous typical 3 to 5 acres residential block has disappeared.
(56) Gratiot, Lafayette, and Elmwood Park projects as built.
greenways such as schools, shopping areas, community parks, and playgrounds. Wherever possible, major thoroughfares are located so they will not interfere with pedestrian access to the community facilities mentioned previously.
Lafayette Park The Urban Grid as a Generator of Form in Detroit It is significant that the entire park and playground acreage of Lafayette Park and Elmwood Park has been secured from land allocated in the original pattern to streets and alleys. In the typical pattern, nearly 40% of the land was devoted to streets and alleys as opposed to 20% in the new neighborhood pattern. Thus, in every 100 acres of redeveloped residential
As predicted in the early 1950s by renewal committee member Walter Ruether, Lafayette and Elmwood Parks offer all of the environmental advantages of the best planned suburbs, in addition to having freeway access to all parts of Metropolitan Detroit and having pedestrian access to the Central Business District in a 5 to 15 minute walk. The distinguished architectural team of Allison and Peter Smithson of London consider Lafayette Park, as designed by Mies van der Rohe, to be the finest urban renewal residential neighborhood yet developed in the United States or Europe. The development offers a wide choice of residential types ranging from garden apartments, townhouses, mid-rise apartments, and residential towers up to 28 stories in height. The Lafayette Park and Elmwood Park environments will be greatly enhanced by connecting the linked pedestrian greenway systems with a continuous riverfront park along the Detroit Riverfront to the Renaissance Center, Hart Plaza, Cobo Hall, Joe Louis Arena, and to the west side riverfront residential neighborhoods of Hubbard Richard and Corktown. The riverfront walkway system could be linked up with the north-south greenways already
planned, and partially developed, farther north as the pedestrian spines of the Detroit Medical Center (Brush Street from Mack Avenue to Warren Avenue), and Wayne State University (2nd Avenue from the Ford Freeway to Warren Avenue). Eventually, these two green pedestrian ways can be extended to connect the areas previously mentioned to the second largest office and corporate center in Detroit – The New Center on West Grand Boulevard.
Fulfillment of a Promise The view of Lafayette Park and the Central Business District from the Northeast (Fig. 58) emphasizes the great advantage of a riverfront “Tivoli Park” as a waterfront link between the Central Business District, Renaissance Center, and the residential neighborhoods of Lafayette and Elmwood Parks. A “Tivoli Park” type solution, at the east end where it becomes the riverfront extension of the central lineal parkway of Lafayette Park, could accommodate
URBAN DESIGN IN PERSPECTIVE DETROIT 1950-1980
(60) Terraced parks and walkways in “ Tivoli Pak”. (58) View of Lafayette Park and the CBD.
(59) Pedestrian walkway system over East Jefferson Avenue.
additional high-rise residential apartment units equal in number to that existing in Lafayette Park presently. In its role as a second “Tivoli Park,” it would have all the same attraction as the famous Tivoli Park in Copenhagen – 20 international restaurants, music halls, 40 acres of urban park, art galleries, a Greek theater, and additional riverfront office and housing towers as needed. “Tivoli Park” would offer a most dramatic riverside location only minutes from the place
of Cadillac’s first landing, a landing richly intertwined with the history of four nations – France, England, United States, and Canada. The entire area east of Randolph extending from Gratiot Avenue to the river could be a waterside “International Village” component of a totally renewed Central Business District. Then the entire riverfront from the Ambassador Bridge to the Bell Isle Bridge could evolve as one of America’s finest multiple-use waterfronts, comparable to Chicago’s lakefront Grant Park, Burnham Park and Jackson Park.
URBAN DESIGN IN PERSPECTIVE DETROIT 1950-1980
(62) (63) The two views documents what would hope to be Detroit continuing commitment to create, minutes from the Central Business District, an ideal residential community with a full compliment of educational, recreational, and commercial facilities, while rediscovering the amenity of the riverfront as a basic feature of any river city. The final achievement of this goal rests with the execution of a chain of mini-oaks extending from the Renaissance Center to the Belle Isle bridge. This area offers at the present time very little industrial employment, following the closing of the Uniroyal and Park Davis plants. Experiences in many other American cities offer convincing evidence that waterfront properties in the long run, are increasingly finding their best and highest use to be a combination of recreational and residential facilities, such as Chicagoâ€™s Lake Michigan waterfront north of the loop to Evanston.
URBAN DESIGN IN PERSPECTIVE DETROIT 1950-1980
A solution east of Randolph Street could combine a second level skyway pattern with appropriate shops and restaurants to extend, in time, to Greektown on Monroe Street. Pedestrian bridges over East Jefferson Avenue could tie in with pedestrian walkways eastward through “Tivoli Park” to the extension of Lafayette Park Mall and to a riverfront pedestrian walkway system further east (Fig. 59). The development of Detroit’s Riverfront “Tivoli Park” would fulfill the highest urban design standards of natural park beauty, consistent with the unique setting provided by the Detroit River which is among the most beautiful rivers in America. It would set design standards for the riverfront residential area west of Cobo Hall and Joe Louis Arena and for all riverfront properties east to the Bell Isle Bridge and, in the long term, to Grosse Pointe. A basic point is that by preserving the positive aspects of a beautiful riverfront park for use by the total population of Detroit, and by projecting open park space greenways north from the river, it will extend the economic impact area of “Tivoli Park” as far north as Greektown. Multilevel terraced parks (Fig. 60), extending on axis of the Plaza Hotel in the Renaissance Center from Jefferson Avenue north to Gratiot Avenue, will stimulate both residential and commercial growth on both sides of the multi-level mall created in the proposal shown in Figure 61.
Such a development would also contribute greatly to the high capacity functioning of the proposed people-mover and would contribute to the high quality environment so important to the success of the proposed Cadillac Shopping Mall along Monroe Street and the Kern Block. A principal characteristic of Detroit’s Central Business District is its compactness, resulting from the early decision to place the freeway ring as tightly as possible around the core area centered on Woodward Avenue, thus benefitting both the financial community and the retail function. With quality housing already realized to the east in Lafayette Park and Elmwood Park, and growing in prospect along the riverfront both east and west, the next logical area of the Central Business District to be revitalized will be the area extending from the Fisher Freeway south to Gratiot and Grand River Avenues centering on Grand Circus Park.
The Woodward Avenue Corridor The boundaries of the most important axis of Detroit are the Chrysler Freeway on the east, the Lodge Freeway on the west, Euclid Avenue on the north, and the Central Business District on the south. The center-line of the axis is Woodward Avenue which historically provided access to what became known as Piety Hill, a preferred neighborhood characterized by the great number of churches that line the avenue. Today, this strategic corridor accommodates
(65) Plan of the Woodward Corridor.
in campus-like groupings the most important institutional, cultural, and educational facilities in Detroit. These include the Detroit Cultural Center, the Detroit Medical Center, Wayne State University, and the World Headquarters for General Motors and Burroughs Corporations. There are many landmark structures adding strength of image and historical recognition to the Woodward Corridor, including the Fisher and General Motors Buildings at West Grand Boulevard, the Art Institute and Main Public Library Buildings at the Cultural Center, and the Detroit School Center and Rackham Memorial Buildings, among many other significant churches, medical and university buildings. This future corridor of development is the most important section of Detroit, in many ways the most promising for future economic and cultural growth, and in other ways the most threatened of all inner city areas because
(64) Looking from the New Center down the Woodward Corridor to the CBD and river.
of aging, obsolescence, and neglect. And yet, in terms of concentrated employment opportunities and general environmental attraction, this corridor offers more promise for the future than any other section of the city, particularly in relation to the anticipated development of the Woodward Avenue subway.
Chicago and Detroit: Challenge and Response In consideration of natural features and manmade patterns, it is probable that no two cities in the United States are more alike than Detroit
URBAN DESIGN IN PERSPECTIVE DETROIT 1950-1980
(69) Perspective of Wright’s scheme.
(68) Plan Of Wright’s sheme.
(70) Chicago’s waterfront.
and Chicago—possibly with a single exception; the treatment of the total waterfront of the otherwise comparable cities. Both Detroit and Chicago were built on lowlying, uninteresting and flat topographies. The site of early Chicago and Fort Dearborn was so low in relation to the level of Lake Michigan that the only way to construct the earliest roads was first to attempt to fill in the marshy wetland, then literally raise Chicago out of the mud by the construction of plank or timber roads. The sidewalks were raised another foot or two to allow passage during all seasons.
Detroit, begun one-hundred and thirty years before its “offspring” Chicago, was more fortunate in that its primitive lake bed site sloped upward from the river to Jefferson Avenue about 20 or 30 feet to provide a selfdraining site. Thus, Detroit could build on an initially wooded, very gently sloping site. Both Chicago and Detroit fell under the sway of President Jefferson’s infamous “cookie-cutter” grid, 640 acres to the square mile section, 36 sections to the township. In Chicago, the typical neighborhood was a square plot of land onehalf mile in length and width, subdivided into a monotonous grid of identical blocks. These
URBAN DESIGN IN PERSPECTIVE DETROIT 1950-1980
blocks were bounded by “street car” commercial strips with school sites, churches, and parks providing the only relief to the block pattern. During its first century (1701-1806), Detroit’s street pattern evolved from the distinct influence of long narrow French strip farms. Following the presentation in 1806 of the Governor and Judges Plan which was drawn by Judge Woodward, an endless spread of hexagonal streets were to be imposed throughout the city. However, due to opposition from landowners and developers, the hexagonal pattern of streets only extended for a few blocks, thus stopping Woodward’s ideal pattern for all time. Only the major radials and a few in the Central Business District prevailed. Unfortunately, neither Chicago nor Detroit recognized or made use of a truly inspired design submitted to a Chicago City Club Competition in 1913 for the better development of a 160 acre quarter section tract of land on Chicago’s Southwest side. Frank Lloyd Wright’s plan was rejected on a formality and was put back on file for more than a half century. Wright’s clearly articulated design considered all public uses and open spaces in a lineal park strip extending in an orthogonal pattern through the neighborhood in such a way that residences were not farther than three blocks from the path. (Fig. 68 & 69) Chicago’s greatest contributions to the refinement of the art of city design resulted from the World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, and more directly from the famous Daniel Burnham Plan of Chicago in 1909.
The greatest single civic improvement in Chicago’s history was the marvelous lakefront park system extending from Evanston to the north, all the way to the Indiana border on the south. Included was Lincoln Park on the north, Grant Park bordering the Loop in the center, and Jackson Park—site of the 1893 Chicago Fair—on the south. All of these parks were connected into a single masterpiece of lakefront park design by Daniel Burnham’s lineal Burnham Park. The entire parkway was further enhanced by a long band of island parks easily accessible from the adjacent park and Chicago’s teeming residential areas to the west. Never was a more handsome city-scale park conceived or executed. Detroit did employ Burnham’s partner, Edward Bennett, to develop a ring of parks and parkways in Detroit. Also, Belle Isle Park, designed by Frederich Law Olmsted, well deserves recognition as one of America’s most beautiful urban parks. But there the similarity between the waterfronts of Chicago and Detroit ends. Only in recent years has there been interest and commitment to a continuous riverfront park along the full length of the Detroit River. There is perhaps still time for Detroit to seize its opportunity to achieve a waterfront as vitally important to Detroit as Chicago’s lakefront is to Chicago. Chicago struggled for two generations to achieve its lakefront part. Well might Detroit struggle to the end of the century toward a similar goal.
Volume 3, No. 4, 1981
The House that Freer Built Thomas W. Brunk, Ph.D. The entire Spring 1981 issue of Dichotomy was devoted to the presentation of the Freer House in a well-documented article by Dr. Thomas W. Brunk (1949-2018), who at the time was the Curator and Archivist of Michigan State University / Pewabic Pottery. The article culminates months of research by Dr. Brunk and presents many documents that were never published outside of Dichotomy. Originally, this was Mr. Brunk’s second article to appear in an issue of Dichotomy and with this piece he was honored the entirity of the Spring 1981 issue. In 2018, Dr. Brunk passed away. He seemingly devoted many years of his life to studying the Freer House. It is often said that Dr. Brunk’s expertise on the history of the city of Detroit were unparalled. In this article, we honor his studies, advocacy, research, and preservation. The following pages offer a glimpse into Dr. Brunk’s detailed documentation of the Freer House, however, the complete article can be read online at the Dichotomy Student Journal website, http://dichotomy.arch.udmercy.edu/.
The House that Freer Built Dr. Thomas W. Brunk
The C. L. Freer residence, designed by Wilson Eyre, Jr. in 1980. represents a highly refined aesthetic collaboration of architect, artist, and craftsmen with a discriminating industrialist / art collector. In an era underscored with excess and extravagance, Freer’s house stands out in marked contrast with the opulent Renaissance Revival mansions of many self-made aristocrats and tycoons. This contrast is particularly noticeable in the house that Freer’s business partner Frank J. Hecker built on the adjoining property in 1889/90. Freer’s home, like many of the contemporary American paintings he collected, was not created for public exhibition; rather his home reflected his refined taste and discreet collecting habits. Although Freer’s house stands today with alteration, surviving documents provide an unusually rich and detailed account of its design, construction, and decoration. Charles Lang Freer (1854-1919), best remembered for the Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C., began his career as a clerk in a Kingston, New York general store and in 1873 was appointed paymaster of the New York, Kingston and Syracuse Railroad by the superintendent Frank J. Hecker. These two men quickly developed a close business rapport and friendship which, in December of 1879, brought them to Detroit to organize the
Peninsular Car Works for the manufacture of railroad freight cars. Freer’s business acumen was so keen that in 1899 he orchestrated a merger of thirteen car building companies to form the American Car and Foundry Company. This consolidation allowed Freer to retire from active business in 1901 at age 47 and to devote the remainder of his life to collecting American and Oriental art. After his arrival in Detroit, Freer boarded with various families; however, by the mid-1880’s his prosperous business affairs and growing art collection caused him to contemplate the construction of his home. On March 16, 1887, he and Hecker each purchased two lots on the northside of East Ferry Avenue at Woodward in Detroit where they eventually both built homes. Freer’s choice of Wilson Eyre, Jr. for his architect was not based on Eyre’s work alone, but quite likely Freer was equally impressed with Eyre’s training and sensitivity as an artist. The Detroit architectural firm of Scott, Kamper, & Scott, which had designed Hecker’s home, supervised the construction as associate architects. Bids were solicited during the late summer of 1890 and Henry Carew & Company was selected as the general contractor. John Scott & Company filed for the building permit on October 13, 1890 submitting an estimated construction cost
THE HOUSE THAT FREER BUILT
Wilson Eyre Jr.’s rendering of the C.L. Freer Residence, 1891 (DIA 45.121.2) 16 1/2 x 24 1/4.
of $45,000. Freer’s house may be considered as “shingle style” although it differs from the prototype in three major areas: Its vocabulary comes, in part, from the Queen Anne style; the house is not entirely shingled; and the spatial arrangement stresses a horizontal continuity of space along an axis created by the flanking open porches. The strong horizontal proportions of the facade were accentuated by the flat stone coping of the terrace, the wide spreading eaves, and the stone coursing of the first story. An excessive heaviness was avoided by the welldesigned roof and the chimneys which taper slightly upward. The stable with its ventilating
turret was attached to the main structure by an arched carriage way and on the stable’s west end there was an arched stone gateway protected by a small hipped roof. quite reminiscent of Japanese temple gates. In plan, the interior of Freer’s house is disposed around a double story central hall which strongly emphasizes the horizontal continuity of line. The second floor hall is divided on two levels by the staircase and is framed with an arcade of round arches supported by columns with blind fluting. Eyre has carefully treated this staircase as a contained element rather than a special feature which would have interrupted
Sketch by Dwight W. Tryon of possible treatments for opening to rear hall. 1891 (FGA-51)
the horizontality of line. His use of a basket weave wood screen in the place of balusters, to contain the stairs and diminish their vertical thrust, recalls the British work of C. F. A. Voysey and Charles Rennie Mackintosh. This screening, continued between the columns of the second story arcade, is particularly effective with the two levels of the second-floor hall. The leaded glass oriel window of the guest bedroom which overlooks the hall shows Eyreâ€™s penchant for the use of whimsical elements to add charm. The dining room was built with a bank of three windows on the east wall, a corner cupboard, and a fireplace in the southeast corner. The wide chair rail molding and the coved plaster
ceiling further accent the horizontal lines of this room. Even the pair of sliding doors which separates the dining room from the hall have horizontally placed, rectangular panels which compliment both rooms. The parlor, at the right of the entrance hall, also has a corner fireplace and the ceiling, originally to have been flat, was vaulted by artist Thomas W. Dewing when he undertook the decoration of this room. The pair of front windows has a narrow, curvilinear shelf projecting between the upper and lower sash which reflects the moldings of the mantel. The library, a long and irregular shaped room to the left of the hall, has several unusual features
THE HOUSE THAT FREER BUILT
Freer’s home and garden, ca. 1895 (FGA-51)
View of Stable adn gate, ca. 1892 (DIA)
including a built-in-bookcase, window seats, and a fireplace alcove above which is an oval niche for a vase. On the garden side there is a bay with a paneled ceiling and four gothic arched, leaded glass windows. The original plan indicates a beamed ceiling for the entire room which was not installed.
settled upon. These sections show the arches of the second-floor arcade as gothic in shape; a diamond motif on the woodwork; metal stud decoration on the doors of the dining room, wood lift, and hall safe; and the hall fireplaces with overmantels designed in the manner of Francois I, none of which was used. However, the newel post was graced with a lion seated on its haunches holding a shield. The lion is no longer in place, but evidence remains of its attachment.
Freer’s bedroom, the center second floor room, has the entire north wall built with storage cupboards and an asymmetrically placed fireplace. The adjoining room, Freer’s “Own Room,” has an arched fireplace alcove incorporating a built-in-bookcase and a small window seat. There is a small balcony which overlooks Ferry Avenue and the garden on west corner. Freer’s dressing room the south has cedar lined storage closets, a large window seat with flanking bookcases, and a tiled corner fireplace. The interior detailing, as indicated on the Cross and Longi tudinal Section plans, was considerably more elaborate than Freer actually
Freer’s first interest in art is seen in his collection of prints and etchings beginning in the early 1880’s. During the winter of 1886 or 1887, Freer was introduced to the work of James McNeil Whistler by Howard Mansfield, a prominent New York attorney and print collector. Freer’s interest spread to oil painting while organizing exhibitions of contemporary American art for the newly formed Detroit Club in the late 1880’s. Through these exhibitions, he became acquainted with the artist Frederick Stuart Church who advised him on various art matters
and called his attention to the work of Thomas W. Dewing and Dwight W. Tryon. These three artists played important roles in the design and decoration of Freer’s home. The plans for the house, which were submitted to Freer in April of 1890, were sent to artist Dwight Tryon for his opinion. Tryon enthusiastically responded: “The plans for your new house I have studied with much pleasure. They seem very complete and certainly will make a very fine home. The only thing I see to criticize are the two diamond shaped windows which are certainly out of harmony with all other parts of the plan. The one at the veranda I would suggest leaving out entirely as the larger simplicity of the plan will be injured by any aperture at that place. The one in the center between the two windows might well be replaced by either a round window or a square window with round top. The whole character of the house is so large and ample that any tendency to pettiness of detail must injure it.”
The full article with endnotes can be found online at, http://dichotomy.arch.udmercy. edu/dichotomy-vol-3-no-3-2/.
THE HOUSE THAT FREER BUILT
Plate 12. Watercolor rendering by Wilson Eyre, Jr. showing proposed additions and alterations, 1904. 22 1/4 x 28 1/2 (DIA 45.121.1)
Volume 4, 1981
End Space Daniel Libeskind Upon Reflection an interview with Daniel Libeskind, 2019
We are interviewing you for reflection on an article that you wrote back in the early 1980s for the Dichotomy Student Journal at the University of Detroit Mercy…
Oh my god, yes… I wrote that nearly 40 years ago…
We have a series of questions we would like to ask you. Firstly, how has your design philosophy evolved since the time that you wrote “End Space”?
Well, its evolved indefinitely, but it was based on the work that was published 40 years ago. The truth is that I started with drawing because that’s where I believe that architecture comes from. Drawing, the culture of architecture, and the ideas that are developed about it happened in a sort of eventful way; and I pursued it luckily through many large-scale buildings and many architectural projects. So yes, it was a task that I forged, which actually works. Along this path, I stared with many things that were, of course, only pregnant in the idea that began in “End Space.” Architecture is an adventure. It is a creative adventure and what you are willing to give up to that task as I did. I really had no goal, I just followed my intuition and I just began drawing with my love of architecture and hoping that it would take me somewhere without being pulled left or right of the task. It took me to many unexpected places.
How have you grown as a professional from the time you originally wrote the article back in 1981?
Daniel Libeskind: Firstly, I didn’t practice architecture in a conventional way. I didn’t practice much really, maybe only a few days in the beginning. I was engaged in another way through drawing and studying the history of architecture. And many years later I practiced as a teacher. I am lucky to build buildings. But architecture in buildings is like a piece of music all together where the notes resonate.
What is it like having grown up in Poland, coming to the United States, and having worked in New York and Michigan? How have these experiences shaped you as an architect and as a professional?
Daniel Libeskind: Like I said, architecture is an art. Its is like all the other arts – music, dancing, singing, sculpture, painting, performing, etc. But everything starts with your background. I was born in a homeless shelter in Poland and I grew up living under a communist environment. Then when I came to the United States and experienced democracy and freedom, its like it all changed. It allowed me to open up to architecture and study many other possibilities.
In the end, architecture is really all about ethics, social justice, and the social idea of architecture. Architecture is social and it’s all about the people. Its not about the rich or who has money and its not for the 1%; it is for the other 99% and everyone who gets to participate in the building and the process.
And I consider myself to be a “late bloomer” because I didn’t begin to construct my architecture until later in my life. I had to forge another path. But I learned that it is not about the big things that make architecture; it is that you have to discover the art of your field.
Da’Carla and I attended your lecture at Cranbrook back in December of 2018. We really enjoyed you speaking on the topics of your newest book, “Edge of Order.” Do you think you could elaborate on how your thinking has evolved in “Edge of Order” since the time that you initially wrote “End Space”?
Daniel Libeskind: I think, since I wrote “End Space,” that I have really discovered the beauty of the public art of architecture. In my book, “Edge of Order,” you can see how my process has evolved. Making many people a part of the process and the creativity of many things that evolve architecture. And this process included a lot of reading, thinking, writing, and speaking. But it is just as poetry is to film and science; and art is to music and dance. Architecture is the freedom to think and it is at the center of our human culture. Our buildings provide a sense of our culture.
In “Edge of Order,” I wanted to let people know that I believe that everyone can be an architect. Anyone can jump into their visions and create architecture. It is all about the exploration of the process. Life is not just about discovering the fullest possibilities, but discovering the creative adventure.
I have new projects all over the world – in Australia, Africa, Europe, Asia, North America, etc… But all these project didn’t come from knowledge of architecture; it came from belief, faith, and spirit. Where the human spirit is at its core. We have so many spiritual sources from the ancient world and into modern times. We can find spirit in all people. Architecture is a spiritual quest or a path of spirit.
In architecture, you have to learn new things in your life, you have to discover things; and this is why the field has attracted so many different people. Architecture is not just a single subject, but a combination of every field, such as science, history, the liberal arts, etc.
End Space Daniel Libeskind
“Through a rigorous series of designs and speculative projects, the traditional manner of making architecture — beginning with a drawing and ending with a building —has been expanded to include the dimension of time and has been transformed into another figurative whole. Just as Cubism and modern physics revolutionized our view” Villiers de L’isle Adam ‘Torture Through Hope’ Architectural drawings have in modern times assumed the identity of signs; they have become the fixed and silent accomplices in the overwhelming endeavor of building and construction. In this way, their own open and unknowable horizon has been reduced to a level which proclaims the a prior coherence of technique. In considering them as mere technical adjuncts, collaborating in the execution of a series made up of self-evident steps, they have appeared as either self-effacing materials or as pure formulations cut off from every external reference. While the classical axiomatic of architectural drawing elaborated its usefulness within an overall theory of order, by beginning with well-established theories or representation and attempting to unify them, contemporary formal systems present themselves as riddles
— unknown instruments for which usage is yet to be found. Today, we seldom start with particular conditions which we raise to a general view: rather we descend from a general system to a particular problem. However, what is significant in this tendency (where the relation between the abstract and the concrete is reversed) is the claim which disengages the nature of drawing, as though the ‘reduction’ of drawing were an amplification of the mechanisms of knowledge: an instrument capable of revealing, at a stroke, new areas of the ‘real.’ There is a historical tradition in architecture, whereby drawings (as well as other forms of communication) signify more than can be embodied in stabilized frameworks of objectified data. If we can go beyond the material carrier (sign) into the internal reality of a drawing, the reduction of representation to a formal system — seeming at first void and useless— begins to appear as an extension of reality which is quite natural. The system ceases to be perceived as a prop whose coherence is supported by empty symbols, and reveals a structure whose manifestation is only mediated by symbolism. An architectural drawing is as much a prospective unfolding of future possibilities as
Fig. 1: Collage Plan (upper left) Fig. 3: Collage Plan (right) Fig. 2: House with detached profiles II (lower left)
it is a recovery of a particular history to whose intentions it testifies and whose limits it always challenges. In any case a drawing is more than the shadow of an object, more than a pile of lines, more than a resignation to the inertia of convention. The act of creation in the order of procedures of imagination, here as elsewhere, coincides with creation in the objective realm. Drawing is not mere invention; its efficacy is not drawn from its own unlimited resources of liberty. It is a state of experience in which the ‘other’ is revealed through mechanisms which provoke and support objective accomplishments as
well as supporting the one who draws upon them. Being neither pure registration nor pure creation, these drawings come to resemble an explication or a reading of a pre-given text — a text both generous and inexhaustible. I am interested in the profound relation which exists between the intuition of geometric structure as it manifests itself in a pre-objective sphere of experience and the possibility of formalization which tries to overtake it in the objective realm. In fact, these seemingly exclusive attitudes polarize the movement of imagination and give an impression of discontinuity, when in reality they are but different and reciprocal
moments — alternative viewpoints — of the same fundamental, ontological necessity.
We cannot simply oppose the formal to the nonformal without at the same time destroying the mobility, variation and effectiveness incarnated in the very nature of formalism. From a certain point of view everything is formalism; the distinction between ‘perspective’ and ‘figure’ (depth and flatness) — which seems definitive — branches off and distributes itself over layers of intentionality which in reality show a continuity more than a difference. In a parallel analogy, all seems to be supported by the empirical significance of signs themselves, which magnify appearances by reducing structure to them. My work attempts to express this inadequacy at the heart of perception for which no (final) terms are provided; a lack of fulfillment which prevents manifestation being reducible to an object-datum. Only as horizons, in relation to time, can forms appear in this exploration of the ‘marginal’ where concepts and premonitions overlap. There is a presentation, but always according to the mode of imperfection; an internal play in which deferred completeness is united with a mobilized openness. The work remains an indefinite series because this dialectic cannot be halted. As such, these drawings and collages develop in an area of architectural thinking which neither a physics is nor a poetics of space.
Fig. 5: Cranbrook 1979
Fig. 6: Little Universe
Fig. 7: The Grim Reaper
VOLUME 5, Vernacluar, 1982
An Interview with Gunnar Birkerts Gunnar Birkerts (1925-2017) is one of the many talented Europeans who came to Detroit to work with the Saarinens. More noteably, he is one of the few who stayed in the city to establish his own firm with an international scope. Born in Latvia, Birkerts attended school in Germany before coming to the United States. Besides running his own firm, Mr. Birkerts also enjoyed teaching, teaching at universities including the University of Michigan and the University if Illinois. His work spans accross the country and the world.
An Interview with Gunnar Birkerts Editor: Gregg Yeomanns
For the second time, Mr. Birkerts has graciously granted Dichotomy the opportunity to speak with him. The following interview presents Mr. Birkert’s thoughts on the vernacular and what can be learned from it.
Editor Do you believe there is a Midwestern vernacular? G. B.
That question really has two parts. Is there a vernacular, and what creates regionalism. Is it created by the native genius who builds buildings and responds to the peculiarities of the region? Or, is it the architect who psyches out the regional idiosyncrasies and then tries to build? We have both; the best of regional architecture or vernacular, is in the areas that are influenced strongly by either geographical or climatological or social aspects. It is easy to build a fisherman’s village on the Atlantic Ocean. It is done by native craft, the geography is there and the climate, and you have givens for a vernacular. Now, when that influence spreads deeper into the continent from the ocean, it still maintains a lot of the qualities of that vernacular right at the ocean’s edge, but somewhat diluted. The wind is less, the people are more sophisticated, they are not all fishermen, and so on. . .So we might be able to talk about the East Coast or the West Coast architecture. It is much more difficult to discover it in the Midwest. Even if we have some of the givens (like I mentioned the ocean’s edge), we have lakes and we may have the same geography and there are even social similarities. In Upper Michigan, and you can see a lot of very nicely perpetuated architecture from way back to now and it isn’t all done by an architect, there is a craft itself, this ability to perpetuate a vernacular. It is different when you go inland and into areas that have grown fast. The coastal areas for instance, have grown slowly and from established villages, but when you come into a city like Detroit, which was created fast by the automotive industry after the invention of the assembly line, it’s different. This industry needed a lot of supporting functions, so a “million’’ small factories and shops sprung up and began to give the city the industrial image more than the residential one. I’m now shifting from the Midwest into Detroit in particular because Detroit is a very unique case. I don’t know that many people have realized that two of the world’s biggest urban problems have started in Detroit, and of their effect on the post-Victorian city. One is the automobile, not the automobile per se, but assembly
INTERVIEW WITH GUNNAR BIRKERTS
line produced automobiles: the Ford idea of having a car for everybody. This started disintegrating the sense of the city, people didn’t have to live together any more, they could take their car and go live elsewhere and still be able to communicate. Secondly, I think one of the greatest destructions to the city has been the regional shopping center. That was created in Detroit. What Northland did to Detroit is something major, if you want to think that way. It destroyed the corner grocer, the Main Street, the neighborhood idea. After Northland, they went all over the country and affected other cities in the same way. The third thing is that Detroit has been badly cut up by the highway system. Our community structure and any continuity in the vernacular was cut by the expressways. Gratiot Avenue died because I-75 went and cut through it. We cut the city up in pieces and never revived it. Fourth is, that the Renaissance Center was built a mile high and not a mile horizontal. I think that if you put it all together, this has been our grief here in Detroit. That is what concerns me. It doesn’t have to do so much with the Midwestern vernacular, it has to do with Detroit itself. It has happened to other cities too, but we have been severely victimized by it.
Editor All these seem to be modern, progressive problems.
Is it the way of the world to change that way? Would a knowledge of a vernacular tradition allow a smoother transition to occur, or is architecture not the answer? I guess that raises the question of, if we study our past and our building traditions, how can it help our future, or is it just something done for historical benefit?
Well, it should help our future without a doubt, but I think that at some point we have to define what is vernacular. In Detroit’s case, what is the vernacular? Is it 8 Mile Road and Woodward, or is it the Rouge River automotive plants? What is our vernacular? Because vernacular does not necessarily say that it has quality, integrity, beauty, and permanence or impermanence. It doesn’t say. Vernacular means just what is native what is typical and in our case, that is our vernacular. If we build a building that we wish was the vernacular, it may be out of the vernacular, out of another context. So we have to be strong enough to accept what the vernacular of an industrial city is. You take other cities in the world that are in the automotive business, namely Wolfsburg in Germany, where Aalto built the town center and all that. That industry is trying to build the most beautiful worker houses. That is their vernacular, which is conceived by the management and implemented by the architects. But in our case, and it is America in a sense, you respond quickly to a need and you build the most
expedient shelter and you produce like crazy and then you profit, and somewhere in the middle you say, “When I make enough money, I’m really going to build a nice place.’’ But it never happens, you know. People keep producing in the shacks. That is how, it is when you look at the history of Chicago. Chicago is built of rings. A ring of factories or warehouses built quickly to make a profit, and then tear it down and build a better city, but they haven’t been taken down. Beyond that ring a residential ring took place to support that ring and again the similar development, another ring of industrial and then a residential, and that is the pattern of many of our cities.
Editor That leads to a statement by John Kouwenhoven in Made in America to the effect that we’re really interested in the process of doing things and we’re not that involved with the finished product. That might say something about our architecture too, we’re not really striving for a perfect solution, it’s all in the process of doing things. Our country has a relatively short history and has developed so rapidly that we didn’t really evolve many final solutions. G.B.
Well, the product is the means to financial gain and the ultimate as we are interested in getting the buck. The buck is coming to us via a product which we have to produce into the least overhead consuming circumstance. So, if we have low overhead and if we have a product that we can sell profitably, we are ahead and that has definitely affected the industrial cities to a great extent. Now we may look for counter examples, too. For example, Albert Kahn’s architecture. Those buildings were built for producing a product and they also had quality. It isn’t that everything said is applicable to everyone, there are other buildings, too. There is the General Motors New Center, their administrative headquarters; it’s built to stay; the research and development buildings. G.M. Tech Center, also is important for its contribution made to architecture and architectural history. Unfortunately, these examples haven’t rubbed off too widely in Detroit.
Editor Kahn himself said that his personal favorite building was the William L. Clements Library on the University of Michigan campus. He chose this work, done in an European Baroque style, over any of his very original and contemporary industrial work around Detroit, which might even be considered the Detroit vernacular.
INTERVIEW WITH GUNNAR BIRKERTS
Well, that is where there are buildings that stand out of the vernacular and they don’t necessarily set the standard for the vernacular, they are exceptions. They might have imports of culture or attitude or appreciation that are many times one man’s folly. It is not that it’s a prevailing attitude either, just someone was strong and benevolent enough to build something that he thought would be the pride and express aspirations of the community.
Editor Let’s discuss your recent project for the library in Anchorage, Alaska. G.B.
The library in Anchorage was that kind of a problem. In Anchorage, in some places you can pick out a vernacular building, an old wooden building on the sea shore, but Anchorage grew fast and people in Anchorage came from all over the country and the world. There was not enough heritage in them as a group to create architecture or buildings, let’s not talk about architecture. It is different than the Pilgrims coming to Plymouth and then building in the same manner, or the Amish building the same way they have for hundreds of years. People came to Alaska, found a rather harsh climate, had to come under shelter quickly, there was no concern of what’s what. Now, suddenly there is wealth and the realization that this generation has to start paying something for all that, so an interest in good buildings develops. Now, when you are given a commission like a City Library which might as well become a library of the state because it would be the largest and most impressive, where do you look for design clues? I found I was looking at the original base of the region, which was the geography and the climatology. The exposure, seeing the mountain range and knowing where the winds blow from, seeing what the sun angles are, giving as much exposure to the people inside of the building as possible by giving an extra-long building perimeter so that there can be sun taken in. The psychological effect of sun and the physical effect of sun is a guideline for the building. The building form of a library is really one of a kind. You know it is not a vernacular setting building. It is out of the masses, it is a building with a special meaning which deserves an expression of itself, a personality, and one that projects the contents, so to say. It must project cultural information about the space.
Editor There are certain types of buildings that seem to need their own identity and evolve in very unique forms even within the same region. The first I think of is churches. There seem to be many unique forms for a church, but then I think of the cliché New England white clapboard church that is dotted throughout the
countryside here and there. This leads to the image of the Colonial Church of Edina, Minnesota, designed by Hammel, Green, and Abrahamson. It was a 1980 AIA Honor Award winner and was done in a traditional clapboard and steeple vernacular. A fuzzy area develops between what is just a style picked up and used, and what is a meaningful utilization of a vernacular influence. I think people kind of key on the vernacular tradition just to give their buildings and acceptable face that works well in their setting, and not necessarily for any more meaningful reason. There may not be an understanding of why it’s being done, just because it was done previously, it’s accepted as fact. I see that as a problem in trying to study the vernacular. How can you pick out the important issues without taking the whole vocabulary of features along with it? G.B.
Well, one factor is where the building is located. If the building is within an existing vernacular, if it is on the street in a street façade or in a block of certain vernacular, then it’s very likely that the architect would choose to resonate, or allude to that influence. But you are right, the tradition of the church is something that, in looking at the tradition, we overlook some architectural opportunities and necessities. We assume that any building that has a pitched roof or an “A” frame of a steeple and a colonnade and colonial trim is a bona fide religious building. There is no question about it, it’s a church, it has some reverence given to the building already by the use of trim and the elements and most people are satisfied with that. The New England churches, even the first churches that were built by the ship builders, were real gusty buildings, then they became refined, clapboard sidings and all that. Now what do you do? Like the Calvary Church, for instance, which I designed here in Detroit. It was interesting that the congregation explained the building to visitors and they said that this is our kind of church. We are steel people, we understand steel, we want it steel, that’s where we work – in steel buildings and we understand it. They liked the color. That expresses prosperity and hope and good will and warmth and sun and we want that color and have no problems with having a steel building, which is as far as you can get from a traditional architecture. I didn’t feel that they should be throwbacks into a little Alabama church, so I was looking for more sculptural form. Maybe less a building and more a sculpture, minimizing the roof and mostly using walls. So now whether that is a vernacular with new growth coming out of it, but whether it is typically Detroit, you don’t know. You go to Houston or to Denver and you would not know the difference of where you were in terms of the architecture of the city, the high rise architecture. It’s incredible. It’s entirely new, new architecture is coming
INTERVIEW WITH GUNNAR BIRKERTS
out of there. The skin pulled over a form that doesn’t have any real meaning other than making real estate sense. So, that will be the architecture of the 80’s. Houston will be a result of that, for instance. There are “vernacular” building in Houston you know, those little shacks put up on concrete block piers so that the flood water doesn’t wash it off. That is vernacular residential.
Editor Your last comment lead into another statement by Kouwenhoven, that skyscrapers were another vernacular that is often overlooked. People usually consider a vernacular tradition something that had come from society without architects, or something that has come out of the land or the history, but that isn’t really true. The creation of a skyscraper is one of the most American forms there is as far as the idea of unlimited potential growth and size. G.B.
That’s where I’d say Houston is right now. It is incredible to think where that city will be in ten years, and it will be as American and as contiguously and continuously built as any, because the growth is phenomenal and the unity is there. Houston is an almost anonymous growth of forms that is as American as it can be. That is a very strong vernacular. We like to think of vernacular with a nice, cute, warm brick and real close to the ground kind of building. You could go to Boston and see the remodeled kind of spaces going back to the vernacular. That’s a whole layer of architecture which I would call the brick and butcher block and hanging fern look. It is kind of frustrating, but that is what the architects do a great deal of in the areas that have this potential. Take old mills and factories and all that and make them into restaurants, that is another way and that is fine, but the one you mentioned, the high rise vernacular, that is very American.
Editor Is a well-trained architect a universal designer, or does an architect perform best only in an environment he’s most familiar with? G.B.
That’s an interesting thought that I have also had. Aalto is my big hero, and I have made statements several times in print and such that I think Aalto is so typically Finnish an architect that, if you give Aalto a building on Fifth Avenue in New York, a high rise, I don’t know if he would be able to be as sensitive and intuitive as Philip Johnson, who has grown up there running around the streets. But Aalto is the ultimate example, as far as I’m concerned, of a vernacular architect, and he’s so good that it’s hard to differ from what Aalto’s form language and expressions are. There’s
a whole group of architects in Finland that can’t break out of Aalto’s mold, because he’s so right. He has synthesized the peculiar Finnish qualities of land so well that you can’t beat it. I went there to design the Embassy and I visited most of his buildings, and the more I looked, the more I saw that the man is so right, it’s incredible. There’s no other way, and Finnish architects are dissatisfied with Aalto’s strength. When he died, they tried to see whether his rule can be challenged, but there is nobody coming up who can propose something that is much different, because it would be contrary to the very, very strong influences on the vernacular, the economy, availability of materials, it’s granite and water, their industry which is copper, timber, and fish. It’s so stacked up, the givens, and you come up with a building. If you are a good architect, if I’m as good as you, we’ll be pretty close to the answers and our buildings will be related, they will be kin, because we are working with the same givens, so I think that the architect is best performing in his own. He can be transplanted, but not as successfully as working in his own environment. We have had transplants, the whole Bauhaus were transplants, and the second echelon after the Second World War were transplants, too. Aalto has built here a building that is successful, but it has the overtones of Finland. It is his building up in Oregon. He has also built buildings in Italy and as I read reviews (I haven’t seen it), it isn’t quite Italian because you really have to live in Italy to know what Italians are like. I lived in Italy, and one thing I noticed was the Italians like to sit on the church steps after the service. Now, Aalto had no church steps, and no ledges, they need ledges, they don’t just stand around, they sit for hours and watch other people. There are idiosyncrasies that if the client doesn’t give you, you have to extract out of what you see, what you’ve experienced.
Editor You said in a recent lecture that you feel Midwestern architecture is on the rise. Could you elaborate on that comment? G.B.
Here I’m talking about architecture, not buildings. In what you have extracted, I was talking about the architectural styles and directions and fashions and theories and philosophies and all that. Well, I think that the East Coast will burn out, they will get into cannibalism, and the West Coast is going to go through this junk building period which they are on. I think that the Midwest will stay as the most solid, sane core. We are in a very difficult period, here in Detroit, we are in the most difficult. We are in very serious times, we cannot just play with architectural styles, forms, and attitudes and I think that the Midwest has somehow kept its sanity. It has not produced the most exciting architecture, either, but I think that with improvements, we could.
INTERVIEW WITH GUNNAR BIRKERTS
We have a good supply of minds, we have a good supply of crafts, we have good schools, and we produce good people, but right now they are going away. Most of them are going to the West and all over, but we have a good resource here and I am optimistic. I think the region is going to recover, because when the labor situation settles, industry will begin to move back in. I think the availability of water in the Great Lakes is important, too. I think this is going to be a very, very, successful and booming area, where the others may burn out. I think this is why we are vital as a resource for development, and it will affect buildings too, I hope.
Volume 6, 1983
Learning from Architectural Drawing James Timberlake with George Dodds James Timberlake is a well-known alumni of the University of Detroit Mercy’s School of Architecture who graduated in 1974. Since his time at the university, James has created his own firm, KieranTimberlake. He is credited with designing many innovative buildings. Some of his most familiar works inlcude the Melvin J. and Claire Levine Hall at the University of Pennsylvania, SmartWrap™, Cellophane House™, and the Embassy of the United States in London. His firm, KieranTimberlake, won the AIA Firm Award in 2008 and the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award in 2010. Timberlake’s reflection is included in the beginning of this issue and titled “Upon Reflection.” George Dodds was the founder of the Dichotomy Student Journal when he taught at the University of Detroit Mercy back in 1978. Since his time at UDM, Dodds has taught at several universities throughout the United States. He currently teaches at the University of Tenessee Knoxville. He is also a Distinguished Professor of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architectur. Additionally, Dodds has published two books: Building Desire: On the Barcelona Pavilion, and Body and Building: Essays on the Changing Relation of Body and Architecture (with Robert Tavernor), along with dozens of articles. Dodds’s reflection is included as the introducation to the beginning of this issue and titled “Introduction.”
Learning From Architectural Drawing James H. Timberlake with George P. Dodds
In recent years architectural drawings have become vastly popular — the subject of a seemingly endless profusion of books, magazine articles, and gallery exhibits. In our universities, emphasis on drawing has taken on a new and greater role in architectural education. However, this increase in popularized drawing types brings with it a serious misunderstanding of the context in which drawings are created, their mode of expression, and most importantly, their intent. Therefore, it is important to examine the purpose of architectural drawing in this new atmosphere as well as the reasons why specific drawings are used.
The Interrelationship of Drawing Style and Design Content In the early sixteenth century, attitudes toward architecture were influenced by Alberti’s philosophy on the methodology of architectural planning and his manner of representing a building in drawing.1 The careful modulation of surface and proportion, all with a frontal emphasis, was a result of relying upon plan, section and elevation. In Studies in Italian Renaissance Architecture, Wolfgang Lotz discusses how early Renaissance architecture was primarily planar and linear, closely related to the styles and methods of drawing available to the architects of the period. Generated in part by a limited understanding of the drawing conventions available for formal and spatial
analysis, emphasis on rhythm and harmonic proportion was correspondingly limited. Nevertheless, there existed an exact relationship between the methods of representation and the end product. Lotz goes on to say, “The understanding of the methods of drawing produced changes in the products.”2 However, the analytical drawing and design methods of the Renaissance are not the ends in themselves, but rather are a means toward new interpretations of form. While the Renaissance was content with the approach provided by the static single view perspective, the Mannerist and Early Baroque interpretation was that buildings were not meant to settle into definite views. Initially, these periods borrowed heavily from the drawing types of the Renaissance, but as the architects became more familiar with the conventions and methods of drawing, personal stylistic characteristics developed. This evolution of perspective led to a more fluid interpretation of architectural elements and eventually, a less rigid architecture emerged. The plurality of this approach by the generation of architects succeeding the Renaissance is a lesson to be learned, for this same plurality exists today in contemporary architecture. Stylistic comparisons such as these are a very recent phenomenon. Until now, emphasis
LEARNING FROM ARCHITECTURAL DRAWING
(Illustration) James Timberlake, four sketches execute at the American Academy in Rome, 1983.
has been primarily focused on the methods and quality of drawings, rather than on the relationship between their nature, or fashion, and their subject. The relationship between the stylistic techniques used to produce drawings and the architectural style they are communicating has been all but ignored, yet drawing and design are interrelated by style: just as the drawing helps to explain
and communicate a visual message about the design, so too is the style of design important in the interpretation of the drawing. Clearly, the object of architectural drawing is to represent architecture. This is the primary reason we draw. However, several other factors affect how, when and what we draw. During the Renaissance, drawings were a purely analytical
tool, so that less emphasis was placed on the drawing as an end in itself while greater emphasis was placed on architecture as a product. Closely related to this is the manner or fashion that we choose to represent contemporary architecture. Renderings in today’s architectural pluralism are used to create an image in a stylistic sense, from the simplest elevations and perspectives to more complex layered drawings and Beaux-Arts analytiques. In this context, drawings should be thought of carefully for their intention, their expression, and their function. But the ambiguity of those three factors may not always make for good drawings that communicate clearly and correctly, which brings us to the problem of learning the “wrong lessons” from architectural drawing.
Learning the Wrong Lessons from Architectural Drawing In general, there are three basic “wrong lessons” we have been learning from contemporary architectural drawing: abstraction, idealization and misrepresentation. The first of these, abstraction, is the most broad and difficult notion to keep within limits, for the two elements that are most important to furthering development of architectural drawing are abstraction and experimentation. However, one should be cautious about favoring fashion over substance. Experimentation in drawing often leads to more abstraction. While abstraction
is necessary, both in design and drawing, we must understand its limits. For if the primary purpose of architectural drawing is to represent architecture, then one could argue that there is a limit to the degree of abstraction that may be reached before a drawing ceases to represent, and becomes an object itself. There is a finiteness to the level of abstraction that is possible in a thing that is built, has structure and contains elements that have evolved very slowly throughout the history of architecture. Within this finite set of elements, there are innumerable opportunities for abstract experimentation. Therefore, within the realm of defining architectural drawings that are intended to represent architecture, the clarity with which the idea is presented is of great importance, as is the balance of abstraction and literalism. Idealization in architectural drawing can take many forms. A lack of context, an unattainable view, the layering of information – all are idealized characteristics, unrelated to what is primarily being communicated. Idealization, translated into a drawing, may mean trying to communicate too much about an idea all at once, overworking the drawing as a vehicle of information, or conversely, it may mean not communicating enough information about an idea. The last of the wrong lessons we are learning from contemporary architectural drawing is that of misrepresentation. This is an all-encompassing category which
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directly affects the outcome of the first two. Without a clear intention, the final product is misunderstood. This is not to say that ambiguity is not as important to drawing as it is to architecture. Quite the opposite. For there are as many levels of meaning as there are types of drawings. However, the intention for which a drawing is made directly affects the representation of its elements: Is it to be abstract? Literal? Is it meant to communicate the seminal aspects of an idea, or the execution of the idea itself ? For example, a Peruzzi working drawing several hundred years after its execution has value as collector’s art, not at all its original intention. Subsequently, beyond the interrelationships of the style of design, an awareness is necessary of how the drawing is to function.
within drawings themselves, problematic and prevalent.
The unconscious choice of drawing type and the choice of rendering technique is often made at the university level. The desire to reproduce a fashionable contemporary drawing without fully understanding its stylistic relationship and intention quite often leads to a misunderstanding of the project or product being communicated, often to the student’s disadvantage. Similarly, popular architectural journals often reproduce drawings, ostensibly related to criticism of a project, that say less about the project in question than they do about the magazine itself. The misrepresentation of projects, through choosing the incorrect drawing type, or the confusion created
It is unfortunate that most of the architectural drawings produced prior to the mid-nineteenth century have been left to art historians for their archival value. For without studying the stylistic aspects of these early drawings, one can only focus upon contemporary stylistic development. Derivative works must be studied alongside the original in order for the proper conclusions to be drawn. Just as it is important in architectural history to look at a Bramante cortile or a Brunelleschi chapel, it is imperative to understand the means of abstracting and reinterpreting architectural drawings to suit our own particular functional requirements and stylistic tendencies.
Drawings From the Uffizi: A Stylistic Analysis A historical analysis of architectural periods and styles generally overlooks the impact of drawing upon the final built form — the character of a progress drawing may reveal quite a different intent from that of the resulting building. Claudius Coulin has written in his Drawings by Architects, “... the clarity and concentration of an architectural idea will always be reflected in the architectural drawing.” The communication of the idea through drawing reflects not only the developmental stage of the idea, but also and more significantly, the intent and character of the idea.
Fig. 1: Vignola: Villa Farnese, Caprarola, aerial view (Uffizi 1831A), 1545. Sepia ink, yellowed rag paper, size approx. 5” x 5”.
LEARNING FROM ARCHITECTURAL DRAWING
The drawings presented here were chosen from the extensive collection of the Uffizi (Gabinetto dei Disegni e delle Stampe) to reflect a broad range of these functional and stylistic aspects. They represent a well-defined progression of presentation styles and media choices. They distinguish themselves from many other early architectural drawings by reflecting, to some degree, the interrelationship between function and style. Furthermore, the level of abstraction of elements within the drawings is directly dependent upon the nature and timing of the drawing relative to its particular project. As the project progresses, the drawings and the elements within them become more literal than representational. Three broad types or categories are reflected by these drawings: the preparatory or preliminary sketch, the working drawing, and the presentation drawing. The preliminary sketch is often a freehand elevation, plan, or perspective representing a particular view or disposition of parts of a scheme (figs. 4, 10 & 11). These tend to be the most abstract of the drawings. Their elements have characteristics of the details and ornament intended; however, they are representational rather than literal. For the most part the drawings illustrated here are in ink with ink washes. This enables the drawing to communicate the three-dimensional characteristics of the architecture in a two-dimensional way. The freedom of the initial idea is illustrated
by the fluidity of those drawings, indicating a flexibility in the thought process as well. The second type is the working drawing. Four hundred years ago this type of drawing often doubled for client presentations. Further notations were added as the drawing progressed toward the building stage. More precise and literal than the preparatory sketch, these drawings show the process of the work, with frequent erasures and outlines of other previous drawings indicated by punctures in the paper (figs. 2A & 3). What is particularly interesting about these drawings is that, seen many years later in a different context, the most ordinary working drawing of this period has certain qualities of some current, fashionable presentation drawings. Presentation drawings make up the third category. These contain characteristics developed during much later periods such as plan, elevation combinations; shadowed elevations; pochĂŠ, and especially combinations of freehand and drafted line presentation drawings (figs. 7 & 9). Ink, wash and other mixtures of medium are prevalent. The abstraction level, however, diminishes somewhat at this stage depending upon the intention of the drawing. The drawings tend to be more literal in the interpretation of rendering of detail as the project moves closer towards realization. (1) Vignola: Villa Farnese, Caprarola, aerial view (Uffizi 1831A), 1545. Sepia ink, yellowed rag paper, size approx. 5â€? x 5â€?.
Fig. 2a: Pietro Berrettini (Da Cortona): chapel (Santa della Pace?), study drawing layout (Uffizi 2210A). Pencil.
Fig. 2b: Pietro Berrettini (Da Cortona): chapel elevation/wall (Santa Maria della Pace?) (Uffizi 2211A). Sepia, ink, rag paper.
This is a unique drawing for the period in which it was produced. It becomes one of the few drawings to break the Albertian corollary of using models for three-dimensional 2a study. The unusual viewpoint (the first straight up axonometric?) and size of the drawing may indicate that it was a study drawing for the building, indicating both inside and outside characteristics simultaneously. The abstraction level is high due to the size of the elements rendered. Bases, cornices, capitals and frames are all
suggested with an economy of line. The drawing contains a suggestion of precision, but retains an overall looseness due to the freehand line technique and ink wash. Its contradictions of Vignolaâ€™s pattern book studies add to its unique quality.
(2A) Pietro Berrettini (Da Cortona): chapel (Santa Maria della Pace?), study drawing layout (Uffizi 2210A). Pencil. (2B) Pietro Berrettini (Da Cortona): chapel
LEARNING FROM ARCHITECTURAL DRAWING
elevation/wall (Santa Maria della Pace?) (Uffizi 2211Ä€). Sepia, ink, rag paper. Figure 2A contains preliminary detail characteristics similar to those in figure 2B, which suggest that the first is a layout, development drawing, and the second a final solution or presentation drawing. Figure 2A is interesting because of the many layers of information it contains. It has what appear to be existing surfaces laid out with several different architectural and ornamental elements assembled in various compositions over that portion of wall. The pin dots are a layout technique, perhaps from a previous drawing or made for a later drawing. Figure 2B shows the refinement of the design; the lines are clearer and the freehand ornamental work more precise. No materials are indicated (marmo dipinto, etc.) The earlier drawing is interesting for its abstraction of several layers of information, one over the other, with no confusion or distortion of the individual elements. (3) Baldasarre Perruzi: Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, measured layout plan (Uffizi 368A), approx. 1533. Sepia ink. Fig. 3: Baldasarre Perruzi: Palazzo Massimo alle Colonne, measured layout plan (Uffizi 368A), approx. 1533. Sepia ink.
This is an early layout plan for the work. The notations of room designations and measurements change the feeling of the drawing by adding a decorative quality to a basic working drawing. The plan is drawn with a combination of drafted and freehand lines and is poched with a sepia wash. As precise as this plan is, it remains somewhat
Fig. 4: Pietro Berrettini (Da Cortona): possibly for courtyard, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, perspective sketch (Uffizi 2141A), approx. 1640. Ink with slight wash, size 4” x 5”.
Fig. 6: Attributed to Maderno: Sant’Andrea della Valle, elevation (Uffizi 3688A), approx. 1608. Sepia ink and wash, size 12” x 16”.
Fig. 5: Pietro Berrettini (Da Cortona): possibly courtyard, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, perspective sketch (Uffizi 2142 A), approx. 1640. Ink with slight wash. Fig. 8: Baldasarre Peruzzi: unknown (viewing stand, stage set?), elevation (Uffizi 3959A). 1510-1525(?). Ink, slight wash.
LEARNING FROM ARCHITECTURAL DRAWING
abstract beyond the information presented. There is an underplayed surrounding context. Inside the plan no drawn material indications or embellishments are given. (4) Pietro Berrettini (Da Cortona): possibly for courtyard, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, perspective sketch (Uffizi 2141A), approx. 1640. Ink with slight wash, size 4” x 5”. The loose sketch style employed here by Da Cortona appropriately conveys the Baroque plasticity intended. This drawing, when compared to figure 5, indicates a greater abstraction level of elements, except in the partial elevation to the right. What is unique about this drawing is the manipulation of line work to achieve stylistic interrelationships with the architecture. The slightest line variations, however quickly done, communicate information about the progetto. (5) Pietro Berrettini (Da Cortona): possibly courtyard, Palazzo Pitti, Florence, perspective sketch (Uffizi 2142 A), approx. 1640. Ink with slight wash. The sketch in figure 5 indicates a greater degree of thought development relative to figure 4. The lines are bolder, more forceful. The elements and details have conviction about placement, and we see further indication of an element in the foreground space. The loose, strong line strokes in both figures 4 and 5 have similarities to later work
by Juvarra who develops this schizzo style much further. (6) Attributed to Maderno: Sant’Andrea della Valle, elevation (Uffizi 3688A), approx. 1608. Sepia ink and wash, size 12” x 16”. Stylistically this is a curious drawing. Great emphasis is placed on rendering relief in the elevation; however, the partial plan for this purpose is shown in close proximity below. The wash colors the drawing as though the facade was intended to have a vertical stripe pattern, and does not seem to indicate depth. The portals are darker. The drawing becomes confusing as a result of the very light line work and vertical architectural elements, and the shading which contradicts the strong horizontal, linear elements. The ornament work indicated in the drawing has a timidity that does not show in Maderno’s built work which is generally bold, forceful and substantial. In this respect the drawing does not reflect precisely the stylistic characteristics inherent in this architect’s completed work. (7) Attributed to Bernini: deposito for the King of Spain in Santa Maria Maggiore, elevation, plan (Uffizi 3657A), 166510. Ink with blue ink wash, size 9” x 18”. Bernini’s equal attention to architectural and sculptural character is evident in nearly all of his drawings. In figure 7 we see the architectural interrelationship in the balance of freehand drafted lines, wash, and in the coloration of the drawing. The section elevation and plan
combination certainly is a precursor to later techniques employed by the Beaux-Arts school. (8) Baldasarre Peruzzi: unknown (viewing stand, stage set?), elevation (Uffizi 3959A). 1510-1525(?). Ink, slight wash. Peruzzi’s strong freehand sketching technique is evident in this preparatory drawing for an unidentified project. The stylistic interrelationships between the indications for the architectural and sculptural programs are important here. The combination of horizontal line hatching and ink wash for shading adds an ornamental complexity to a rather simple drawing. All of these elements combine to make an equal relationship between the literal and abstracted levels in the drawing: the architectural elements, columns, and soffit have the same type of line weight and attention to detail as the sculptural, decorative programs. The sculpture is highly abstracted. (9) Attributed to Maderno: Saint Peter’s, Rome; elevation (Uffizi 129A), approx. 1605-1607. Color, sepia ink and wash, size 12”x 16”. Maderno drawings in general give preference to the literal over the abstract. No matter at what scale the drawing is made, almost every element is indicated in some detail. The stylization process seems to be sublimated to allow the composition to communicate exactly the realization of the particular project. This leads to a few drawing difficulties. The quality of the line work varies. Shades and shadows tend to diffuse the clarity of some of the ornamental
Fig. 7: Attributed to Bernini: deposito for the King of Spain in Santa Maria Maggiore, elevation, plan (Uffizi 3657A), 166510. Ink with blue ink wash, size 9” x 18”.
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Fig. 9: Attributed to Maderno: Saint Peter’s, Rome; elevation (Uffizi 129A), approx. 1605-1607. Color, sepia ink and wash, size 12”x 16”.
Fig. 10: Pietro Berrettini (Da Cortona): unknown, church facade, elevation sketch studies (Uffizi 2919A), 1620-1640 (?).
Fig. 11: Baldasarre Peruzzi: unknown (elevation palazzo, church?), elevation sketch (Uffizi 424A), 1510-1525 (?). Sepia ink, wash notations.
details. The drawing becomes a clutter of small-scale elements rather than reflecting a combination of big and small-scale details. Similar facade disegni in the Vatican library, showing the development of the end towers and drawn by others, convey a different stylistic feeling. (10) Pietro Berrettini (Da Cortona): unknown, church facade, elevation sketch studies (Uffizi 2919A), 1620-1640 (?). Black ink line, sepia wash. These loose sketches have Da Cortona’s painterly touch. The development of a Peruzzi-type sketch style by Da Cortona is seen again in eighteenth-century work by Juvarra. The capitals and ornamental details are highly stylized and loosely indicated. The wash employed for shade and shadow adds as much importance as the line work. The
two become interchangeable — one does not dominate the other. The quickness and strength of the line and wash convey accurately an ornamented, plastic architecture. Da Cortona’s method for drawing architecture was integral with the techniques he developed for painting. The fluidity of his drawing style interrelates well with his schizzi for both painting and architectural projects. (11) Baldasarre Peruzzi: unknown (elevation palazzo, church?), elevation sketch (Uffizi 424A), 1510-1525 (?). Sepia ink, wash notations. Peruzzi is well-known for his sketch books which reveal a working style that is both literal and abstract, decorative and functional. Ackerman writes of Peruzzi “as an architect who often worked with linear and planar means of fifteenth-century architecture
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Fig 12: Attributed to Ammanati: Palazzo Farnese, first floor, plan (Uffizi 3450A), 1540s (?). Ink, hatch poché.
Fig. 13: Baldasarre Peruzzi: unknown (study for apse SS. Annunziata, study for Minerva Medicea?). plan sketch/perspective (Uffizi 428A), 1510-20(?). Pencil, ink.
while concentrating his great ingenuity on exploring new forms and rhythms in plan and elevation. This drawing has evidence of those characteristics. The line quality and wash combined with the partial over-drawing of portions of the sketch and the inclusion of notations all reinforce those stylistic qualities. This preparatory sketch contains a lot of elements of contemporary concept sketches, but conveyed in a much more controlled and detailed manner.
(12) Attributed to Ammanati: Palazzo Farnese, first floor, plan (Uffizi 3450A), 1540s (?). Ink, hatch poché. This is a confusing plan due to the lack of notation and material designations. Particular care is given, as in the Peruzzi plan, to the layout and disposition of space and details. Hatched poché was not an unusual convention in Ammanati’s time. However, the purpose of this drawing is confusing when thought of in the context of its stylistic characteristics. One is unsure whether it is an intermediate
record or a working drawing left unfinished. The analytical drawing and design methods of the Renaissance were not seen as ends in themselves during this period. but as a means toward new interpretations of form. The alternating combination of drafted line work and hatched, freehand poché conveys the feeling of a much looser style than that which closer inspection reveals. (13) Baldasarre Peruzzi: unknown (study for apse SS. Annunziata, study for Minerva Medicea?). plan sketch/perspective (Uffizi 428A), 1510-20(?). Pencil, ink. This drawing is reminiscent of Giuliano San Gallo’s Minerva Medicea. 15 The combination of conventions, plan and perspective sketches should be noted. The design process is evident in the layered information in the plan – outline work, some hatching, some full poché. The distortions in the perspective sketches are interesting when compared to the plan at their respective notations. The scale effects intended are entirely different in plan than they appear to be in the sketches. There are many important lessons to be learned from these drawings. We might look at them in the context that they, along with many others, have helped to form the basic framework for architectural drawing as we know it today. These drawings represent the second or third interpretation of earlier architectural drawing corollaries established by Alberti and others. Over the years, drawings
have become more abstracted (as one could argue that architecture has). Different functional necessities and conventions have changed approaches to drawings and formats. As a result, some basic techniques and lessons have been obfuscated. If we use these drawings as examples from which to understand more clearly our own stylistic tendencies in the context of contemporary architectural drawing, then we can begin to establish our own stylistic interrelationships between drawing and design.
LEARNING FROM ARCHITECTURAL DRAWING
Notes 1) 2)
5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) 11)
Leon Battista Alberti, Ten Books on Architecture, Architecture, Architettura II, translated by C. Bartoli, Milan, 1833. (See also Wolfgang Lotz footnotes, note 2 below). Wolfgang, Lotz, “The Rendering of the Interior in Architectural Drawings of the Renaissance.” Studies in Italian Renaissance Architecture (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1977), p.6. Claudius Coulin, Drawings by Architects (New York: Reinhold, 1962). Irving Lavin et al., Drawings by Gianlorenzo Bernini, (Princeton: The Art Museum, Princeton University, 1981). This is an exhaustive catalog discussing all the stylistic aspects of Bernini’s drawings. Lavin, pp. 9-23 (see also Coulin, note 3). Lotz, p. 5. Adolf K. Placek, MacMillan Encyclopedia of Architects, vol. 1-4 (New York: The Free Press, 1982). Placek, (see note 9). Catalog, “Mostra di Filippo Juvarra, architetto e scenografo” (Torino Vittorio Viale, 1966). This catalog contains an extensive bibliography on Juvarra and his drawings. Lavin, p. 248. Lavin, pp. 248-253. This entry discusses a series of drawings including Uffizi 3657A related to this project. My thanks to Micki Courtright for pointing out and clarifying these sources. Heinrich Wolfflin, Principles of Art History (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1950), p. 71. James Ackerman, “The Architecture of Bramante and Michelangelo,” Renderings in Art History, second edition, Harold Spencer, ed. (New York: Charles Scribners Sons 1961), p. 96. Lotz, p. 57.
VOLUME 7, Unity
Katsura Helmut John Hammen Helmut John Hammen was born in Stuttgart, West Germany in 1961. He studied architecture at the University of Detroit Mercy, beginning in 1979, and was also a Teacherâ€™s Assistant. He worked a seven-month co-op period in Frankfurt, West Germany, in 1983, and later was employed at Rossetti Associates / Architects in Detroit, Michigan.
Katsura - Fantasy in Balance Helmut John Hammen
Located within the ancient perimeter of Japan’s imperial capital, Kyoto, is a fantasy best described by Walter Gropius as a “balanced container for beautiful living.” Built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Katsura Palace is likened to the Athenian Acropolis in importance as a major cultural monument of Eastern civilization. The palace and grounds are a prime example of both a secular and traditional Japanese architecture. It is this intercourse of architectonic language and landscape that has always intrigued Western man. It is not necessary to understand the underlying Japanese philosophical systems to appreciate the innate beauty of Katsura Palace. One can truly sense the harmonious synchronization of nature, man, and architecture. “In Katsura the eyes think,” wrote the German architect Bruno Taut in 1933. He was struck by the simplicity of the Palace and its comfortable proportion to the human body. It is the relationship of man to nature that has played the most vital role in the development of Japanese culture. Several factors have formed this phenomenon. Of primary importance is the geoclimatic location of the Japanese Islands. The islands
stretch out over 750 miles in a north-south orientation, providing a balanced four-season environment. Historically, this is also an area of regular volcanic activity. These variables combine to form a rich variety of landscape: smooth-flowing rivers; the delicate beauty of the many species of flora and fauna against a background of sharp, chiseled features of mountains and ravines. This is perhaps best captured by the 15th century Japanese painter, Sesshu. His paintings dramatically depict the depth of the landscape as they unfold in layers of mountains, ravines, clouds and trees. Man is specular in this cosmos for, however small, he is still recognized as an integral and harmonious pan of the environment. This kinship with nature inspires the Japanese sensitivity constantly displayed throughout other cultural forms: the Kabaki dance theatre, the ritual of the tea ceremony, the Zen stone gardens, to name a few. Katsura was constructed during the beginning of the Tokugawa shogunate (referred to as the Edo period, (1603-1868). This is about the time of James Clavell’s setting for his novel Shogun. It was a period of revolutionary change, both politically and in society. The presence of a new dynasty, the establishment of Christianity, and the restructuring of the caste system created dynamic tensions in all levels of Japanese life.
Fig. 1: Entrance Hall.
Fig. 2: View from: ‘Old shoin’.
Fig. 3: Main House.
It is difficult to envision Katsura as a single architectural form because of the constantly shifting patterns, textures, and spaces. Perhaps, the medium of the photograph, focusing on small areas, best relates the underlying form, attention to detail and inherent consistency throughout the entire structure. There is a sophisticated common form language developed here involving elemental prefabrication and modular coordination, predating the development and use of this method in the west by almost 500 years. Katsura Palace itself displays a sort of Japanese mannerist eclecticism. A combination of traditional styles in joinery detailing and new concepts in space planning provide a dynamic interplay of the
old and the new. The shoin, evolving from the 12th century onwards, reached its most perfect form in the Palace. The shoin is the style used in Japanese noble residences. Its special features in the rooms are al- coves for displaying paintings, large sliding panels for doors, vestibules where shoes are left. These features eventually became traditional in urban domestic architecture. Katsura today is composed of the large main house and four smaller teahouses in various parts of the surrounding garden. The garden itself and the penetrating Katsura River appear quite natural but have actually undergone extensive landscaping throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and there have been additions to the main house and the placement
Fig. 4: Imperial Villa.
of more teahouses. Between the house and garden interpenetration there is a continuity of space, vista, and subtle transitions from one space to another. The proportion of the palace rooms accentuates the human figure in space. But it is in the garden itself that the three elements of timeless serenity best are expressed. These three elements are yugen, wabi, and sabi. Yugen is tranquility, wabi is the rustic solitude of unfinished, natural materials, and sabi is the patina of age found in the color of weathered wood or stone, mosses and lichens. Katsura Palace, setting for a real-life fantasy, creates a feeling of having gone far, of leaving the distractions of everyday life behindâ€Ś something we would all like to do.
Fig. 5: Garden Entrance.
Volume 8, 1984
Chalk Talks Jerzy Staniszkis Upon Reflection Professor Wladek Fuchs, 2019 When I first came to teach at the School of Architecture University of Detroit in January 1991, Jerzy Staniszkis was already retired. But I met him seven years earlier, when I arrived at the school with a group of students from the Faculty of Architecture Warsaw University of Technology. I was part of the academic exchange between the schools. Jerzy gave the idea of the unique program in 1979, fighting off bureaucratic obstacles with his infinite energy. Already in 1984 he was a legend. He had worked at the school in Detroit almost from the beginning. Bruno Leon, the first Dean, always said that Jerzy was the first faculty he hired. Though it is maybe strange for me to comment on, being Polish too, Jerzy until the end spoke with heavy Polish accent, which was always a subject of humorous but loving comments by the students. Jerzy Staniszkis was born in Poland, where he also earned his degree in architecture. In 1939 he fought against Germans as a cavalryman, the fact he was always extremely proud of. He was later in a POW camp, in which in 1940 the famous â€œOlympic Games behind the barbwireâ€? were organized by prisoners. After the war Jerzy worked in Warsaw, planning the reconstruction of the city destroyed by the Germans. I am not sure how he found himself in United States, but after a short stay on the East Coast Detroit became his home. Jerzy was a great teacher. He was demanding, like Bruno himself, but filled with love for his work and students. One of his greatest skills was free-hand drawing. He mesmerized everybody with quick sketches he made on the chalkboard during lectures or on small sheets of paper during desk crits. His drawings were just like him: full of energy, artistic spirit and disciplined at the same time.
To those who lift this book to read its pages and gaze upon its masterly drawn architectural sketches, the author presents himself as a greatly talented man with a sensitive perception of architecture, a man exhibiting excellence and precision in his linear expression of space, a man with a remarkable visual memory. Readers quickly sense the author’s passion to draw and his ability to convey through his drawings a synthesis of his particular vision of the material environment. Bruno Leon, who knows the author personally having worked with him for over two decades, wrote in the preface to this edition that “for those who can” see “the spirit of the man shines through” this observation extends the conveyance of the book beyond its direct content and calls to mind a characteristic saying of E. H. Carr who writes “before you study the history study the historian”. In 1976 Staniszkis designed an exhibition in Detroit and its poster. On the poster one can see inscription “Polish Perspective” and in the middle a photograph of a spiral strip of cardboard -seemingly only a graphic play with form, but also a metaphor: The Polish Perspective was not always rectilinear, especially in this century. So let us look at Staniszkis’ work and book in a perspective wider than his sketches and words in the historical perspective. Through the themes of his works the time to which he belongs is reflected in an indirect way, giving the reader an unusual opportunity to think, remember and to contemplate the meaning of what the author conveys through his work in a subtle way of art.
Cities IF PEOPLE ARE WILLING TO ACCEPT AS NECESSARY THE VARIOUS TRAFFIC REGULATIONS ON OUR STREETS AND ROADS, WHY ARE THEY SO HESITANT TO ACCEPT THOSE RULES OF URBAN PLANNING WHICH WILL NOT ONLY AFFECT THEM BUT ALSO THE WELL-BEING OF THEIR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN? Actual lifestyles sometimes result from the external pressures and demands of a given environment, but more often it is the individual, based on his profession, interests, desires and predilections, who establishes a personal style of life within given circumstances. It is true that many people choose to change from one set of circumstances to another, either by changing their job, profession, or moving from the country to the city or vice versa. The statistics indicating such movements are often deceiving because they do not show whether such moves are made by choice or out of necessity. Still, the statistics are available indicators for us. Statistically the requirements are: The need for a small town 29% of Americans The need for a country life including farms 27% of Americans The need for a suburban life of large cities 25% of Americans The need for large cities 18% of Americans This was the Gallop Poll in 1968 when the trend, â€œBack to the Cityâ€? was in the initial stage. It adds up to 99%, the remaining one percent cannot be determined, but these people belong to the ever increasing mobile population, which does not like to establish itself in any one location. Another source of material is the history of civilization. History shows that as long as a town has maintained reasonable proportions concerning both its physical size and its number of inhabitants, and as long as its structure satisfied most of their requirements, no question emerged as to whether it was necessary or not.
2350 years ago the following objectives were considered in the ancient Greek town of Priene: 1. To exploit natural conditions of the site 2. Defenses with necessary walls 3. Non-conflicting circulation (pedestrian and vehicular traffic) 4. Religious factor with the temples 5. Cultural factor with the theatre 6. Commercial factor with the market square 7. Administration and education center with the gymnasium 8. Recreation area with the stadium 9. Customs binding at that time 10. Convenient housing with privacy for each family 11. Urban composition factor, taking into consideration â€œAgoraâ€? within the town center 12. Obligatory building code, taking into consideration economic factors
Roads Existing street patterns and contemporary freeway systems do not prevent flexible spatial architecture. Look at the intersection of the I-75 expressway and M-59 expressway in Michigan- or look at the Fisher expressway in Detroit. New imaginative proposals are possible today. MAIN STREET Let me name some of the paths on which people circulate: airway waterway railway subway expressway highway driveway alley avenue boulevard lane path road route and also an alphabetical list of some of the different types of streets: arterial boundary circular commercial cross dead end industrial private public residential through two-way or one-way
Squares A pedestrian needs 15 minutes from Piazza Santa Annunziata to Ponte Vecchio, through via Dei Servi, Duomo, via Del Proconsolo, Piazza S. Firenze, via Del Gondi, Piazza Signoria, Uffizi and Lungarno. Noisy buses, cars, or scooters are not necessary. Only wheelchairs for handicapped persons would be useful. The square, agora or piazza is the heart of a town or of an area within a large city. The streets or canals linking up with the square serve for the circulation of people and traffic, thus underlining the concept of the square as the center. My drawings are designed to show the necessity for such a central area in a town. A town built without such an open focal point for activities is fundamentally unsound and is doomed. Squares, if we think of them as open spaces, come in many shapes and sizes fulfilling different but necessary functions: market place public meeting place parade ground landscaped area to bring the country to the city dwellers recreation area carrying and distribution of various types of traffic, or a combination of these.
Detroit River A city which is situated on a navigable river not only must contain harbor facilities, located in such a way as to facilitate a proper distribution of cargo arriving by water or to load different goods, but also to make possible a proper development of the city structure along the riverfront with passenger boat stations. Unquestionably, the land along the river is the most attractive. Detroit and Windsor appear to have an excellent chance of integrating the Detroit River into their own fabric. Some radical changes are necessary, perhaps, but no total removal of the entire infrastructure. The river acts as a â€œspineâ€? of the city, or two cities. Such examples, however, were not frequent.
Downtown, Detroit This solution to the problems of downtown Detroit is not only for Detroit but for Windsor also. The river should be a unifying factor rather than a barrier between the two towns.
VOLUME 9, Permanence and Change, 1990
For Demilitarization of the Act of Building Lucien Kroll Lucien Kroll was born in Brussels in 1927. He was educated at the Ecole Nationale Superieur de la Cambre, the Institut Superieur International dâ€™ Urbanisme in Brussels, and at the school of Gaston Bardet. He went into private practice, and established Atelier Kroll in 1957. A prolific architect, his work includes many facilities for religious communities, welfare housing, and residential blocks. It reflects his reaction against industrialized architecture, and his concentration on the adaptability of spaces to the userâ€™s specific needs, The emphasis is on warmth, vitality, and intimacy, and the resulting aesthetic is rich in variety and conflict, but never arbitrarily chaotic. Architecture is the ultimate reflection of its users, not just the signature of the architect. Among his works are, Residential Blocks at Auderghem, the Dominican benefice and Rectory, Rixensart, the Abbey at Maredsons, the Residential District Vignes Blanches, Apartments at Emerainville, Marne-laValle, and the Medical Faculty at Woluwe-Saint Lambert, which includes administration, schools, restaurants, a metro station, and gardens. The J .F . Dela-rue Medal from the Academie Francaise dâ€™ Architecture is among his awards.
For Demilitarization of the Act of Building Lucien Kroll
The battle between the Gauls and the Roman legions never ends. Roman Taylorization (1) had mechanized courage and ridiculed heroism and poetry for, on the specialized battlefields (those destruction mills) it is hard for guerrillas to survive. Already, some time earlier, bronze weapons had been unknowingly obliterated by the new technology of iron. However, it is always in a second time that the Greek miracle takes place: passive resistance, civil disobedience, destruction of the rigid fences of the military; and poetry resumes its course and its daily task: the organic resides in the orthogonal and gives it a parallel life. The savage is then defeated by the engineers but then, calmly, he always reappears (the return of the Sioux) and survives them: the environment recreates him spontaneously; incessantly, while the engineer must struggle against entropy, which always tends to annihilate him. The great civilizations of dreamers, Celtic, Aztec, Hindu, Scottish, etc., perished when faced with armed forces, just as the XVIII century, cultivated and peasant, perished before urban industrial power as the delights of the artisan class were bit by bit exhausted and yielded to mechanical artifice. However, every urban generation has its primitives and neither the artisan nor the horse has ever really disappeared.
Architecture, since the beginning of the century, has been undergoing the attack of the same militarists; they wanted it to be industrial, prefabricated, normalized. We know what they have done with it. And architects have done all they could to disguise themselves as industrialist and succeeded so well that they have disgusted us with the form “machine made” even before the machine had the chance to produce it. For it is only a lot later that prefabrication, graceless and unimaginative, proliferated, and that architecture was strangled, the artisan mocked, and the resident turned into a consumer.
Systems of Trees How are dwellings built today? What are the activities of the conceiver-mercenaries (us!), what are their models? They always set aside a functional space, multiply it, and then hook it into a “system”: water, gas, electricity, sewage and irrigation, sidewalks, streets, urban beautification, bureaucratic shapes, etc. Curiously, those systems are rather arboreal in form, not free . . . The channelizing technique demands no “associative desire” of the elements. It is not a tissue, it is an urban cloaca. One must scrutinize the diverse internal and external routes and systems to understand that they are what determine shape and form
FOR DEMILITARIZATION OF THE ACT OF BUILDING
just as surely as the path of the crane is what has created the “barre.” The image of the inhabitant is nowhere to be seen. If, at certain time of day, you ran a knitting needle from top to bottom of one of these militarized buildings, you would run it through all of the housewives, who would be in their kitchens, busy cooking. Let us understand each other, we are not criticizing education, even when it is dictatorial. It is just the “drill” and only outside of a state of warfare (we know that it is always the same ones who get themselves killed . . .). Technical norms and administrative rules do not create living architecture (dead architecture, yes). And why not install the systems as networks? The form of a network is opposite that of a tree; it seems aleatory: it connects apparently where it feels like making contact, in obscure ways. The tree is hierarchical; from roots to trunk, to limbs, to branches, to leaves, etc. No short-circuit, it is like an army! The hierarchical way — except sometimes for the malice which in certain places in the Pyrenees make the fenced-in branches of different plane trees grow together. Is chance affinity contrary to nature? Shake up technology, make it our servant, let families cohere through affinity, through individuality. That is the way to create a country-side and not a spare-parts shop or a stock of merchandise. The choice here is violent: mechanical or organic. These two tendencies take turns being dominant. The scorn in which the Renaissance held the
local and spontaneous expressions of the Middle Ages is repeated with the same brutality with each “rational” importation of artifice, each establishment of order, of seriousness, each exotic or antique travesty. Today we can add, pell-mell, Taylorism, industrial engineering, functional urban planning, recent rationalist, most industrial objects, etc. In summary, almost all modernisms, everything that, when you think about it, works badly.
Roman Engineers The model of Roman camps or that of modern armies produces the same geometric form, even if the decors differ in detail: obliteration of preceding forms, matricules, arrangement in abscissa and around the command post with an assembly area in the middle, and fortified separation from the surroundings. A clairvoyant architect, Hilberseimer had published captivating pictures of it, showing very well how contemporary military camps have served as models for urban planning and how much he, like almost all those of his generation, aspired to it. This well-ordered model is so firmly established that it reappears automatically, as if normal in numerous domains. Except sometimes for a few kindergartens, every space used for education is military: surveillance, rows, identical classes, alignment, concentration in large units and disciplinary architecture. Is it possible to teach Mallarme in a classroom with a prescribed surface area of exactly 50 square
meters, identical to all its neighbors? Or even mathematics? The same applies to workplaces, divided according to mechanistic schemata, for the well-being of materials, of machines or of profit, never as a function of team-spirit, of the creativity of people in conducive places. Before the establishment of Taylorism, small factories could still fit agreeably in the countryside. Only with the complete control made possible by contemporary great wealth could anyone concern himself with the spiritual comfort of the worker, enough sometimes to break ranks to add some green plants in front of Swedish automobile assembly lines or in countrified offices. Why must a factory resemble a factory and why must work resemble punishment?
For the Demilitarization of the Act of Building The application of conscious techniques inevitably abolishes instinctive and traditional tendencies. Cities no longer come together by successive chance adjustments: they spread themselves out like a theorem. Complicated and not complex. People believed naively that an accumulation of calculations and mechanisms could decide its form and definitively replace instinctual stratification. Scientific studies of urban layouts have taken leave of reality: they no longer function in reality. Do they still observe it? In schools, it has been necessary to re-establish courses in city planning, bringing in architects to keep working in teams and not according to egocentric theories.
(1) (above) Ludwig Hilsberseimer: Berlin Plan 1927.
Seeing that it was not working, some people tried to be still more rationalistic and killed off creativity on a grand scale, authoritarian and precise in all details. And to console themselves they sometimes played with â€œantique style,â€? thinking to re-establish ties with tradition. All they produce are living objects of the same sort as those that they criticize. Here, we are aiming at that pleasant absurdity which masks classical and literary nostalgia (from a plan that is out of scale, there can be no mass production) the production of a glacial habitat. It is detached
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from the real, from organic disorder, from popular culture. This convenient antique mask conceals an anguish, a discomfort with unavoidable contemporary vulgar expressions. The next step would be to dress up as a cowboy for fear of resembling a bank employee . . .
aesthetics will offer them changes. It is cold. Nothing really changes except the improvement of the products. The Siemensstadt (2) and the great ensemble in heavy concrete are essentially identical, as much as the present rationalists and the Mussolinians of whom they make use.
It is the process which is intolerable, not the travesty which, even though artificial too, is more pleasant than the preceding starkness. Others exalt the frigid geometry to the point of absurdity and find in excess the expression of their authority. It is tiresome.
The disgusting Post-Modernists search aggressively for the most immediate means to leave as fast as possible the suspicion of being “modern”. The quickest ways, to be sure, are travesty, joking, simulated madness, mathematical games, lack of self-esteem.
In any case, we do not get out of a militaryindustrial complex which seems to constrain us to mechanistic attitudes under pain of being set aside without recourse. What is uniform is what is loved. Everyone produces precisely calculated spaces: only accidents of history distort them (old building, old quarters) and reproduce this model through architects. They are the sentimentalists who give a form of propaganda to the authority who pays them. The first romanticism of pseudo-industrial forms before the war gave rise to powerful and sinister objects: armor-plated, anchored in the cities (they did great damage in order to establish themselves there). The style “Battleship Potemkin.”
However, other more elaborate means are constructed patiently: they go from the perception of differences, the intuition of slight continuous movements of society, of its trends, direct confrontation with motivated authors, and, of course, the invention and utilization of tools, of procedures and of men, as much as they can be distorted to produce or construct these new objects. It is the opposite of cosmetic. Of course, direct dialogue with the inhabitants is not a fanaticism: sensitive spirits often have the intuition of their form without possessing the energy to enter into the conflict, (moreover rarely brutal, but they do not know it with-out having experienced it . . ..) This direct participation is not at all indispensable: it is only one of the means of attaining a complexity.
Political influence or Post-Modernism But as long as architects enclose themselves in their professional enclave, only techniques or
Participation as Mirror The myth of participation sends back to the innocent observer his own image: to control
everything or to control nothing are equally totalitarian designs. The difference is that of the idea of authority. Between the monologue and dialogue of the deaf. Between sadists and masochists . . . Healthy spontaneity is no longer natural: inevitably all observe themselves “creating.” Negotiations between neighbors are quickly violated by suspicion, social strains: “let’s isolate ourselves, one never knows . . .. The first models produced are often ugly but, becoming established, they model themselves after the others, become diversified and propose some real elements of “countryside.” But not Rousseau’s or Marie Antoinette’s! Our intention is not (in our present circumstances) “ to let nature take its course,” but to coordinate, sometimes with difficulty, the disorderly intentions that we hear and to force them quickly “to be themselves,” to express this diversity, this mosaic, to exorcise the inclinations of each towards order and the artificial. That supposes that we have an authority and the exercise of the necessary profession of the architect which leads to a true composition and even to a very recognizable personal oeuvre, on the condition that it does not obliterate the diversity. Let him understand who can: I only hope to convince the convinced. We accept the contemporary circumstances as a given, a reality: (not a utopia, that is too
simple . . .) a framework for comfortable pirating, a mechanism to divert with the aid of those who are responsible themselves. Moreover, no longer are we charged to create social groups which function (even if that is the essential) or to unfrustrate the residents by means of the practice of architecture: only to build “things to live in” already images of life and not objects that are cold. We are paid according to the value of bricks, not according to men: of architects, not of nurses. . .
Projects: Atelier Kroll Zup Perseigne, Alen on, Normandy Collaborators: Claude Chifflet (Architect) Paul Wallez (Sociologist) The project consisted of renovating and humanizing oppressive apartments and adding a school for 600 students, a house for children, a yard for handicrafts, a communal hall, small gardens, and offices. The residents played an active role in the design process expressing their problems with the existing structures. The renovation proceeded according to the following strategies: The new school and environs were placed around the organic spine set up by the beaten tracks of pedestrians. (unknowingly reviving an ancient route) The school was split up into a number of smaller buildings reducing scale. The children mix with shoppers at certain times of the day creating a townlike atmosphere. First and second floors of the
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apartments were converted into offices; light pavilions were placed on the roof terraces and balconies placed where the families really wanted them.
plans for trade shop sites will be sold, and can therefore be arranged according to the buyer’s wishes.
Rehabilitation Scheme, Cugnaux, Toulouse
Collaborator: Stamps Rivano (Architect) An attempt to “humanize” a rather small-sized highrise estate (approximately 500 flats) in Toulouse’s suburban area. The working group is well equipped to deal with this problem: instead of trying to enhance “sterile” architectural objects, their aim is to make them habitable by appropriate spatial layouts, both interior and exterior, creating localities as opposed to objects. The team has summarized its procedure as follows: inhabitants were made to participate by practicing group therapy, and image pedagogy. As the landscape started to form a town fragment, with its diverse, unpredictable, and evolving attributes, various initiatives to maintain urban welfare were collected. The team its- elf has intervened on several levels: For planning purposes, thoroughfare will be reorganized to reduce the monotony of outside areas. The scale of perception will be modified by having the entire complex divided into several units by staircases, individualized by colors and materials. New functions will be included by the implementation of offices in one wing, and the edification of workshops for setting up firms. The homes of people who have resided in the area for a long time will be maintained. instead of ap-plying standard
And then it is definitely not the architect alone who makes architecture, but a large number of things that intervene — authorities, conflicts, ambiguities, unadmitted things, atavistics, conditioning, technical necessities, cultural models, etc. “There are no bad architects, there are only bad patrons.” Thus tightly limited, the architect does the best that he can, chained up (and with the illusion and dream in addition), he draws the greatness of the society that remunerates him, and he masks its vulgarities. He never draws the intentions of popular culture which keeps silent (because its representatives speak), if it is not sometimes by mistake, or in order to furnish a provisional contradiction for the moment when the authority needs an alibi. Just as a lawyer is immediately persuaded that his client who pays him is in the right, the architect models himself, without hesitation, on the character of his patron, even if the latter is the worst mercenary and refuses to look at the aspirations of people or groups who will have to live, work, move about, etc. . . . in the places that he prepares for them. This goes without saying.
Logically, below, he puts all his effort in avoiding all initiative on the part of his staff. At the time of the conception by other collaborators, by engineers who work indoors (who are astonished when someone asks them for a more personal participation . . .) at the time of the construction in the workshop or at the site, no one is asked to understand or to identify himself with the object that is being built. â€œKeep quiet and work . . .â€? The fusion of the views of the architect and his client determines before the beginning of the project the significance of the object in itself and its relationship with its surroundings, its past and its future. From there, it can be more or less well-designed depending on whether the patron is mediocre or heroic.
Rooted House of Product of Consumption I see with more and more difficulty the difference between the nature of objects. If the most rooted architecture (sunny villages) are occupied by tourist-consumers and if the products of the shopkeepers end up by establishing themselves in a place, by weaving a contexture of relation, if the fake villages (Port-Grimaud, for example) are more credible than the real ones, when those are infested with merchants, one will end up believing that it is residents that make cities and not objects . . . and that the industrial products that are accused of destroying the fabrics are perverse only when they are allowed to impose a mechanical form. But what is crafted is equally so?
Engineering Architects announce that they are going to reform society, socialize it, put it in order, educate it, etc. , and presently make it more responsible, let it play with architecture, make it happy by means of subtle geometries, by antique reminders, by mechanical perfections, etc. But it is the engineers who cunningly model the everyday environment after their image in all the infrastructures, the modes of production, the sense of manufactured objects, leaving to the attitudes of the architects only the role of embellishing the facades a little, sometimes the interior spaces. And then, it is the architects who are the victims of all public reproaches, the engineers being officially only neutral workmen (try getting involved in drawing up a road system . . . .)
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Zup Perseigne, Alencon, Normandy
(below) Apartments on Rue Flaubert
(above and below) The school and environs.
(above) axonometric view indicating the circulation serving a renovated comercial center.
(above) Implementation project of new units on slabs of terraces.
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mechanize its elements and lay it out, stark on hard squares, in or-der to be modern and they were only modernistic. In order to give it an industrial image they attributed to it a form of incantation, of superstition of the rational. Industrial organization takes other paths.
(2) (above) Port Grimaud: a resort village in France which was created to supply the demands of the increaseing tourist trade. The picturesquness was manufactured in an attempt to make the resort look like and old village.
Durable Decor To objectify the habitat and to make of it a mechanizeable product, leads to the loss of all the unspoken, the self-evident, the unavowed, the reflexes conditioned by the centuries, the animality, (maybe it was the essential?). All that was carried away by the global automatic process. This does not imply that all our behavior is calculated but only that we pretend to control objects that seem external to us and to mechanize them, whereas they are sacred, rooted in complexities that we are never able to seize. The inhabited milieu is one of those objects that one believes oneself able to analyze, fabricate, to rationalize, to make artificial. Several recent generations of architects have thought they could tear it up by its deep roots,
I am frightened by the idea of the power that industry has over building. Guided by research psychologists, it will cease to craft militaryappearing objects to make, in a military way, objects of crafted appearance. The spectacle of the cinema is terrifying in this regard: all is ready for industry to produce them in quantity (to sell houses with ready-made friends, a club card, cultural comfort and a brand new past. The shopkeepers have understood it: it is enough to see the fascination of Disneyland, Port-Grimaud and condominiums, in order to know where to tickle the client to get him to sign and then he must get used to it... Beside is it so much more than Siemensstadt?
Countryside We mean by â€œcountrysideâ€? what is produced by innumerable compatible actions of inhabitants who continually weave the relations between things, and not the big arbitrary decisions which produce the monumental, the propaganda. Thus, a military camp is not a countryside, it is a mechanism, a calculated artifice, nothing more; it is a setting. An uncultivated nature is not yet a countryside. The urban virtue, the urbanity, is the collective construction of social relations
(urbanity also signifies civility, civilized relations) and of the milieu that expresses it and nurtures it. Repetitions and closings have no visible relation to each other, the diversities intensify them. We are putting our money on the differences, on the organic textures: the participation of the future residents is one of the means likely to lead to this countryside which is made up of present differences and welcomes future differences. It is neither alone nor indispensable: the organic proceeds first of all from an attitude. An insensitive or deaf architect will not create organic architecture simply with the results that he has received from the initiative of residents. It appears important to us that architecture should cease to reflect the power of its mercenaries, but through the most contemporary techniques, it should become a mosaic of cooperating intentions.
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Translation from original work in french by Diane Odoerfer.
Taylorism: refers to the ideas of scientific management invented by Frederick W. Taylor. The bureaucratic system would be reorganized into an industrialiafed assembly line pattern, in order to increase the efficiency of the process. Each person would be responsible only for his or her pan of the pipeline, unaware of the system as a whole. Siemensstadt: refers to the housing project done in Berlin by Walter Gropius, in the early 1900â€™s.
Picture Credits 1)
Hilberseimerâ€™s Berlin Plan, reprinted from Architecture: Meaning and Place, by Christian Norberg-Schulz, copyright by Elects, Milan, and Rizzoli International Publications Inc., New York. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher. Fort Grimaud, reprinted from Architectural Record, March 1974, copyright by McGrawHill Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher. Photographs and information about projects supplied by Lucien Kroll.
VOLUME 10, Detroit – Invitation Out of Exile, 1992
The Suburbanization of Detroit Stephen Vogel Reflections on “The Suburbanization of Detroit” Professor Stephen Vogel, FAIA, 2018 When I wrote this article, I was angry—angry that the city was still not recovering from its decline; angry that the economic forces from outside the city were dictating where Detroit was heading; angry that the City of Detroit was desperately letting real estate developers create projects without regard to an overall plan for the city. And finally, I was angry with myself, for not pushing the city, our primary client, farther. The Victoria Park project exemplified this anger. As the first new single family residential project in the city in 30 years, we tried to push for an “urban” plan that fit well into the Jefferson Chalmers community and the context of Detroit. I vividly remember sitting down with the Vice President of Standard Federal Bank in Troy, a friend of Mayor Coleman Young, who pushed hard to make this project happen. But when I showed him our initial ideas, he immediately said that the bank would only provide mortgages to “suburban style” houses in a neighborhood that had curving streets, was fenced in and had a gate house. The representative of the Community and Economic Development Department immediately agreed, and as much as I argued, neither would relent. Although I thought of dropping out of the project, I knew that the project had an importance to the city because it could prove there was a market for housing in Detroit as well as illustrate that banks were now willing to give mortgages to minority communities. Consequently, we reluctantly remained as the master planners. The Homebuilder’s Association of Southeastern Michigan, twisted the arms of their suburban builders, to take a chance on Victoria Park and eventually several agreed, mostly builders who were originally Detroit based and had left the city to follow white flight. Not surprisingly, their housing models were suburban and traditional in style. Within weeks of announcing the project and constructing five models there was a waiting list of three thousand people who wanted to buy into the neighborhood. This proved once and for all that there was a market for new housing in Detroit—a market that continues to today. About half of these 3000 were Detroiter’s who wanted to move into “new” housing “designed for them” and about half were suburbanites who were willing to move “back” into the city. I interviewed many of the buyers to find out why they would pass up cheaper and better built houses in Indian Village or other historic neighborhoods of Detroit and instead live in these vinyl-sided houses. The answer was always that the houses were “new”, just like on the television shows featuring contented and happy families. To this day I am torn and embarrassed by a crisis of conscience when I drive by Victoria Park, but I am happy that it was the beginnings of a housing “boom” in a city that was desperate. I am also pleased that today there is an attempt to not build suburban style housing and that the city seems to be listening more to urban designers and architects—a situation that I never thought I would witness.
Grand Circus Park from the Hotel Statler, September 4, 1920.
The Suburbanization of Detroit Stephen Vogel
Some of you may be surprised to hear, as the title of this article suggests, that Detroit is being suburbanized; but from a cultural point of view this is, in fact, what is happening. From all segments of the community suburbanization is the thing to do and the thing to be. As architects and urban designers, this has created a crisis of conscience, because the physical ramifications of this trend creates an architecture that is
in direct opposition to what is taught at the University of Detroit School of Architecture. An architecture that does not grow naturally from its roots and is not part of its context is false. What is so difficult about this dilemma, is that in a city starved for good news and economic development the projects that this architecture represents are typically considered great successes.
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Fig. 1: Victoria Park, Detroit Michigan.
Fig. 2: Renaissance Center Detroit, Michigan.
Let me illustrate what I am talking about. The movement out of the city really began rather innocently after World War II. After the federal government saw the horrible destructive capabilities of the atom bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it made a public policy decision to decentralize industry. The government offered incentives to industry to leave the high density industrial centers and spread out, so that in time of war, the dropping a single bomb, could not wipe out multiple industries. The auto companies in response, started moving--first to places like Walled Lake or Ypsilanti, but ultimately an over the country, especially in rural areas, like Alabama or the corn fields of Indiana.
were trapped in the city. Ironically, the rural areas the African Americans left to come to the city, were now the areas to which the new factories were moving.
People follow jobs. Those who were economically able to move, primarily the white middle class, moved with the jobs. Those who could not, primarily African Americans,
This movement began to accelerate to the point where Detroitâ€™s population declined from a high of 2,000,000 to its current, and still declining, 1,000,000. Concept as building at the Prudential Town Center in Southfield, or for that matter North Dallas or any of thousands of suburbs in America. It was, and is considered a huge success and is often touted as the symbol of Detroit--in fact of its Renaissance! How discouraging to architects! What of the uniqueness of this great city - it is conscientiously ignored and, in fact, feared. Even in Windsor, Ontario it is featured on post cards as a magnificent view from the city.
It is easy to say that this is only, happening with the “cathedrals of commerce” in the down- town; but you do not have to look far to see it everywhere. Even in new industry. The notorious Poletown Cadillac Assembly Plant or the Jefferson Avenue Chrysler Plant, both built within the last five years, have cost the City a minimum of $200,000,000 for just site clearance and preparation. (See figure 3) Over 4000 existing occupied homes and businesses were removed in the desperate struggle to get jobs from an industry that has literally abandoned the city. This suburban concept of a one story plant is considered possible only ten minutes from downtown because of the abandoning of the city and the hundreds of acres of vacant land, available from the declining population. And now, even suburbanization has come to urban residential neighborhoods. Victoria Park is new neighborhood in the Jefferson Chalmers area of Detroit. It was originally conceived as affordable, single family housing on a cleared urban renewal site. There was tremendous fear that there was no market for the new single family within the City. In fact, there had not been a new subdivision built in Detroit in over 30 years. Standard Federal, to their credit, took on the project convinced the Southeastern Michigan Builders Association to put on an “affordable housing Home-arama”, the first of its kind in the country. Fifteen builders put up 24 model homes,
Fig. 3 : Pole Town Cadillac Plant Detroit, Michigan.
which sold out in the two weeks, including the remaining lots in phase 1. It was a huge success and has received nation wide acclaim. Three more phase are on the drawing boards. But let’s look at what happened to the urban affordable housing. The street grid site plan (see figure 4) now has a curved road; the site is surrounded by a berm and fence; and the lot size grew to 75’. (See figure 5) The proposed building design criteria - which called for a con- textual urban dwelling was considered totally unacceptable, “we want exactly what they are building in suburbs. When people drive into Victoria Park, they should feel like they are in the suburbs. That is what will sell.’’ The suburban homes that the builders constructed (see Figure 1) is exactly that and sold so rapidly that there is a waiting list of over 800 people to get a site. As to the concept of affordable, the average house in Phase 2 is going for about $140,000 and people are pressing to build
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Fig. 4: Original Scheme - Victoria Park Detroit, Michigan.
Fig. 5: Final Scheme - Victoria Park Detroit, Michigan.
Fig. 6: Infill Housing Scheme for Detroit.
larger homes. The city has spent almost $80,000 a lot to prepare the site. This is in a city, where for $90,000 - $100,000 you can get a five bedroom House in North Rosedale Park, Indian Village, Palmer Woods and the lake. It tells you the extent to which we have come to believe that new is better; the suburbs better than the city. The overwhelming success Victoria Park leads to difficult decisions that architects must make. The project gives the City some hope that there is a future, but we are waiting for the day that the of these projects will lead to the possibility of building truly urban housing, including new infill housing. (see Figure 6) You may have heard from the newspapers the concept of building a “new town-in town” in Detroit. The basis of this concept, is that Detroit has a significant amount of vacant or abandoned or blighted land between the is- lands of strong neighborhoods. To attract
new people from outside the City or State you must create amenities that can compete with the flourishing cities of the sun belt. A recent proposal is based on the building of two lakes and a championship 18 hole golf course within the heart of the near East side. The concept of creating entire new environments is not as farfetched as it first might seem. At Chene and St. Aubin Parks a forty foot hill for an amphitheater was created by using building rubble and excavations for a marina basin. (see Figure 8) At the Chimps or Harambee Exhibit at the Detroit Zoo a flat site was converted to a series of hills and valleys and a running river. These environments are like Disneyland they are for entertainment and exhibition - but is the same approach acceptable for permanent residential neighborhoods? There is a trend in this country to build “cute” Victorian housing, almost like doll houses, in our suburban subdivisions. Artificial houses
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Fig. 7: Mid- Cities Residential Project Detroit, Michigan.
for our artificial lives - a virtual reality, if you will. Is this really what we want lining the Lakes of Detroit and the Jack Nicholas Detroit Drive Golf Course? Is this really the working class, lean and mean Detroit we have all come to love? The Mid-Cities Residential Project proposes a more natural approach (see Figure 7). In this project a three and one half block distressed neighborhood facing Woodward Avenue on one side and the Detroit Medical Center and new Veterans Administration Hospital on the other, is rebuilt with a combination of new and rehabilitated housing. All of the streets
(no cul-de-sacs) and the alley right of way were kept in tact. This dramatically saved on infrastructure costs as well as the for site plan approval process. A building type was designed that hugged and reclaimed the street-the street becomes the public space-all living rooms face the street. The buildings are three stories with high pitched roofs to reach a height of 40 feet to match the existing apartment buildings. The brick faced buildings are stick built, and relatively inexpensive because they maximize existing codes. Elevators are not required; single stairs are allowed; etc. The configuration has apartments on the ground floor and two
Fig. 8: Chene and St. Aubin Parks Detroit, Michigan.
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story town houses on top. Parking is in the rear. There are no fenced in areas; security is maintained in the traditional way - the eyes of the people watching their neighborhood from their living rooms or porches. The combination of old and new as seen in this project, holds great potential for the rebuilding of the city. The old gives you a root to the past and the uniqueness of the site and city of which you are a part and the new allows the continual evolution and growth of the City based on these roots and not some artificial manifestation of what is touted on television. Regardless of the success or failure of projects like Mid-Cities and assuming that the City of Detroit is in fact going to recover from the crisis it is in, it is still apparent to me that the economic forces at work are going to look to suburban models. As students of architecture of the 1990â€™s, the final decisions of what this architecture is going to be and whether Detroit will retain some vestiges of its uniqueness will be in your hands. You will have some tough decisions to make.
“SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT DETROIT” -Painted wall along Woodward Avenue
Woodward Avenue from Jefferson Avenue, 1887.
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Acknowledgements The staff of Dichotomy would like to thank all those who invested their time and effort into resurrecting the publication especially Nick Chatas, Joe Odoefer, Steve Vogel, Bruno Leon. Toni Mueller, Ted Coutilish, Jim Ptacek, Kirk Frey, and the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture office staff including Karen VanAntwerp and Effie Taylor. We would also like to thank: The Graham Foundation for the Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts Grant in support of Volume 10 Mr. Charles Forbes Manning Brothers Photographers Archival Photographic Inserts Albert Khan & Associates Cover Illustration Trizec Properties Inc Detroit Litho Inc. Elmer G. Schilk Dave Charrette Joseph Legat Architects Inc. Our special thanks goes to the people of the Detroit Metropolitan Area that believe beauty exists throughout our entire region including the city proper and finally Anthony and Patricia Martinico, for without whom we would not be published.
Volume 11, Educating the Future Architect, 1997
The Play of Architecture [Re]Production Eugenia Victoria Ellis “The Play of Architecture (re)Production” looks to the past as a way of projecting forward to the future. The writing of this paper arose due to questions I had over twenty years ago that the future architects I taught would be able to visualize in their own minds what the computer could visualize for them. What I have discovered since then is that students do indeed need to go through some type of three-dimensional, tactual process to fully visualize the three-dimensionality of a future project that is to be (re)presented by drawings – there needs to be some type of tangible and spatial connection between the architecture of their imaginations and the future buildings their drawings represent. Architectural design is an embodied process that requires the situatedness of being in the world through use, cognition and perception. The architectural drawing (re)presents an imaginary or future building. In making a drawing, its creator needs to be able to mentally build up the threedimensionality of the project in the mind’s eye, which requires the ability to translate a fourdimensional experience (e.g. walking through a building) into a three-dimensional imagination of a building that is to be represented by a two-dimensional image (even if an axonometric or perspective representation or a video “fly-by”). Unfortunately, fantastic images produced by the computer can easily confuse the difference between the real and the imaginary, or the actual experience versus the imaginative potential of a creative image. Play is a type of mimetic imitation that copies a procedure or action – an active, embodied, and perceptual process that metaphorically (re)constructs a four-dimensional activity. Similarly, architecture (re)production is a process that uses visual (re)presentations to imitate the procedure of production of a future building. The play of architecture (re)production is an assurance of similarity between the real and the imagined.
THE PLAY OF ARCHITECTURE (re)PRODUCTION Eugenia Victoria Ellis
INTRODUCTION The printed book, that gnawing worm of architecture, sucks her blood and devours her limbs. She strips off her robes, she sheds her leaves, she grows thinner and thinner to the eye. She is sickly, she is poor, she is null. She no longer expresses anything, not even the recollections of the art of by-gone days. Reduced to herself, abandoned by the other arts because abandoned by human thought, she calls on the laborer in default of artists. The pane of glass replaces the stained glass window: the stone cutter succeeds the sculptor. Fare well all vigor, all originality, all life, all intelligence! She drags herself, poor beggar of the studio, from copy to copy. Victor Hugo, “Ceci tuera cela,” Notre Dame de Paris (1). In 1832 Victor Hugo proclaimed, “architecture is dead, dead beyond recall, killed by the printed books, killed because she is less lasting, killed because she is too dear.” Architecture was “the great book of humanity” written in stone and the “handwriting of the human race” which was comprised of letters (pillars), syllables (arcades), and words (pyramids) set in motion by the laws of geometry and poetry (figure 1). The story of humanity had been incised within the stone walls of architecture until the invention of the printing press in the fifteenth
Figure 1. Albercht Durer Melencolia I, 1514 (Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz Kupferstich Kabunett Berlin West).
century because the “book is soon made, costs little, and reaches far.” In other words, the printed book is efficient, economical, and reproducible. Figure 1. Albrecht Dürer, Melencolia I, 1514. Melancholy is one of the four humors of the body and during the Renaissance became associated with artistic temperament, or creativity. Dürer’s representation is surrounded by the attributes of geometry and the constructive arts (Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz Kupferstich Kabinett Berlin West). Jacques Ellul in the Technological Society describes technique as a complex of standardized means for attaining a predetermined result.
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Spontaneous and unreflective behavior is thus converted to that which is deliberate and rationalized. Formulas are developed to describe “the one best way” in search of the most economical and efficient. No longer is there an original copy. Technique reduces action to numerical calculation. The magic once associated with number is lost. Geometry and poetry no longer work together. Today’s computer is pure technique. History incised in stone has been replaced by the printed word which now is stored within the virtual world of hyperspace located within the logs of computer networks. History which once was shown through stone images to the illiterate masses now has become pure information: textual and graphic information which is part of a system of extensively cross-referenced catalogues, files and lists. This information which once was within the tactile realm of three dimensions and materiality now has become hypermedia, which is within no dimension at all and all dimensions simultaneously, displayed as temporal images on the computer screen.
THE SHIFT FROM SCRIPT TO PRINT We should note the force, effect, and consequences of inventions which are nowhere more conspicuous than in those three which were unknown to the ancients, namely, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these three have changed the appearance and state of the whole world.
Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Novum Organum, Aphorism 129 Developments in techniques of reproduction have brought about radical transformations in intellectual life. It is remarkable that over three hundred years ago, Francis Bacon could forecast so simply those key influences on our lives today with the naming of three inventions. Of the three, printing has had an incredible effect and one of its ramifications is evident in its logical extension, the computer. Gutenberg’s invention in the mid-fifteenth century of movable type with interchangeable letters is part of a continuously unfolding process which began with the “book revolution” of the twelfth century and continues in the “information age” of today. The art of printing marked a crucial break in the ability to convey information, both verbal and visual. The invention of the printing press altered the techniques of book production and consequently affected the way information was disseminated, people were educated, and society was structured. The manuscript was traditionally scripted by hand from an oral transmission by a single reader somewhat like a stenographer might do in taking dictation. Multiple copies were achieved by assembling many scribes in one room, or scriptoria, within a monastery. A literary composition was published by being read aloud and book learning relied on the spoken word; both required listeners as well as readers. Books began to be mass-produced during the twelfth century when lay stationers
under university supervision handled the making of books. No longer assembled in one room, the copyists would copy portions of a given text piecemeal, and would be paid by the stationer for each piece. Manuscript copies inevitably incorporated errors and changes, and were likely to get corrupted after being copied over and over again. This age-old process of corruption was aggravated and accelerated after print because one error in a printed book could then be repeated thousands of times.(2) The first printed books were like the skeuomorph: a variant phase, or threshold device, which simultaneously looks toward the past and to the future.(3) In order to be accepted by their readers, the first printers were required to produce books which resembled manuscripts. Printing began with an imitation of the scribeâ€™s â€˜handâ€™. Early type consisted of many versions of the same individual letter so that a line of type might resemble the script techniques of the scribe with all the inconsistencies of hand lettering.(4) The shift from script to print affected methods of record-keeping, the flow of information, and patterns of thinking. The scribe was concerned with the handiwork and the surface appearance of the manuscript. With the advent of printing, publishers and editors began to be more concerned with the organization of the printed material. Emphasis was placed on the title page to systematically index, catalogue and list information alphabetically (figure 2). Editorial decisions
Figure 2. Athanasius Kircher, Isis, Oedipus Aegyptiacus, Rome, 1652.
standardized, codified and even homogenized language which eventually marginalized provincial dialects. The use of typography for texts and xylography for illustrations made it possible to produce identical text and images, maps and diagrams which could be viewed simultaneously by scattered readers. This in itself constituted a communications revolution. (5)
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The printed book made it possible to learn by reading thereby eclipsing the need for personal contact. Oral traditions which relied on mnemonic devices by which to learn became obsolete and apprenticeship training from a gifted master was replaced by the illustrated technical manual. Prior to printing, formulas, recipes, and even medical remedies were memorized by rhyme and through cadence. However, with the adoption of the title page to catalogue, index and cross-reference data, there was no longer a need for phonetic memory devices. Like the “picture which is worth a thousand words,” technical literature with printed images became indispensable for describing the methods of craft production and for prodding memory.(6) If the thoughts of readers are guided by the way books are arranged, then basic changes in book format might affect a change in readers’ patterns of thought.(7) According to Lewis Mumford, the effects of printing have lead to thought-patterns which have lost some of the ability to think in terms of the interrelationships encouraged through a scribal culture which relied on mnemonic devices and the oral transmission of information. Due to a proliferation of printed material which is highly organized and schematic, thought patterns have become abstract, verbal, linear, categorical, and stereotyped. He also credits the printed book with furthering the dissociation of medieval society by releasing people from local and immediate domination(8) For example, prior to the newspaper, sermons were coupled
with news about local and foreign affairs. Eventually the newspaper began to replace the pulpit and its forum for congregation which allowed churchgoers to learn about local affairs in silence at home, with the end result of weakening local community ties. The printed word sharpened the division between private life and public affairs, and paved the way for the access of information without the need for a personal or collective memory.(9) In general, oral transmission brings people together, reading encourages individuals to draw apart, and the computer draws a person in and the world outside ceases to exist.
THE BOOK AND THE BUILDING That architecture down to the fifteenth century was the principal register of humanity; that during this period there did not appear in the world a thought of any complexity which was not worked into a building; that every popular idea and every religious law had its monumental records; that, in fine, the human race had no important thoughts which it did not write in stone. Victor Hugo, “Ceci tuera cela,” Notre Dame de Paris.(10) Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the mid fifteenth century also coincides with a radical shift in the history of architecture. Although history can never reveal a precise demarcation of change, there can be seen a revolution in the text moved from the copyist’s to the printer’s workshop. The unique illuminated manuscript of the middle ages that
Figure 3. La Madeleine de Vezelay, The Last Judgement, exterior tympanum which Viollet-leDuc had reproduced from the original (photo by E. V. Ellis).
had been written and illustrated by hand with inconsistencies was replaced by the uniform, synchronized and reproducible printed book of the renaissance. The unreproducible handhewn medieval building that was also a book yielded as well to the renaissance work which, in relying on the imitation of classical architecture without â€œspring[ing] unconsciously to suit a present need,â€?(11) no longer had stories to tell. The medieval church in itself was a book which fostered the telling of historie. The body of the building was adorned with stone sculptures which could be read as stories of God, creation, fables, and even astronomy and astrology. The
sculptures were usually painted with watercolors and accompanied with explanatory inscriptions for the benefit of the literate and semi-literate. The medieval person, however, was generally illiterate or half-literate and required not only images to tell these stories, but also needed the translation of the abstract ideas inherent in the stories into terms of spatial relationships which is possible through the three-dimensional medium of sculpture. These stone sculptures allowed for multiple readings due to elements that could be interchangeable at will. Theoretically, the peasant could attain wisdom through an ambiguity which permitted countless identifications and equations in a kind of mystic
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cathedrals of memory of the past”(13) because the printed book would make it unnecessary to have huge built-up memories of images. The printed book may have paved the way for the Christian iconoclasm which destroyed those stone graven images and substituted for them a literate, verbal, and abstract “image-less way of remembering.”(14)
Figure 4. Cesariano, Cathedral of Milan, system of equilateral triangles which determined its various parts (Como Vitruvius, Milan, 1521).
algebra and geometry.(12) These stone images could also be used as mnemonic devices to aid in the transmission of oral histories. Rhyme and cadence were used to preserve stories, and stone figures and stained glass windows invested those stories with images to be stored in places of memory. According to Frances Yates in the Art of Memory, Hugo’s concerns about the printed book destroying the building could also be applied to the destruction of the “invisible
La Madeleine de Vezelay (figure 3) is one of “those marvelous books which were also marvelous edifices.”(15) This basilica had been extensively damaged through pillage and desecration during the Wars of Religion in the sixteenth century and the Revolution of the eighteenth century when many of the sculptures were mutilated. La Madeleine was restored over a period of 20 years during the mid-nineteenth century by the architect Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (1814-79) who also assisted with other medieval restorations that required the replacement, reconstruction and addition of elements. His techniques of restoration oftentimes resulted in the creation of entirely new forms: nineteenth-century architectural skeuomorphs. Notre Dame de Paris was another restoration project of this architect who was a contemporary of the author Victor Hugo (1802-85). It could be no coincidence that Hugo was aware of Viollet-le-Duc and the architectural debates of his time.(16) This background in construction and restoration was influential to the development of Violletle-Duc’s definition of architecture which was divided into two parts: theory, which deals with
principles of geometry and laws of statics, and practice, which adapts these principles and laws through continued and familiar service by the hands in such material as is necessary for the purpose of a design. Ideally in architecture, practice would be the poetic manifestation of structure as in the original Greek sense of poesis, an act of making and revealing. Violletle-Duc’s theory of rational architecture was that construction itself was the basis of design: 1) by knowing the nature of the materials; 2) by using these materials according to their nature; and 3) by utilizing a system of proportion to establish harmonious relations between all the parts.(17) He believed that these principles were founded upon the experience-based empirical science Roger Bacon defined in 1267 as “method, examination, and experiment,”(18) and not on theory alone. He was attracted to medieval architecture because to him it incorporated the eternal rational laws of art and of building science, or geometry and poetry. He sought to develop a new architecture by learning from the structural logic he believed to be inherent in Gothic architecture.(19) His admiration for the middle ages was shared by others of his time, most notably John Ruskin and Augustus Welby Pugin. Common to these architects was the belief that originality comes through the practice of making and using materials, through spontaneous and unreflective behavior. To Viollet-le-Duc, practice went hand-in-hand with theory, or the laws which govern balance. These laws of balance were simply the apparent expression of the laws of statics, developed by calculation and geometry
(figure 4). He cautioned, however, against reducing architecture to a “recipe applicable to every purpose and to every programme – a common formula which all may apply without having recourse to reason.”(20) His rational functionalism which tempered theory with practice could be viewed as a reaction to the influences on his architectural education: a professional training which began as a student of A. F. R. Leclère (1785-1853) whose own career had begun in the atelier of Jean-NicolasLouis Durand (1760-1834).(21)
NECROMANCING THE NET A work of architecture may be significant, organic, dramatic, but it will fail of being a work of art unless it be also schematic. . . a systematic disposition of parts according to some co-ordinating principle [which is] most easily effected by the use of what is called profile paper, a surface marked off into larger and lesser squares. . . This use of linear units as an aid to schematization . . . is the most obvious and easily achieved method of binding the elements of a work of architecture together in an invisible mathematical net. Claude Bragdon, “Regulating Lines,” The Frozen Fountain(22) Durand is known for a rationalization and systemization of architecture which was governed by two inherent principles: (1) convenience, or efficiency of functional relationships and (2) economy. His attitudes toward efficiency and economy were directly influenced by Napoleon’s distrust of architects
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being done by scientists and philosophers, architectural theorists endeavored to bring architecture closer to a science by attempting to eliminate the irrational and personal in favor of a universally applicable system of principles and rules based on absolute certainties. Durand was the first to formulate a complete early statement of this idea.(25)
Figure 5. J.N.L. Durand, Table 20 of Précis des leçons d’architecure donnés à l’Ecole polytechnique, 1802/5.
who “should have been made responsible when they exceeded their estimates and put into debtors’ prison for payment for this excess.”(23) He served as an engineer in Napoleon’s army and was aware of his preference for engineers who designed for an economy of means. He came out of a milieu of visionary dreamers who thought in metaphorical terms, architects like Ledoux, Boulée, and Lequeu who understood the imitation of nature as mimesis; whereas the rationalist Durand could only understand nature through a scientific quantification that substituted mathematical logic for metaphor as a model of thought. The principle of rationalism assumes that God/the creator has made the universe beautiful, harmonious and mathematical, and that through scientific experimentation the principles of creation could be discovered. The objective is to deduce the laws of nature, the general from which all the particulars may then be derived.(24) Since the Enlightenment, as a corollary to the work
He identified a set number of clearly definable principles, or formulas, upon which architecture was to be built. This rational attention to efficiency and economy led to his systemization of architecture and to the publication of two books: Précis des leçons d’architecure donnés à l’Ecole polytechnique in 1802/5 and Recueil et Parallèl des édifices en tout genre, anciens et modernes in 1809. The Recueil catalogues, in equal scale, buildings of the past and reduces them to a formal repertoire of two major groups: historical and functional. In the process, he consciously modified some of the plans to make them seem more systematic and geometric than they actually were in order to illustrate generic principles of architecture. The Précis became so popular it was used as the basic text for most architects working on public projects in France during the first half of the nineteenth century. In this work, he attempts to standardize construction by proposing rational prescriptive rules for the composition and assembly of basic elements of a structure (figure5). This was an attempt to develop a codified system which began with gridded paper to which the various elements of architecture were added (figure 6). Economy of means was demonstrated through the use of
Figure 6. J.N.L. Durand, Plate 21 of Précis des leçons d’architecure donnés à l’Ecole polytechnique, 1802/5.
grids, elementary geometric forms and simple building types. Durand boldly proposed that the design of a building could be the result of technical rules or formulas that could codify architectural knowledge in the form of methods, which could easily be passed on to other architects. Future architects could then learn about architecture through these abstract methods of design. In this way, architectural knowledge could become scientific.(26) Large, illustrated printed books which systematically catalogued technological developments were nothing new to Durand. They originated in the engineers’ notebooks of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and gradually developed into heavily illustrated printed works of machines called “theatres of machines.” He, no doubt, was familiar with Denis Diderot whose works of the late eighteenth century were the culmination of this two-hundred-year tradition of illustrating actual machines, tools, and processes (figure
Figure 7. Denis Diderot, Plate 372 Printing IV of L’Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire Raisonné des Sciences, des Arts et des Métiers, 1763.
7). While Durand was working on his books, others at the Ecole polytechnique, such as Jean N. Hachette, were classifying mechanical devices by function through schematic drawings arranged systematically in a chart.(27) The vast array of visual technical knowledge available at this time contributed to the notion that scientific processes could be made schematic and mathematic.
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the act of seeing to psychological requirements; such that design itself has become a method of computation.(29) Building upon this tradition of rational, scientific reasoning we have propelled ourselves headlong into the information era where value is no longer in the tangible, but exists simply as data stored within the logs of computer networks. If the computer could be programmed with a matrix of design variables similar to those found in the charts of Durand’s Précis and Recueil, then the advantage of using a computer to design would be in its computational speed with the result of a more efficient and economical operation than could be done by hand. Figure 8. Hannes Meyer, The Plan Calculates Itself from the Following Factors, Bauhaus, Dessau, 1930 (Hans Wingler, Bauhaus (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1969), 489).
The chart as a visual aid and the grid as a generator of form is prevalent today in architectural education, arriving via a lineage which has continued from Durand’s grid as a generator of the plan, to Le Corbusier’s plan as a generator of form and Hannes Meyer’s “the plan calculates itself ” (figure 8). While Durand’s grid was clad in the traditional clothing of the orders, the modernist grid was stripped naked, down to its basic geometry.(28) The Bauhaus tradition presently taught in our schools is based on measurable processes with codifiable causes and effects, from biological functions such as
The computer is able to count endlessly in an ideal realm, independently of any human presence, in a type of Platonic reality where language is ultimately nothing other than naming. In principle, the computer cannot be considered to be model of the human mind because it relies on the rule-based informationprocessing manipulation of symbols and formulas to mirror a preexisting reality. In contrast, human cognition is an embodied action such that thinking becomes more like “perception-in-action,” which requires the situatedness of engaging directly with the world. This embodiment relies on the materiality of the counter who through interacting with the environment can count on “non-Euclidean fingers” and visualize non-programmed alternatives.(30) The ability to develop a plan,
Figure 9. Takehiko Nagakura, transformation scripts, Harvard, 1990 (The Electronic Design Studio (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1990), 168).
or strategy, stems from â€œreasoning about action, not as the generative mechanism of action.â€?(31) An important part of design thinking is the ability to form associations between ideas. Two forms of associative reasoning in computeraided design are hypermedia and neural networks. Hypermedia is an interactive network which consists of units of information, both text and graphic ideas or pictures, connected by links. Hypermedia can catalogue images of historical buildings with textual annotations
in a like manner to Durandâ€™s illustrated works, with the advantage of having all the images and textual information cross-referenced. One can navigate through a card catalogue of images organized by the visual association of similar ideas stored as discrete cards. The neural network model, on the other hand, simulates the neural connections in the human brain. Stored patterns are recalled from partial patterns which are stored in a data structure located at the nodes in a regular matrix in a computer system. It works as a net, information consists of both the node and the connection, its traversal a labyrinth in which every point is connected with every other point. Another method is the shape grammar model which involves parametric and schematic transformations. It is a computer program in the form of a shape-scripting language that recognizes shapes and transforms them through a series of permutations in order to arrive at a design (figure 9).(32) Through these types of uses of the computer, design can become more schematic and mathematic, the plan can calculate itself, generate its own form, and help students visualize what they cannot in their own minds. Unfortunately, perspective rendering programs with shadows, lighting and textures can produce fantastic images of mediocre designs. The emphasis in architectural production can become placed on the presentation of architecture rather than on the (re)presentation as an embodiment of an architectural idea.(33) The computer can work so rapidly and efficiently, it almost works by itself: the
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Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s dream. This is the clever apprentice in Goethe’s parable who repeated the sorcerer’s magic formula in order to transform a broom into a servant to assist him in housecleaning. However, in the apprentice’s desire to be free of all labor, he soon found himself overrun by the broom’s automation. In this respect, students could regard the computer as a shortcut instead of a useful tool like the parallel bar and triangle. In necromancing the net, students can also easily get lost browsing through large, interconnected databases such as those created by hypermedia and neural networks. And unfortunately, in this ultimate striving for efficiency and economy, the patterns and diagrams produced through shape grammars are merely geometric designs which have little to do with functional requirements. (34) Even Durand’s application of his method of design resulted in buildings which seem rather uniform due to standardized, repetitive, and economical forms which appear to be so unspecific in their primary geometries as to be interchangeable. Most importantly, critical thinking skills could be eclipsed through an architectural education which relies primarily on the computer. For it is the ability to think critically that allows students to see beyond the machine in order to continue learning as the technology rushes past them. Critical thinking can only be acquired through an architectural education which integrates both theory and practice, geometry and poetry.
TECHNIQUE AND (re)PRODUCTION While Daedalus who is force was measuring, and while Orpheus who is intelligence was singing, the pillar which is a letter, the arcade which is a syllable, the pyramid which is a word, all set in movement at once by a law of geometry and a law of poetry, grouped themselves together, combined, amalgamated, descended, ascended, drew up side by side on the soil, rising stage after stage to heaven, until they had written, at the dictation of the general idea of an epoch, those marvelous books which were also marvelous edifices, the pagoda of Eklinga, the Rhamseion of Egypt, and the Temple of Solomon. Victor Hugo, “Ceci tuera cela,” Notre Dame de Paris (35) According to Jacques Ellul, magic is the first expression of technique and relies on readymade formulas which yield precise results. Because these magical techniques are efficient and predictable, they are rapidly elaborated into a rigid, unchanging system. Reason also considers results in terms of the most efficient in its quest for the one best means, but in the absolute sense: in terms of numerical calculation. By abstracting the laws of nature, however, reason will not lead to an imitation of nature, only to ways of technique. The same is true of accomplishments which literally copy nature. Spontaneous and unreflective behavior through technique becomes deliberate and rationalized. The example Ellul cites is the swordsman who fabricates a sword, the form of which later could be justified through numerical
calculation; however, formula had less to do with the technical operation of its making than with the swordsman’s unconscious and spontaneous choice of form.(36) Therefore, the sword was a product of both the geometry of its form and the act of its making. Pure technique is magical. Machines are magical: they perform marvelous, mysterious operations, the mechanisms of which are not fully understood by the people who use them. The computer is pure technique. When working on the computer results happen as if by magic, and like the magical technique its operations are hidden from view. Although the computer is “user-friendly,” what began as a simple binary system of zeroes and ones, and on-and-off switches, is now encased within a technological system that is so complex it can only be understood by the systems analyst. Just like magical formulas which were kept within the select province of a few enlightened sages, operations on the computer are so mysterious that few know how they are performed. The computer is a modern-day paradigm of the most efficient and economical technique and is a natural result of the technological developments of the printing press, photography, cinema and television. The thread which unites these techniques is that they are all technical processes of reproduction. In architectural production on the computer, the scientific grid is relied upon as an absolute beginning, or origin, from which to order a
construction. Structurally and logically, the grid can only be repeated and stretches to infinity in all directions. According to Rosalind Krauss, the modernist grid is “a system of reproductions without an original.”(37) In contrast to the reproducible modernist grid, which can serve as an origin but can never be an original, is the reproducible image that references an original severed from its origin. According to Walter Benjamin, the technique of reproduction substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence and, in so doing, shatters tradition because each copy reactivates the original out of context. Traditionally the image was reproduced as a unique work of art in the service of a particular ritual tied to a particular place and was, first and foremost, an instrument of magic. However, through mechanical reproduction its cult value was replaced by exhibition value. The reproduced image no longer mirrored reality but took on its own cult value distinct from its origin. A modernday example of this would be the movie star who through the larger-than-life medium of film no longer has the magic of being a unique person but instead becomes a personality, or commodity, distinct from her or his being.(38) To Lewis Mumford, mechanical reproduction is characterized by regularity and repetition and produces such a proliferation of ubiquitous images that the magic of the original is forfeited. We become surrounded by reproduction and no longer live in the multi-dimensional world of reality but in a secondhand, or ghost, world
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of being” but a genetic miniaturization that produces the real from “miniaturized units, from matrices, memory banks and command models” and reproduces an indefinite number of times. It is a hyperreality without origin or a reality capable of unlimited combinations in a hyperspace without atmosphere. Simulation cannot be rational, because it cannot be measured against some ideal. It is nothing more than operational,(40) or pure technique.
Figure 10. Michaël Maier, Scrutinium Chymicum, Frankfurt, 1687. Alchemical allegory: “From a man and woman make a circle, then a square, then a triangle, finally a circle, and you will obtain the Philosopher’s Stone.”
that mirrors life as a “pallid simulcrum of real existence.”(39) The reproduced image which can be transported or reproduced at will is identified by Jean Baudrillard as the most pernicious. The image detached from the original becomes simulation: a representational imaginary which threatens the difference between “real” and “imaginary”. Simulation is not a “mirror
The production of architecture lies at the chiasma(41) of geometry mathesis and poetry poesis. The preclassical Greek concept of mathesis referred to what could be taught and learned; its exemplar was number. It was the first step on the road toward theoria. The Pythagoreans of fifth-century Greece made an important distinction between number and geometry: number was the idealized root of reality and geometry was the idealized shape behind all form. Number was used in counting and was related to commerce; therefore, it was regarded as a lowly form of mathematics and was disdained by early Greek philosophers. On the other hand, one could communicate with God’s mind and reach a higher realm through proving statements about regular geometric forms by manipulating numbers, or through rational thought. The idea that thought could be rational derived from having to measure distances with primitive devices which required the use of ratios of integers, or rational numbers.(42) According to Pythagorean doctrine, the pure relationships among the numbers constituted the very nature of order.
realm. In the production of architecture, poetic imitation occurs where rational thought is linked to the sensual, the corporeal act is united with the divine.(45) Architecture (re) production is a poetic imitation which depends on the chiasmatic relationship of geometry and poetry, theory and practice.
Figure 11. The Creator, Bible MoralisĂŠe, c. 1250 (Bodleian Library, Oxford).
The magician was the first to have access to the knowledge of mathesis(43) It was believed that the manipulation of numerical entities was a powerful form of magic which affected the order of the real world (figure 10). The miracle of the order of nature and creation was revealed through the mimetic use of number: the order of the cosmos, music, and the soul. Imitation was in the representation of all things in terms of numbers and the ratios between them.(44) This was a (re)presentation of order as a kind of showing as in poesis, the practice of making and revealing, which is an embodied action occurring within the sensate
In ancient Egypt the Nile would annually flood its banks, obliterating the orderly marking of the farm lands. This yearly flood symbolized the redefining of boundaries and each year these areas would again be measured out with ropes and boards. The work was called geometry (geo earth metria measure) and this activity became the basis for a natural law embodied in the forms of circle, square and triangle. These primary geometric forms were considered to be crystallizations of the thoughts of creation that God/the creator used together with compass and rule to bring order to the universe (figure 11). The hand symbolized the force of intention behind the activity of creation; through manipulating geometric forms with the human hand one could emulate divine creation.(46) The act of drawing reveals the intention behind the force of the hand guiding the pencil. Architectural drawing has two cornerstones: 1) drawing which is the abstracted projection of nature and 2) geometry which is the abstracted idealized shape of all form. Since drawing is executed by hand and by its own nature refers back to its object, it remains within the corporeal realm of experience. To link architectural
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drawing with mathematics brings it into the rational realm of the divine by making universal principles integral to it. Architectural drawing is then positioned among the sciences.(47) Building became a science with the advent of descriptive geometry because the architect could then describe methods of construction without actually having to be involved in the craft of making the building. Due to the traditions passed down from Durand and on through the Bauhaus, the modernday architect views architecture as the mathematization of human needs and values. Because so very few architects in the past two hundred years have constructed their own buildings, they regard drawings as substitute buildings.(48)
architectural production, because in producing the new in light of the old it manipulates patterns without imagining. The computer is only capable of rational thought based on the mathematical logic of the reasoning human mind and is incapable of “reflectionin-action”(50) which requires the situatedness of being in the world. It is difficult for design on the computer to embody an architectural idea because this procedure lacks the corporeal nature of the poetic logic inherent in drawing. Design on the computer via hypermedia, neural networks, and shape grammars is schematic and mathematic; the result is a simulation which is purely operational. The fantastic images produced on the computer easily confuse the difference between real and imaginary.
An architectural drawing is not a picture of a building but is a picturing of the architect’s imagination. The drawing does not represent the building as a substitute for, nor does it simulate or imitate, the building. The architectural drawing is the physical manifestation of a metaphoric construction. Behind the architectural drawing is a poetic logic which in mirroring the real through number is experienced and imagined bodily. The architect in imagining through drawing is like Plato’s poet: an “image-maker.”(49)
Architectural production is the product of a mimetic process which copies, but copies the procedure of production rather than the product. For this reason, the computer as an instrument of production is ineffectual in
Architectural (re)production relies on imagination in the sense that imagination is what retraces: what produces as reproduction the lost object of perception. In other words, imagination is the production of the new based
. . . invention no more depends on imagination than imagination has the ability to create anything whatever. The fact is, production of the new - and imagination - are only productions: by analogical connection and repetition, they bring to light what, without being there, will have been there. . . Imagination is what retraces, what produces as reproduction the lost object of perception. . . Jacques Derrida, “Imagining”(51)
on the analogical connection and repetition of images. Architectural (re)production is a metaphoric function which through the reproduction of images adds something more. This metaphoric construction is a type of stereoscopic vision that allows us to entertain two different points of view at the same time. This imaginary construction suspends ordinary reference and projects new possibilities of redescribing the world. This is not a mere picturing of the ordinary world that solely represents what has already been seen, but an imagining. The metaphorical construction is a mimetic production which is both a thinking and a seeing of likeness.(52) Imagination is best explained through the analogy of E.H.Gombrich’s “hobby horse.” The hobby horse is not an image of a horse: it is a horse’s head on a stick. In play, the child does not confuse the hobby horse with a real horse; it merely acts as a substitute for a horse in that it fulfills the child’s desire to ride. In representing a horse, the hobby horse is not imitating a horse by reproducing its exact image but the function of riding.(53) Mimetic imitation is a play of imagination in the sense of to show, as in an appearance, and is not an attempt to approach an original by copying it as nearly as possible. When children play at being someone else, they imitate an action; they do not see themselves as a substitute for but as a re-presentation of the subject of their imitation.(54) The representation of play in the process of making as a showing is what is poetic in the
production of architecture. The play of architecture (re)production is a mimetic process that imitates the procedure of production rather than the product. Architecture (re)production depends on the chiasmatic relationship of geometry and poetry, theory and practice. When the production of architecture relies solely on ways of technique, the product becomes deliberate and rationalized. Lost is the spontaneous and unreflective behavior of the child at play. The intention inherent in the mimetic production is no longer revealed through the force of the human hand drawing. In educating future architects, we can only hope they leave our schools after having mastered both theory and practice: equipped like knights in full armour with the force of Daedalus and the intelligence of Orpheus, armed with the ability to play.
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4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) II) 12) 13) 14) 15) 16)
Victor Hugo, “Ceci tuera cela: Notre Dame de Paris, trans. Joseph L. Blamire (New York: George Routledge and Sons, 1881), 245. Note: All Hugo quotations arc from this translation pp. 230-249. Eugene S. Ferguson, Engineering and the Mind’s Eye (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1992), 75-76 and Elizabeth L. Eisenstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change, vol. I (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 10-12. Skeuomorph is a term from archeological anthropology appropriated for use to describe developments within cybernetics by N. Katherine Hayles, “Boundary Disputes: Homeostasis, Reflexivity and the Foundations of Cybernetics,” Configurations 2/3 (Fall 1994): 446¬447. James Burke, Connections (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1978), 104. Eisenstein, 52-53, 117. Eisenstein, 65-69 and Burke, 104, 125-127. Eisenstein, 88-89. Lewis Mumford, Technics and Civilization (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1963), 136-137. Eisenstein, 131-132. Hugo, 2 JO. Geoffrey Scott, The Architecture of Humanism (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1974), 141-142. Pamphlets, The Basilica of Vezelay (Bellegarde: Scop-Sada& 1972), 1 I -14 and La Madeleine de Vezelay (Lyon: Lescuyer, 1985). Frances Yates, Art of Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press), 131. Yates. 271, see also Eisenstein, 66-67. Hugo, 234. For a thorough discussion of the relationship of the hook to the building see Neil Levine, “The Book and the Building: Hugo’s theory of architecture and Labrouste’s Bibliotheque Ste-Genevirve,” The Beaux-Arts and nineteenth-century French architecture, ed. Robin Middleton (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1982), 138-173. Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, “Lecture X:Importance of Method: Lectures on Architecture, trans. by Benjamin Bucknall (New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1987), 462. Ibid., 458. Fur an excellent discussion on the rational laws of art and building science in Gothic architecture see James S. Ackerman, “’Ars Sine Scientia Nihil Est’: Gothic Theory of Architecture at the Cathedral of Milan, “Art Bulletin 31 (June 1949):8€-111.
22) 23) 24) 25)
27) 28) 29) 30)
Viollet-le-Duc, 475. For related discussions see Joseph Rykwr rt, ‘’Necessity and Convention,” On Adam’s House in Paradise (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1981), 29-42 and Elizabeth Gilmore Holt, From the Classicists to the Impressionists (Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1966), 199-200, 212-214. Claude Bragdon, “Regulating Lines,” The Frozen Fountain (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1932), 37-38. Antonio Hernandez, “J.N.L. Durand’s Architectural Theory,” Perspecta 12 (1969): 154. Stefan Polonyi, “The Concept of Science, Structural Design, Architecture: Daidalos 18 (15 December 1985): 33. Robert Bruegmann, “The Pencil and the Electronic Sketchhoard: Architectural Representation and the Computer,” Architecture and Its Image, ed. Eve Blau and Edward Kaufman (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press,1989), 14 l . Leandro Madrazo, “Durand and the Science of Architecture: JAE 18/1 (September 11994): 12-24 and Hernandez,”J.N.I. Diiralid’s Architectural Theory,” 153-160.See also Joseph R Kwert,”The Nefarious Influence on Modern Architecture of the NeoClassical Architects Boullee and Durand, “The Necessity of Artifice (New York: Rizzoli, 1982), 60-65 and Alan Colquhoun, “Typology and Design Method” and “The BeauxArts Plan” in Essays in Architectural Criticism (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1981), 43-50 and 161-168. For a more comprehensive discussion see Alberto Perez-Gomez, Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 1983), 297-326. Ferguson, Engineering and the Mind’s Eye, 115-152. Bruegmann, “The Pencil and the Electronic Sketchhoard,” 142. Klaus Herdcg, The Decorated Diagram (Cambridge, IvIA:The MIT Press, 1983), 7897. Brian Rotman,”Exuberant Materiality-De-Minding the Store,” Configurations 2/2 (Spring 1994): 257-274. See also Robert Markley, “Boundaries: Mathematics, Alienation, and the Metaphysics of Cyberspace,” Configurations 2/3 (Fall 1994): 485-507. Lucy A. Suchman, Plans and Situated Actions: The Problem of Human-Machine Communication (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), 38-39. Richard D. Coyne, “Tools for Exploring Associative Reasoning in Design,” and Takehiko Nagakura,”Shape Recognition and Transformation: A Script-Based Approach,” in The Electronic Design Studio, ed. by McCullough, Mitchell, and Purcell (Cambridge, MA:The MIT Press, 1990), 91-106 and 149-170. Marco Frascari, “The Drafting Knife and Pen,” Implementing Architecture (Atlanta: Nexus Press, 1988).
THE PLAY OF ARCHITECTURE (re)PRODUCTION
Mark D. Gross, “Roles for Computing in Schools of Architecture and Planning: JAE 48/1 (September 1994): 56-64. See also Gary R. Bertoline, “The Role of Computers in the Design Process,” Engineering Design Graphics Journal 52/2 (Spring 1988): 18-22, 30 who wrote, “In the hands of good designers, computers will become an effective tool. In the hands of others, computers will become the tool to create more visual garbage than the world has ever seen.” Hugo, 234. Jacques Ellul, The Technological Society (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1964), 3-27.
List of Figures 1)
2) 3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10)
Albrecht Durer, Melencolia I, 1514, Melancholy is one of the four humors of the body and during the Renaissance became associated with artistic temperament or creativity Durer’s representation is surrounded by the attributes of geometry and the constructive arts (Staatliche Museen Preussicher Kulturbesitz Kupferstich Kabinett Berlin West). Athanasius Kircher Isis, Oedipus Aegyptiacus, Rome, 1652. La Madeleine de Vezelay, The Last Judgement, exterior tympanum which Viollet-leDuc had reproduced from the original (photo by author). Cesariano, Cathedral of Milan, system of equilateral triangles which determined its various parts (Como Vitruvius, Milan, 1521). J.N.L. Durand, Table 20 of Precis des lecons d’architecure donnes a l’Ecole Polytechnique, 1802/5. J.N.L. Durand, Plate 21 of Precis des lecons d’architecure donnes a l’Ecole Polytechnique, 1802/5. Denis Diderot, Plate 372 Printing IV of Encyclopedic, ou Dicionnaire Raisonne des Sciences, des Artes et des Métiers, 1763. Hannes Meyer, The Plan Calculates Itself from the Following Factors, Bauhaus, Dessau, 1930 (Hans Wingler, Bauhaus (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1969), 489). Takehiko Nagakura, transformation scripts, Harvard, 1990 (The Electronic Design Studio (Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1990), 168). Michael Maier, Scrutinium Chymicum Frankfurt, 1687, Alchemical allegory: “From a man and woman make a circle, then a square, then a triangle, finally a circle, and you will obtain the Philosopher’s Stone.” The Creator, Bible Moralisee, France, c. 1250 (Bodleian Library, Oxford)
Volume 12, 1999
The Original Freer Gallery of Art Thomas W. Brunk, Ph.D. Foreword This issue of Dichotomy explores one of the nation’s most significant extant examples of Shingle style architecture the 1890 Charles Lang Freer house at 71 East Ferry Avenue, Detroit. Embodied in this monograph are more than twenty years of research and presents recently discovered documentation and correspondence unknown to scholars when “The House that Freer Built” was published by Dichotomy in the Spring of 1981. Eight wooden crates containing Freer’s personal papers and financial records 1880-1918 were discovered in the attic of the Freer Gallery of Art in April 1988. Among these files were receipts from the architect, contractors, furniture makers, decorators, and other suppliers involved in the construction of Freer’s home. The carpenter’s statements detail important changes in construction that were neither known nor could be documented heretofore. Among the papers is a ledger which Freer kept concerning the construction and furnishing of his home and its subsequent alterations and additions. This unusually rich documentation allows us to reexamine and understand the design evolution and collaboration between patron, architects, contractors, tradespeople, artist, and furniture makers for this important building. This is rarely possible for architectural historians. Detailed daily accounts provide a social history of the household that usually does not exist. Consequently, Freer’s house is the most completely documented residence designed by Philadelphia architect Wilson Eyre, Jr. Freer house represents a unique and expressive collaboration between Charles Lang Freer, its owner; Wilson Eyre, Jr., the architect; and noted American artists Dwight W. Tryon, Thomas W. Dewing, Abbott H. Thayer, and Frederick S. Church who created paintings as part of the architectural fabric. Many of these paintings were encased with specially designed frames by New York architect, Stanford White, who worked hand-in-glove with the artist. These same artists created special metallic wall surfaces as rich backgrounds to enhance their art works. These unusual and expensive finishes were created in collaboration with noted New York interior decorator and gilder William C. LeBrocq.
The Original Freer Gallery of Art Thomas W. Brunk, Ph.D.
Freer commissioned furniture, window treatments, and lighting fixtures to complete these interior harmonies. The furniture was designed and manufactured for Freer by the Boston firm of A. H. Davenport and Company and the Detroit firm of William Wright Company. Landscape design was as important to Freer as the design of the house and it’s interiors. Unusual and uncommon species were planted to achieve a balance of color and foliage making this suburban estate visually interesting in all seasons. Through the correspondence between industrialist and art connoisseur Freer and the architect, artists, and artisans, Freer’s firm understanding of artistic matters becomes evident. He emerges as an active participant in design and decoration decisions, rather than as a passive patron waiting to be pleased. Freer sought appropriateness of treatment and did not shy from having designs revised and construction remade to suit his personal aesthetic, sometimes against the advice of the architect, artists, or contractors. Surprisingly, Freer’s changes were accepted without complaint. Freer orchestrated a union of the highly refined “aesthetic” paintings and interiors with Eyre’s consummate simplicity of design and love of natural materials to
create a home where Freer found refuge from the ugliness of his industrial life as a railroad freight car manufacturer. For Freer art was not an extravagance, but a “necessity.” Contemporaries of Freer were amazed, intrigued, and impressed with the results of this unusual artistic collaboration. Hubert Vos, the Dutch Arts Commissioner to the Columbian World Exposition, visited Freer’s home 1895 just one year after Freer had moved in. His opinions were recorded in the Detroit Journal: To mention one home which I visited this morning during the absence of the owner, was the house of Mr. Freer. I never saw in any of the countries I visited, where I have made studies for Art impressions, a more complete and harmoniously carried out trio between the external architecture, the interior decorations and the artistically chosen furniture, certainly no better frame for an impressionist’s picture has ever been made. I encourage you to read two works by Vincent Scully for an complete overview of the Shingle style and its influences on twentieth century architects. These are The Shingle Style and The Stick Style and The Shingle Style Today and The Historian’s Revenge.
THE ORIGINAL FREER GALLERY OF ART
(1) Residence of Mr. C. L. Freer, 1894.
As Freer’s art collection grew and additions to the residence became necessary, he refused to change the design and decoration of the main house. Upon the munificent gift of his collection to the Smithsonian Institution in 1906, Freer’s home became the original Freer Gallery of Art and remained so until his death in 1919 when the collection was relocated to Washington, DC. Today, Freer’s collection is exhibited in the gallery that he helped to design and which was built through his generosity. While the art works no longer adorn the Shingle style mansion on Detroit’s Ferry Avenue, this monograph documents the unique integration of art and architecture that occurred there and hopefully serves as an inspiration for its future restoration, maintenance, and appreciation.
Freer’s New Home The Charles L. Freer residence represents a highly refined aesthetic collaboration of architect, artists, and craftspersons with a discriminating industrialist and art collector. In an era underscored with excess and extravagance, Freer’s house stands out in marked contrast with the opulent mansions of many self-made aristocrats and tycoons. This contrast is particularly noticeable in the adjacent Hecker Chateauesque style mansion. His home, like many of the contemporary American paintings Freer collected, was not created for public exhibition; rather this home reflected his own cultivated taste and discreet collecting habits.
Freer gained firsthand experience with the design and building processes in the construction of the new plant for the Peninsular Car Company on East Ferry Avenue in 1884, and new club houses for Lake St. Clair Fishing and Shooting Club (1886) and the Grosse Pointe Club (1886), both of which he was a member. Fellow club member and business associate John B. Dyar constructed a shingle-style country residence at Grosse Pointe in 1886, designed by Mason and Rice, and published in Sheldon’s Artistic Country Seats the same year. Freer’s first sortie into house design and building was his commission of Mason and Rice in early 1889 to design a home for his brother George T. Freer at Kingston, New York. Through his association with Mason and Rice, Detroit’s premier architects, Freer would have been aware of the latest developments in domestic architecture. It is entirely possible that Freer first became aware of Wilson Eyre, Jr. through his building designs published in the American Architect and Building News and George W. Sheldon’s Artistic Country Seats, both were readily available in the office of Mason and Rice.
The full article with endnotes can be found online at, http://dichotomy.arch. udmercy.edu/dichotomy-12-the-originalfreer-gallery-of-art/.
THE ORIGINAL FREER GALLERY OF ART
(2) Peacock Room at 49 Princeâ€™s Gate, Landon, 1894.
Volume 13, Near Buildings: PERCEPTIONS, 2000
The Natural and the Artificial Christian Zapatka Christian Zapatka practiced architecture and urban design in Washington, D.C., in the year that this articical was initially published. He has taught at Princeton, Columbia, the University of Michigan, and Georgetown. He won the Rom Prize in architecture in 1990 and has had his design work exhibited and published in New York, Rome, and Chicago. The author of numerous publications on architecture, landscape, and urbanism, his book, The American Landscape, received an American Institute of Architects International Book Award in 1998. In addition, he has worked on a critical atlas of the New York of Robert Moses, for which the research was funded by a grant from the Graham Foundation.
The Natural and the Artificial: Comments on the perception of the physical environment Christian Zapatka
If art imitates nature and nature imitates art, it might be worth considering what lies in between these two conditions, that is the line between what already exists in nature and what the designer introduces to it on “artificial” construction. With the inevitable example of the Abbe Lougier’s primitive hut, the artificial, that is, the formation of the hut itself, presents a gesture of reconciliation to nature by being fabricated of three branches and thereby blending into its environment, the primeval forest. A dictionary definition of the word “artificial” states that it is “made in imitation of or as a substitute for something natural.” The desire to create a substitute for that which is “natural” seems to be a universal, almost instinctual act, as if making something that replaces what is already there gives us control over our environment. It gives us the power to perceive what we want to perceive and therefore affords us comfort in the knowledge that we can make such adjustments in the face of an overwhelmingly sublime power - raw nature. Certain contemporary artists have illustrated this kind of operation with arresting clarity. The literally explosive projects of the artist Michael Heizer, for example, employ dynamite to displace entire sections of earth, creating canyons where there had been none before. This
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act forces the viewer to question what should be there: the land or the absence of the land. It also introduces an ambiguity about natural forces. Canyons, typically farmed by water, are recast in the project â€œ Double Negativeâ€? as romps in the earth with no apparent origin or purpose. While the manipulation of nature has traditionally been the purview of the artist, the designer (that is, the architect, landscape architect, industrial designer, graphic designer, clothes designer, etc.) has traditionally been less involved with the conventionally perceivable distinctions between the natural and the
artificial, for the designer is obliged to produce something utilitarian, something that has a function beyond simply that of providing an object to admire or a scene to contemplate. While there have been architects who have attempted to stir the distinctions between nature and art, most notably the French visionary architect, Jean-Jacques Lequeu, as well as Frank Lloyd Wright, Eero Saarinen, and Frank Gehry in our time, to name just a few, the designers who seem to have been more successful at manipulating natural forms into
“artificial” ones have been landscape architects, those designers who have literally tortured nature into forms of usefulness. Admittedly, this is a more plausible conceit for landscape designers since the adjustment of land does not actually require human occupation to rationalize its act, while the construction of buildings must provide the basic requirement of shelter. Yet the history of this activity may still provide a lesson for architects in considering how the forms and mass of the earth might be harnessed in developing an architecture where the perception, at the very least, of the natural and the artificial might begin to fuse. Martin Heidegger’s definition of art as that substance which is taken from the earth and returned to the earth in another manner might be a gouge for testing this hypothesis. He wrote:
“Earth, self-dependent, is effortless and untiring Upon the earth and in it, historical man grounds his dwelling in the world. In selling up a world, the work sets forth the earth. This setting forth must be thought here in the strict sense of the word. The work moves the earth itself into the Open of a world and keeps it there. The work lets the earth be an earth.” Unusual examples of forms found in the built landscape that are not self-consciously intended to be “Art” and that illustrate the manipulation of earth in such a way as to introduce a confusion between the natural and the artificial are the excavations within cities at the time of building, park planning, or street expansion. The case of Haussmann’s Paris is perhaps the most striking. One contemporary photograph shows a great mound of earth that has a largeness and uncanny deliberateness of form, even though
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it is simply the result of construction activity surrounding it. A pointing entitled “Visit of the Emperor to the Construction site of Chaillot” shows a file of workers on the spiraling ledges of a solitary mound of earth in a field of excavations. II appears to be a miniature Tower of Babel in a center below the edges of the city. These moments of excavation in the service of the construction of buildings, roads, or parks are perhaps the only limes that the earth is revealed to be something more than a two-dimensional plane for building upon. This “unnatural” exhibit of the earth’s structure disturbs our common understanding of the earth’s role as an element which is built
upon and forces us to confront the fact that the earth is also an element which can be built into. Suddenly it becomes evident that the earth not only supports but embraces the constructions we give it. Other images of Haussmann’s Paris show the earth as having a very deep section in which all the services - gas, water, sewers of the modern city ore depicted with exacting precision as a set of tunnels, large and small, cut into the earth. This makes the buildings at grade appear to be rather small, almost insignificant. In landscape painting, the question of the natural and the artificial has been raised repeatedly. In
the modem American context of the Hudson River School, there was an unmistakable zeal in attempting to depict sublime of the wilderness, the incomprehensible force and magnitude of nature, that which could not be seen in reality but could be appreciated through the safe distancing device of the canvas screen in the gallery. There was, of course, deliberate exaggeration in these paintings that was used to drive home, to the city-dwellers viewing them the great power of nature and its manifestations. To capture that phenomenon on canvas, however, was not always so easy and in some instances, the impression of nature was rendered as “artificial.” The “unnatural” hues of red, orange and pink con only cause the viewer to wonder about the line between the natural and the artificial. Some of these paintings were the settings for allegories depicting the rise and fall of a civilization, the human life cycles, and the occasions of departure and return. They depicted nature as a backdrop which ultimately
subsumed the “artificial” and corrupt creations of man. With the propagation of these paintings in New York salons and galleries, there of course arose the desire among their viewers to go out and seek for themselves the authenticity of these fantastic places, to determine just what was real and what was exaggerated. By the end of the nineteenth century a veritable industry of tourism was spawned by this quest to find the natural wonders beyond the artificial confines of the city. Steamboat rides up the Hudson and trips to Niagara Falls become tremendously popular outings. If previously, city-dwellers could only appreciate the wonders of the natural landscape through the eyes and paintings of others, now they could go and see it for themselves and bring back souvenirs in the form of postcards. stereoscopic photographs, and other trinkets to prove that they had braved the wilds of nature.
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If the Hudson River School phenomenon led to the formation of a tourist industry to see the American landscape, the landscape designers of the nineteenth century would attempt to actually re-create some of those scenes of nature within the city itself, much like a giant museum. The ubiquitous Olmsted parks presented settings and vistas that completely obscure their location in cities by transforming two dimensional images into three-dimensional places. Simply by taking a stroll in the park, city-dwellers could now enter physically scenes that they had formerly only been able to admire on painted canvases. Deep in the recesses of the park the city was removed from view by berms, trees, and contrived hillocks. In the relatively recent history of landscape design in the United States there is a near equivalency between constructing buildings in the city and constructing parks in the city. It is reasonable to assume, in fact, that in the American context, the history of landscape design has been about the history of urban design. The prime example is Central Park
(1868) in New York. Frederick Low Olmsted, its “designer”, was a former journalist concerned with forest preservation; he conceived of the building of this place as simply the cleaning up of wasteland within the boundaries of a city grid laid out earlier in the century. It was the anticipation of the building-up of the city blocks around this park with new buildings that made it more than just o bucolic refuge in the city. It actually spurred the growth of the city. By the l930’s Central Park had gone from being a flat plain beyond the city’s limits to becoming a gulf within the mass of so many built blocks, providing the city at once with its distinctive form and visual relief from the artificial forms it had engendered. One might compare the symbolic position of Central Park with the rivers that European cities have typically been built around either side of, which give those cities both a predominant “natural” form as well as on escape from the “artificial” forms surrounding them, i.e., buildings. Terms such as “Right Bank,” “ Left Bank,” “West of the Park,” “East of the Park” imply a fusion between building and nature within the city that suggests a union, not a disjunction, between the “natural” clement, at the core of the city and the “artificial” constructions of the buildings occupying and surrounding those elements. Olmsted’s work spread rapidly throughout the nation, within and at the edges of urban settings, making nineteenth century towns into twentieth century cities, complete with pork
systems and suburban residential parks. The case of Boston’s famed Emerald Necklace linking oil of the city’s parks into a continuous ribbon and the celebrated Plan of Chicago by Daniel Burnham and Edward Bennett show how for reaching the Olmstedian ideal of natural form superimposed on artificial construction had become. Suburban Residential Parks were the obvious extension of the American city parks and here the dichotomy between the natural and the artificial was highly pronounced and continues to be so. In the middle of the nineteenth century it still seemed like an unnatural idea to live in nature without living from it. Andrew Jackson Downing’s famous treatises about living in nature for pleasure rather than work set the groundwork for the new idea, while railroad lines made it possible for middle class city workers to commute to the countryside. Here, the concept of living in a place where one did not work was shocking. The identity of the suburb, especially in the automobile age, has been one that has frequently come under attack as somehow not natural, as the obvious breeding ground for the truly artificial, the frequent site of fast food restaurants, Tupperware parties, and mandatory barbecues, the artificial re-enactment of primitive hunting and roosting rituals, now over coal briquets in brightly colored barbecue pits. Joel Sternfeld’s hyper-realistic photographs of the American suburb make these supposedly bucolic places look as if they are entirely
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synthetic. Here, asphalt, automobiles, and cheap building materials make otherwise remote “ natural” settings surreal juxtapositions of the expected and the unexpected. The buildings usually appear to barely enter the ground; they seem to hover just about an inch above uniform lawns of an unusual green color. One photograph shows a deep section of earth exposed by a flash flood just below a suburban enclave. The asphalt of the road at grade is thus shown for what it is - a thin sheet capping the land. It supports a parked Cadillac precariously close to the edge of the newly-formed canyon. The car and the banal buildings beyond this natural disaster site appear strangely out of place and superimposed upon an otherwise wild setting. The conservation efforts of Theodore Roosevelt as well as the public works projects of Franklin Roosevelt and Robert Moses for national parks, state beaches and national parkways, while bringing more people to nature, somehow mode the viewing of nature more removed. The experience of nature
become equally that of walking through it and seeing it through a moving window. Whether or not this can be called “artificial” is of course debatable. On the one hand, the perception of nature is altered, but on the other hand, it is brought into greater and more frequent proximity. Those views which had been brought to the city-bound as paintings were now made easily accessible, not within the city
in the form of parks, but in situ with the use of the private automobile. In this case, however, the screen between subject and object become glass rather than canvas. Passengers wanting to record their impressions could take pictures through the window. If the canvases of the nineteenth century, with their artificial colors, attempted to convey the sublimity of nature, the photographic snapshots of automobiledriving tourists would also alter the “real” colors of what had been seen in the wilderness. Sternfeld’s photographs of landscapes render nature practically unreal or even dangerous. One photograph shows a couple poised American Gothic-style by their gas-powered lawn mower in a sylvan setting. The only odd thing is that they are wearing gas masks. They do so not for protection against the gas fumes of the mower as one might guess, but in order to prevent the inhalation of volcanic dust from an eruption of Mount St. Helens. Here, on otherwise perfectly “natural” setting is suddenly mode eerie and unsettling. If even nature is harmful to one’s health, what do the false constructions of the city hold in store for us? Satellite photographs with their stork objectivity hove also rendered natural landscapes artificial. Dense suburban developments marked by ubiquitously swirling patterns of maze-like culde-sacs offer an image from the stratosphere of organic patterns on the earth which upon closer inspection reveal themselves to be the repetition of so many houses, lawns, and streets.
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The national parks, parkways and state beaches of the l930’s through the l950’s offer further evidence of the natural put into the service of “artificial” constructions. Robert Moses’s Jones Beach State Park of 1925 is one of the most compelling examples of nature harnessed for the purposes of a highly-contrived recreational setting. Created on a sand spit with the help of untold tons of sand brought to the site, Jones Beach State Park offered a dizzying alternative to the boardwalk of Coney Island. It featured acres of parking, a massive stone bathhouse, and an ersatz police force, and its site was accessed by the Southern Stole Parkway as well as the
manmade Jones Beach Causeway. Intended, of course, for an emerging middle class with time for leisure and the liberty of automobiles, this heterotopia could be seen as the most artificial of places. Save the sand and water beyond the controlling forces of the built complex, the whole environment was marked by asphalt, automobiles, regulated boardwalk activities, and attendants in mock sailor uniforms both picking up after visitors and checking their behavior and attire. In contrast to such a programmed atmosphere, Coney Island must have seemed far more natural and positively liberating in its indulgence of holiday pursuits.
A number of contemporary landscape designers and artists have provocatively sharpened the contrasts between the natural and the artificial. Candlestick Point Park in San Francisco, designed by George Hargreaves, is based on a disarmingly simple strategy: a segment of land within a larger precinct of undefined land is brought into sharp focus by being raised slightly and defined with low walls. Narrow wedges are cut on either side of the new greensward so as to allow water from the bay to slip in and further define the park’s boundaries. From the air, the park looks as if a section of land has been peeled up and then dropped back into place on a slightly higher plateau. The artist Mory Miss has produced a number of land art I installations that cause the viewer to question the line between the natural and the artificial. Projects that work with existing conditions and then tamper slightly with the expected perceptron of the place have been the most provocative. The project, “Perimeters/ Pavilions/Decoys”, shows a cut in the ground that leaves on an unnaturally thin line between the earth above grade and the void below. It is as if a crust of earth acts as a roof membrane for the open space carved out below. An installation in a forest in Finland built on the occasion of an Alvar Aalto symposium, the “Jyvaskyla Project,” is a set of semi-circular linear steel basins anchored into berms in the ground by wooden cross members. They collect rainwater and thus become pools for reflecting the branches of the trees above. They appear to have always been there, perhaps the
permanent installations of tree surgeons. The most perplexing aspect of these projects is their uncertain function. They might cause one to pause and speculate about the differences between the existing and the manmade, but what they are meant for other than that is still debatable. One of my own projects, an entry for the Williamsburg Town Plan Competition, is an investigation into the relationship between the land and the grid. Here, the grid is shown as unyielding to the land, which is of course the inverse of how it is usually constructed. The contours of cities such as Son Francisco or New York oblige the grid to sweep up and down their slopes. In this case, the grid, a steel grate, was burned into the wax of the contours so as to show how the land would recede within the framework of the orthogonal pattern, leaving shadow marks of its original forms on the bonds of steel that had melted it. While the array of examples presented here is simply intended as an outline for speculation about what is “real” or natural and what is “false” or artificial in the perception of the physical environment, the question of how the designer might capitalize upon those inherent ambiguities remains to be fully explored or realized. Paintings, parks, photographs, suburbs, and automobiles have all contributed to both the portrayal and potential of the natural environment in relation to manmade form, yet further connections might still be found by designers, designers who exploit the existing while experimenting with the new.
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Volume 14, Near Buildings, 2002
Constructing a Different Future Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de Leon Monica Ponce de Leon Mónica Ponce de León is a professor and dean of the School of Architecture at Princeton University and founding principal of MPdL Studio. From 2008 through 2015, she was the dean of Taubman College at the University of Michigan. She taught at the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, where she became a professor and served as the Graduate Program coordinator and was director of the Digital Fabrication Lab. Ponce de León also worked as an assistant professor at Northeastern University before her time at Harvard. She has been a visiting professor or scholar at various institutions across the United States, including SCI-Arc, Rhode Island School of Design, University of Houston, the University of Miami, as well as Georgia Tech. Ponce de León has a Master of Architecture in Urban Design from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard, as well as a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Miami. She is well known for her application of robotic technology into the field and the academic realm, exploring the possibilities of fabrication. Nader Tehrani Nader Tehrani became Dean of The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union in July 2015. He is principal of NADAAA, a Boston based practice dedicated to the advancement of design innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, and an intensive dialogue with construction practices.He previously worked at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he was professor of architecture and served as head of the Department of Architecture from 2010 to 2014. For over 25 years, he worked to motivate academic research to change practice and to test new protocols of practice in the context of academia. His own research targeted material culture as the basis for speculation—exploring material properties, negotiating materials and their geometric predispositions and challenging the means and methods of building processes. Working between the digital realm and the medium of full-scale mock-ups, he seeks to simulate and test alternative approaches towards tectonic studies.
PONCE DE LEON, TEHRANI
Upon Reflection Nader Tehrani, 2019 Since 2002, my practice has evolved a good bit -- first under the banner of Office dA and then under NADAAA. Many of the posed questions have had the opportunity to be tested in relation to practice and projects. So too, we have seen pedagogy evolve in substantial ways, pushing us to pose different questions and examine old ones from a different point of view. For one, the role of materiality has proven to remain a seminal part of our practice, examining not only commissions as the basis of exemplary buildings, but the catalytic detail as the site of invention. While we have had to make difficult choices about how to engage the building industry, much of its most productive moments have been the result of transformative discussions about how the quality of construction, the invention of systems, and the incorporation of new protocols. But beyond that, we have also witnessed how material studies have been radicalized in our pedagogies, sponsoring new laboratories, and the engagement of other disciplines into the fabric of our thinking. I credit the next generation in their adoption of some of this early thinking, bringing in biology, computation and the invention of new fabricational protocols to create an inter-disciplinary environment within which our exploration may expand. From the political perspective, this has been an instrumental way in which the means and methods of construction have been re-channeled back into our hands, not so much for the sake of recentering power, but also to re-assume certain responsibilities that have withered over decades. This is very important, given the transformation of practice in the past decades, the expansion of â€˜expertiseâ€™ in different aligned disciplines, and the design-by-committee process that has come to dominate most projects. Within this context, the architect has had to become re-educated, reinvested in the very means through which other experts operate, and become conversant with a wide array of issues that impact the design process--without which their voice stands to become marginalized. All this has also happened in a historical moment when the disciplines of architecture, landscape and urbanism have had to adapt to a very different relationship with the production of knowledge --through the very data, information and feedback that is made possible today but way of information technology, data visualization and a command over the larger global environment that is unprecedented.
CONSTRUCTING A DIFFERENT FUTURE
To this end, it also matters how we construct and engage our audiences. To the extent that we know we cannot control design processes or the very environments they produce, it is important to better understand where design agency matters, and where participation might catalyze other possibilities. But to understand this is also to imagine how the architect might evolve to a larger responsibility of â€˜speaking different languagesâ€™ to bring consensus between a vast array of different expertise and demonstrate a vision that is larger than the sum of their parts.
PONCE DE LEON, TEHRANI
Constructing a Different Future ...an interview with Nader Tehrani and Monica Ponce de Leon
Dichotomy: We would like to start the interview by reading a quote by Martin Heidegger on technology.
Heidegger says: ‘Technology is therefore no mere means. Technology is a way of revealing. The word stems from the Greek. Tecnikon means that which belongs to techne. We must observe two things with respect to the meaning of this word. One is that techne is the name not only for the activities and skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts. Techne belongs to bringing-forth, to poiesis; it is something poetic.” In relating to your work, and according to your architectural beliefs and practices, what are your initial reactions to this quote?
The idea of revealing is an important one. Most often, architecture is experienced in a distracted or anesthetized mode. Poetic operations have the ability to reveal, bracket, or amplify things that are conventionally left mute in prose. And so, in architecture, the relationship between technology and poetics is probably all the more important, given our inevitable reliance on technological changes as a basis for the transformation of the discipline. The question then, is how to reveal the architectural possibilities in new modes of construction and new technologies, which is what we have tried to address in some of our recent projects: how digital fabrication may be incorporated into our discipline not just as a problem of craft, but as a vehicle to capitalize on its poetic possibilities. Here, I would also refer to the Russian Formalises and the Structuralists in their codification and classifications of poetry: its operations rules, and its means of deployment.
Dichotomy: We have titled this issue of dichotomy, “Speculations.” Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines to speculate as to be curious or doubtful about. Relative to your work, how do you feel about the speculative?
CONSTRUCTING A DIFFERENT FUTURE
Speculations are conjectures, based on inconclusive evidence, and they involve a level of risk, particularly when conceived of as a business transaction. It is a good metaphor for what we do, because we proceed without certainty, and yet we proceed. The architectural project for us, becomes a vehicle for testing out certain speculations: some fail, others result on some form of discovery. Hence there is always the risk of failure, and yet the most delightful part is the potential of invention of discovery in the speculative process.
Dichotomy: In your architectural work and practices, what areas and ideas are you particularly curious and/or doubtful about?
We are curious about materials and units of construction, about problems of geometry, about the interpretation of constraints and form, about what constitutes invention, about what defines the discipline and what expands its boundaries....... And yet we are doubtful about everything. Is that fair to say, Monica?
We are doubtful every time we confront something; we only enter with doubt.
Well, there might be a different way to answer the question. Having a practice here in the United States, I think that the way Nader and I frame our problems, even when we end up not building in the United States, has to do with a certain persistence to the standard methods and practices of construction. And what I mean by that is just that we look at building in the standard U.S., and we are very discontent with the standards that the industry provides. And we have a certain stubbornness about proving to ourselves, but also proving to the market that one could actually do things differently. So in terms of the speculation, I think that many times we take risks and we manipulate the way in which the industry behaves, as a means of getting better buildings built, rather than being a conformist and saying: “Okay this is how things work, let’s just operate within the norm.”
PONCE DE LEON, TEHRANI
Dichotomy: The role of the architect has changed throughout history. Do you feel that with today’s technology of
design-build that the profession is changing back to the architect as the master builder and as both the designer and the craftsman?
No, no I don’t think so.
I would argue that it is not the “technology of design-build”; design-build is not a technology, per se. Design-build is a process that sometimes architects, but most often contractors, adopt as a way of getting rid of the middle man. Contractors set up a design-build firm, and they tell the prospective client that they do not need an architect, that they, the contractor, will be able to design the various programmatic and construction needs as part of their fees. And then that way, they get to control the whole process, without the usual financial and procedural burdens of the triangulated process between client/ architect/ and contractor. The problem is that the triangulation benefits from checks and balances. So the whole terminology of “design-build” is something we have co-opted from them, and it is a way of controlling those things architectural that have leaked from our profession into theirs. However, that doesn’t mean that the architect is now becoming the craftsman, quite the opposite. We still need to rely on those traditions that have to do with crafting, and those dynamic traditions that are changing in areas in the construction field, whether it is wood-making, or steel fabrication, whether it is fiberglass fabrication, or otherwise. So part of our task as designers, is to have a knowledge about the way that those craftspeople are building, and then to transform the way they build through the very mechanisms of their craft.
Subcontractors have a knowledge that we don’t have, and we collaborate very closely with subcontractors, be they mill workers, steel workers, or boat-makers. I think that what we have done sometimes is that we have eliminated the contractor himself from the equation, so that we can work directly with the sub-contractor.
But the reason for that is that general contractors have tended to become business people, that is: business for the sake of business...
...who know nothing about construction.
...who often know nothing about construction, exactly. Even then, when they are
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good managers, they can contribute a great deal to the scheduling and pricing of a project. The problem is when they are not good managers; at that point, we know we can do a better job in taking over the construction management and then secure the outcome of the architecture.
Dichotomy: In the lecture that you gave at University of Detroit Mercy in the fall semester of 2001, we saw
some of the installation type work which you have done; specifically, the project of an interior installation in a lobby in the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
Yes, that was for the Immaterial/Ultra-material exhibit.
And that project was actually Nader in collaboration with a group of Graduate School of Design students, I did not participate in that installation.
Dichotomy: In regards to that project and other similar projects that you both have done together, for example
in the case of the ceiling of the Upper Crust project, it seems that it must have taken an extreme amount of care in cutting, fabricating and installing each of the separate pieces/panels. In those projects, did you find yourselves taking an active role in the cutting, fabricating, and installation?
The assembly of the GSD installation was done by GSD students themselves (Kristen Giannattasio and Heather Walls), and the laser cutting was done in-house. In other words, we actually did that in the building. It was done entirely in-house with no outside contractors. We did the design; we did the drawings; we did the laser cutting; and we did the installation. In the Upper Crust project, the ceiling did not have a general contractor. There was a general contractor, but they had nothing to do with the ceiling. We had a laser cutting service cut the aluminum for us, and then we actually did the installation in-house again, with several employees coordinated by Hamad Al Sultan. In those two projects, there was a very direct and coherent relationship between designing and building from beginning to end.
But these are more exceptions to the rule. I think that the rule is, that if there is a question as to how something should be assembled, we demonstrate the assembly method, and then the sub-contractors take it from there, as opposed to us doing the entire assembly ourselves.
PONCE DE LEON, TEHRANI
That is correct, Monica, but when I lectured in Detroit, I said that in an ideal world, that is what we would do. But it turns out that the dome at Mantra, the Upper Crust ceiling, and the GSD project, ended up being things that we literally did ourselves, and obviously we would like to get out of that mode.
Dichotomy: What are your feelings on the relationship of architecture to its landscape, in terms of making
a reading of, and from there creating a relationship with an existing context, in order to blur the margins between architecture and landscape?
Nader and I are both urban designers; we both have Master of Architecture degrees in Urban Design, and the office is actually structured in an interdisciplinary way. We have people with Fine Arts degrees; we have a landscape architect on board; we have people who have a Master in Urban Design and other architectural degrees. So I think that the scale or the material of the intervention is something chat we see as being very varied. As you saw from Naderâ€™s lecture, we design furniture but also we design master plans. So I think that landscape would be one more aspect of what we like to do in the office. And I think that we have collaborated with landscape architects very successfully. So for us, the surface of the ground or the material that we call landscape, or a non-building, is just one more material to operate with.
Dichotomy: In your work, what is your process of material selection, and what role do you feel the issue of materiality plays in architecture?
I donâ€™t think we have a fixed process, but generally it has to do with the economy of the project; what the location of the project is; what the projects can afford; what is culturally irrelevant. It is more of a case by case basis.
Dichotomy: What about the role of materiality? Nader:
Material problems are not merely construction problems for us; they are cultural problems also. They are ways of inscribing a project into a site or a cultural milieu. While not all projects are generated from a static idea of the place from which they emerge, they are also somehow in dialogue with it. In that sense, beyond materials as having certain geometric limitations, certain construction problems inherent to them, we see them addressing cultural problems as a direct relationship between materials and the people that they serve: their associations, their meanings, iconic
CONSTRUCTING A DIFFERENT FUTURE
properties, and so forth. In that way, materials are not neutral, but rather embedded and ingrained with cultural affiliations. Inasmuch as they can respond to a context, they can also transform their context.
Dichotomy: In your work, how do you anticipate the future? Nader:
I think one of the things we are learning and trying to figure out is how to control the construction process, which is really a domain that doesnâ€™t fit under our umbrella, but the contractorâ€™s umbrella. The more we are learning how to build, with whom to build, I suppose management is becoming a more important issue. And it is strange that I would answer it this way, but...
I think, for us, it is not a question of anticipating the future, but actually trying to construct a different future. And in that sense, our interest in computer aided manufacturing, is a way of pushing that industry, to be incorporated faster within the building industry. That is why we ended up collaborating with boat manufacturers; that is why we have collaborated with steel fabricators. Trying to take technologies, very well developed in one field, and trying to appropriate it and bring it into the field of architecture; not just as a way of trying to be ahead of the game, or trying to anticipate a future, but hopefully as a way of constructing that future a little differently.
VOLUME 14, Speculations, 2002
Looking Again... Sheila Kennedy Sheila Kennedy received her Bachelor’s Degree in history, philosophy and literature from the College of Letters at Wesleyan University. She earned a second degree in architecture from the Ecole National Supérieure des Beaux Arts in Paris and completed her Masters of Architecture from the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University where she won the SOM National Traveling Fellowship and was graduated with Distinction, the School’s highest academic honor. She founded the architecture firm Kennedy & Violich Architecture (KVA MATx) in partnership with Juan Frano Violich in 1990. As an Associate Professor at Harvard’s GSD, Kennedy was Director of the M Arch II Program from 1991-1995 and is currently Professor of the Practice of Architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). As a founding Principal of Kennedy & Violich Architecture Ltd. (KVA), Sheila Kennedy has established a new model for an interdisciplinary design practice that explores architecture, digital technology and emerging public needs, work she also actively incorporates into academia.
Looking Again... an interview with Sheila Kennedy Dichotomy: We would like to start the interview by reading a quote by Martin Heidegger on technology.
Heidegger says: ‘Technology is therefore no mere means. Technology is a way of revealing. The word stems from the Greek. Tecnikon means that which belongs to techne. We must observe two things with respect to the meaning of this word. One is that techne is the name not only for the activities and skills of the craftsman, but also for the arts of the mind and the fine arts. Techne belongs to bringing-forth, to poiesis; it is something poetic.” In relating to your work, and according to your architectural beliefs and practices, what are your initial reactions to this quote?
One of the interesting things about going into the meaning of a Greek word is that you often reflects a number of different meanings. The idea of Technikon involves the skills of craft in the fullest sense-technique, wit, acumen, cunning and craftiness. The resonance of the full set of definitions for techne-crafting skill-embraces certain contractions, which are not a part of Heidegger’s response. In distinction to the Modern idea of celebrating technology, technology today is a more elusive, dormant condition. We work with miniature, rapid and interconnected technologies that are integrated within materials. These technologies slumber and waken within materials, coming to the surface where they are visible, then disappearing again. Given these realities, it is interesting to think of Techne as an idea that reveals and also conceals.
Dichotomy: We have titled this issue of dichotomy, “Speculations.” Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines to speculate as to be curious or doubtful about. Relative to your work, how do you feel about the speculative?
Perhaps certainty is over valued! Doubt can be an important tool in any speculation because it frees the mind from forming quick attachments. In our practice we have always had an attraction with things that are not what they seem to be. Perhaps part of this is regret or stubbornness-It is difficult to accept that there are so many dull ordinary things in architecture. In our work, we try to look at
things that are seemingly prosaic and see what kind of secret life they could hold. The action of looking at something more than once is at the heart of research. In that second look you try to see in a site, a material, a problem something different, something that you didnâ€™t see before. It sounds obvious but it is actually quite difficult to find something new in what you thought you knew. The speculative, doubting mind and the second look can lead to the discovery of different kinds of value in architecture. There is an affirming value that says something-a material, an idea, a process- already has value and by working with it we are affirming its already existing value and then there is the idea of creating value. And right now we are much more attracted to architecture that creates value for circumstances, programs and architectural materials that may not already have a conventional value accorded to them.
Dichotomy: The role of the architect has changed throughout history. Do you feel that with todayâ€™s technology of
design-build that the profession is changing back to the architect as the master builder and as both the designer and the craftsman?
One of the important changes in our discipline seems from the realization that the computer is not only a tool for designing; it is also a tool for building. Architects of our generation are now solving some of the problems of everyday building with computer aided manufacturing. My colleagues in our studio are developing a number of different techniques and strategies for detailing with computer fabrication. The problems of how materials are modeled and measured are really quite different. Our goal is to develop a lexicon of digital detailing strategies in our projects. One example that comes to mind is a transportation initiative that is being undertaken by the city of New York Economic Development Corporation (EDC) in Manhattan. We are designing seven ferry landings on seven sites along the East River. Each of these sites have some similar elements such as roof canopies, ticket booths, and amenities, each site is part of the same public transportation system and the same public transportation system and the same Manhattan River front, yet each site enjoys different orientations and serves constituencies with different public needs. In this design project, we are creating what we call a default digital model. This is very much like a default program that is used on your computer before customized preferences are selected. We built a digital prototype, a
default model, and then we deform that default model according to different conditions and demands presented by each site. Different forms of architectural production necessitate different kinds of contractors. The fabricator who is building these buildings is a company that does a lot of work for the entertainment industry. It is a logical choice since the company has the necessary technology and experience. In the East River Ferry Project the majority of the architecture will actually be shop built off the site. Individual components will be floated on a barge and fastened to foundations constructed on each site. This will be the first time that a public project in New York will be almost entirely built with computer aided manufacturing. Everyone in our studio is excited about it! One of the opportunities that this strategy affords is a much greater degree of control and an economy of means which are both necessary in public projects.
Dichotomy: Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary defines technology as the methods and material of applied science. In response to this definition of technology, according to your work, what would you say are the technologies which you practice?
One of the most important things to us in practice is to exercise the full liberties of what I would describe as the architecrural imagination. Today, the ability to really imagine is being threatened because we are constantly bombarded by advertising, and prescripted images and expectations -projects that we may already anticipate or know. The architectural imagination is really a speculative way of seeing and thinking. It grounds itself in certain histories and realities but is able to free itself from those realities at the same time. One of the key things is to try to define the parameters of a problem and understand also where you can depart from those parameters. Sometimes we choose problems that really require us to redefine existing parameters. We have found that architects are uniquely well suited to this way of thinking. The imagination is one of the key technologies that are we are employing in practice! Though I’m not sure that you can call it a “technology”. (laughter) I’ve already spoken about the technology of computer fabrication in our practice. Let me mention something about how technology can redefine programs in architecture. In the past five years our work has explored a new intersection between architectural building materials and digital technologies. We are particularly interested in the intersection of organized digital illumination, electronic controls and information. We asked ourselves how the miniaturization of cool, energy efficient flexible microcircuits can change the character of existing building materials and the ways in which technology is thought of, delivered and distributed in architecture. We are interested in architecture of performative surfaces; each project presents its own
opportunities and advances the research for the next project. One of the fundamental concepts weâ€™ve worked with is the idea of integrating digital technologies within material hosts. This is a core concept in our work and we hold some key patents in this area. I think there is a lot of room to grow with this direction, we are currently working on bio-engineered wood products and smart fabrics as integration media. Even these very specific material research topics wouldnâ€™t be possible without the exercise of the architectural imagination that leads us to thinking about architecture and technology in new ways.
Dichotomy: What are your feelings on the relationship of architecture to its landscape, in terms of making a reading of, and from there creating a relationship with an existing context?
The idea of context is complicated today. There are historical contexts, physical contexts and the psychological contexts of references and association and cultural evocations. Infrastructure for example, operates on multiple different scales at the same time. On
the one hand you can say infrastructure is urban in scale. You can think about traditional urban infrastructure like waterfront piers or train tracks, roadways or freeways. You can also think about information infrastructure; wireless operating systems, cell phone repeaters, transformer “hotels” and networks that exist in the city. On the other hand infrastructure is also architectural in scale. It operates and manifests itself at the building scale in corridors, vertical circulation, spaces that have to do with storage and building systems-HVAC and so forth. But you can also say that infrastructure exists at the scale of the detail in conductive and responsive building materials. Here the very thinnest, smallest spaces between different layers of plywood cake on the scale of cities.
Dichotomy: In your work, what is your process of material selection, and what role do you feel the issue of materiality plays in architecture?
It’s clear chat materials are becoming increasingly important as our culture begins to acknowledge the interrelations between the physical and digital realms. Our discipline traditionally has exercised material selection after an architectural idea was established. In fact, there is a term in specifications and construction documents called “finishes” where materials and their treatments are noted. This implies that an architectural idea is separable from materials. But I think in some ways the opposite is also true today. We can start with a material, and then extract from it a set of performances and perceptions, a set of experiential ideas. In our practice, what we are trying to do is develop what we call an affective architecture of materials. We are thinking about materials that are capable of creating an atmosphere or establishing an emotional valance to a project. Many of the materials that we might use are highly charged; they enjoy a certain kind of paradoxical relationship that we can a material predicament. 2 X 4s for example are made of pine, a wood type that occurs in nature. But if you look at the way in which pine is cultivated, grown and harvested it is definitely a mechanized and highly artificial process. Plywood marks the modern embodiment of mechanized wood. Today we might imagine materials such as digital or bio-engineered wood. Materials embody processes and concepts that cross back and forth between natural and artificial referents. Rather than picking a material to represent something we like to pick a material for predicaments and possibilities that it evokes. This is one of the reasons why materials are so highly charged from an affective or emotional point of view. Architecture is the choreography and design of a particular kind of experience that Materials create. Instead of thinking of materials as “finishes”, they are a more primary or an initial part of design thinking. There is a lot of interest in materials today. But there is not a lot
of consensus about a material history. To design with a material we need to discover the history of that material -- how it has been used in the past, how that material is manufactured, what it’s kind of cultural set of uses or applications has been. Architects can’t really afford to be naive about materials, as if they materials were raw, primary matter. More often than not materials are secondary or even tertiary by-products. It is these layers of association that interest us when we are developing materials for a project. When you understand the idea of material history you can begin to think about how you yourself as a designer are going to position the materials you use.
Dichotomy: In your work, how do you anticipate the future of architecture? Sheila:
In some cases our clients do ask us to try to anticipate the future because we are given assignments to find applications for certain technologies with designated two, five or even ten year horizons. It’s obviously very challenging; because of course it
is completely impossible to foresee the future. We try to find the soft or vulnerable conditions in the present moment and project those forward, so that that imaginative projection can lead towards a set of ideas that have a coherent logic to them. Right now we are working on two projects where we have really been asked to imagine the future and to design for a moment that is still applicable in the present. I think that also it is important to understand the future as a series of developments of which some have already occurred. It may seem strange but sometimes to anticipate the future you really need to go back and understand what the near future has been, what the steps are that have lead up to the present moment. This history of developments is the springboard for speculation that might allow for a jump into the future. We do not think about the future as a redemptive future, or a perfect future in a golden world. Rather the future is a moment in time when maybe certain existing difficulties have been surmounted, but new problems have also been created. For example, consider the development of synthesized polymers that can be charged with electricity. These arrays can be organized with inexpensive microÂprocessors to give off light and display information. Hi performance polymers were discovered two decades ago, and the physics is there to support bright, energy efficient LEPâ€™s in millions of colors. But currently maximum dimensions are driven by market considerations. Two by three inches is size of pagers and cell phones and palm pilots, the things that you probably have in your bags. But in considering the future, it is fairly certain that breakthroughs in the deposition process will allow these molecules to be organized and synthesized on very large sheets. Very affordable, large area depositions can be anticipated. And at that moment the nature of the applications LEPs and OLEDs will change very radically. Anticipating the future is not utopian, it is simply about getting beyond typical applications for technologies that exist at the current moment. Theoretically if these things can be engaged in glass or polymer hosts, they can be embedded in other materials, and connected to different kinds of sensors and activators. Sheet materials can display information, conduct infrastructure or become a source of illumination. When programs get into walls, the relationship between spaces, materials and activities changes and there are interesting possibilities for architecture. Itâ€™s interesting because sometimes the future we project can actually influence the present by demonstrating what can be possible.
VOLUME 15, Ground, 2004
[Investigation in] Electrorganic Landscapes Julie Ju-Youn Kim DETROIT FAIRYTALES: SUSPENDING DISBELIEF 1 Julie Ju-Youn Kim, AIA Associate Chair and Director of Undergraduate Studies, School of Architecture, Georgia Institute of Technology The essay, “[investigations in] electrorganic landscapes” includes projects executed in my own office circa late 1990s, early 2000s. At the time when we were creating them, we saw the condition of Detroit as one ripe with potential. We could see the opportunities in the attenuated fabric and were keenly interested in understanding the culture of the place. Detroit’s history of innovation, progress, and development holds the potential to catalyze the transformation of the city. Considered collectively, they can influence limitless efforts to effect change on the urban landscape. Architecture speaks to optimism, and we remain fundamentally committed to the city as a site for architecture. We are invested to building into the city as opposed to putting buildings in the city. As I revisit this essay, it strikes me how our ambition to reclaim Detroit was, in essence, to re-frame the context. We saw our speculative work as mirrors for our professional efforts with experimental concepts on the freeways and new paradigms for living. These are our fairytales. Technology renders the city transparent. In 1994, when we, Paul Matelic and Julie Kim, coined that phrase, we imagined technology held the capacity to re-present and re-frame the physical condition of a place. It is interesting to see today, in 2019, with Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality, that technology has, indeed, transformed cities. Technology is ubiquitous now. However, at the time of the speculative projects featured in this essay, we were riding on the front crest of the wave and were deeply fascinated with the implications of a digital infrastructure on the physical conditions of space and place. I am both a practitioner and an educator. Via these intertwined roles, I have sought to extend Detroit’s legacy of innovation and offer a way to see Detroit through architecture and the inherently hopeful acts of making and building. As architects, we are choreographers of experiences, memories, and place. Via our creative efforts, we are storytellers. My Detroit stories are about what was there, what is to come, and the suspension of disbelief. 1
Note that the projects included in [investigations in] electrorganic landscapes were generated in the 1990s so much of what we considered at that time is now dated and/or obsolete. It is, however, interesting to look at the issues we grappled with from today’s perspective and to see how much of it was prophetic.
[Investigation in] Electrorganic LANDSCAPES By Julie Ju-Youn Kim
Since 1993, we have been interested in the exploration of the integration between digital technology, landscape and architecture; and an investigation how technology, a re-defined vehicle, impacts the existing framework of our suburbs and cities, as the automobile did in the early 1900s. To specifically address the opportunities to merge architecture, landscape, the body and technology, we have engaged in a series of the theoretical studies, two of which I will describe in this essay. (figure 01). The social, cultural and technological landscape is fluid and in constant state of flux. Seedingmotors and re-/COMMUNITY, the design projects presented here, only suggest possible first steps in addressing questions and thoughts spanning nearly a decade of development and progress. A series of questions established the framework for investigation. What happens when the gap between the physical and the electronic is blurred, giving rise to a new hybrid territory? What is that territory and how can it be defined? How will digital technology as the new vehicle impact the urban fabric of architecture and landscape? What is the relationship of the body as a physical presence to technology as a transparent? What are the possibilities when technology is merged with tectonics resulting in a tangible membrane through we perceive? what is the garden? And the machine? (figure 02).
Fig 1: Technology renders the city apparent
The evolving electronic and cinematic means of transportation shape space in much the same way the automobile shaped the layout of our cities. This ‘vehicle,’ the static one, is digital. Very unlike the car and the highways, however, this digital device suggests a transparent infrastructure, having a catalytic impact on the status quo. The effect on quotidian life is potentially enormous. Popular cinema postulates a future where “real” space is a luxury, and existence is at the mercy of mechanized cyborgs or agents. What we refer to here are popular movies such as The Matrix, where questions of what is real versus what is in the mind form the basis for the plot. In The Matrix, the Agents, hyper-human beings with an ability to morph and assume different physical characteristics, seek rebels who dare to tamper with the system and eliminate them. Reality, as it turns out, is not what one believes and all that we experience is contrived and manipulated by an intricate network of technology and infrastructure.
INVESTIGATION IN ELECTRORGANIC LANDSCAPES
Fig 2: Objects in the shell
Fig 3a: Detroit 2000
RoboCop, another futuristic science fiction thriller presents a highly mechanized, finetuned cyborg human whose mission is to fight crime in an apocalyptic grim world. Others such as BladeRunner, The Fifth Element, Total Recall, among others all offer post-urban settings with similar structure. We would argue, however, organic space is not on the verge of obsolescence. Instead, this static vehicle suggests a fluid landscape where technology becomes tangible; architecture is the backdrop; and the corporeal body is the modifier.
Fig 3b: Detroit 2000
We define the ubiquitous layer of technology as the tectonic filter or membrane through which we perceive and experience. With this understanding, the architecture and the landscape collectively are interchangeable components acting as the invisible framework, against which this tactile membrane is experienced, leading to a re-defined logic between architecture, landscape and the physical body. The matrix, the enclosure, is electronic. seedlingmotors and re-/COMMUNITY, both set in Detroit, Michigan, examine this electectonic relationship and suggest that the line separating the organic and the in-organic is hazy, encouraging larger margins for overlap and intersections. They suggest post-urban worlds where the physical and electronic architecture/landscape is raw, fluid, permeable and apocalyptic. It is intriguing to imagine a world/landscape at the global, local, and metaphorical level that is fluid where technology becomes tangible and tactile and architecture, in the normative sense,
Fig 3c: Prairieweb
is the backdrop. I should deviate here and point out these technocratic ideologies are not new and, in fact, are parallel to the attitudes of Archigram in the 1960s. As Warren Chalk stated, their aim was to portray a new reality where the ideas are “a new vernacular something to stand alongside the space capsules, computers, and throwaway pages of an atomic electronic age.” Peter Cook and others in Archigram questioned the role of technology and argued the necessary emergence of new kinds of architectural landscapes. The body of work by Archigram members is characterized by a definite futuristic quality, evidenced in Ron Herron’s Walking Cities (1964) or Peter Cook’s Plug-in City (1964). However, as Kenneth Frampton suggests, “the commitment of Archigram to a high-tech, lightweight infrastructural approach brings them to indulge in ironic forms of science fiction, rather than to project solutions that were either truly indeterminate or capable of being realized and appropriated by society.” Although both seedlingmotors and reCOMMUNITY are speculations of a future landscape and existence, we believe in the
feasibility/realization of both proposals. Because our bodies are material and tangible, it is possible to enhance the technological through the organic. We are very real and very present. Both design projects propose there is a blended territory between technology and life; between architecture/landscape and the human body. This new space suggests opportunities for amplified connections., both physical and electronic. Organic architecture/landscape melt together to become the backdrop; technology renders the physical transparent. Detroit, Michigan is not a suburb but does exhibit curious juxtapositions of the urban and the rural. (figures 03a-03c) The once distinct edges of the urban fabric have become increasingly difficult to read. Land, surrounding the city, once belonging to the agricultural community has been consumed and regurgitated in a perverse after-life identified by empty [meaningless] descriptions, such as Rolling Pines Estates or White Place. (figure 04). Territories once centers of industry and commerce within the city edges have imploded, leaving holes or gaps, influencing
INVESTIGATION IN ELECTRORGANIC LANDSCAPES
Fig 5: Warehouse: Davis House
the estate of a reverse entropy, where the city is deteriorating form the inside-out. The remains of a once-great city lead to as ort of industrial residue. Hulking shells of masonry with steel skeletal systems stand silent as if waiting for the next life. Seedling trees, without the benefit of maintenance, have flourished for four decades or more and now tower in areas once belonging to the factory. Pheasants and prairie grass populate ghostly remains of once stately neighborhoods as the Detroit urban landscape returns to nature. In Making a Middle Landscape, Peter Rowe talks about the merging of urban and rural landscapes in the formation of suburbia and proposes an augmented vision for a modern pastoralism. On the one hand, he says, “We have the powerful image of Thomas Pynchon’s printed circuit crisscrossing a valley landscape (in other words, a place dominated by flows of information rather than place) and, on the other, we have Thoreau’s primitive hut out of the wilderness. By avoiding such extremes,
we can establish a more complex and inherently interesting equation between pastoralism and the modern technical temperament, one that can be used to critical advantage. The machine must be able to qualify the garden and vice versa. It is the emergent dialectical relationship that is of interest, not simply the terms themselves. However, the task still remains to put the machine in the garden, or, if we choose to come at it from the other direction to put the garden around the machine.” Because of the unique setting in Detroit, there is the possibility to re-examine the notion of the machine in the garden. (figure 05) We suggest the necessary engagement of the physical architecture with its setting can be transformed by and extended with permeable transparent layers of digital technology, and then collapsed or merged, presenting a compelling proposal for a different kind of elec-tectonic landscape. As this threshold between city and non-city grows increasingly wider and hazier, a new kind of threshold becomes possible, perhaps a hybrid territory that occupies the intermediate dimension between the real and the imagined; between the organic and the electronic. Detroit’s urban condition is provocative. The parallels between the direct physical impact of the automobile in the past and the network overlay of digital technology of the present are worth some discussion. What is interesting to note is a little known fact linking Henry Ford I to the development of paved roadways. Ford instituted the “seedling mile”
Fig 6: Seedlingmotors
where he selected one-mile strips of the worse conditions of roads and had them paved, forecasting the future possibilities of roads to come. 1908 and 1909 saw concrete, ultimately the solution for all paved roads, used on a county road in Detroit, Michigan. Success was an aphrodisiac. Neighborhoods with bigger and more expensive houses continued to develop further and further form the cityâ€™s core, necessitating more roadways and expressways. A web of overpasses, service roads, mile roads, and freeways became the threads of this new fabric of the city, chalking the life out of old neighbors in the spirit of progress. With the ubiquity and integration of digital technology and the idea of a transparent infrastructure, the condition of space and place can be examined. Historically, city to city connections via the interstate were measured in both time and distance. As cities become increasingly de-territorialized in physical space, concurrently with an equal level of connectivity through dataspace, the idea that space itself is more about travel versus inhabitation in
Fig 7: Seedlingmotors
a normative sense suggest a new network of tangible and intangible intersections between architecture and landscape. The vehicle enabling hyper-movement enhances the individual. Just as the automobile empowered the body, the questions here are â€˜how does the electronic vehicle empower not only the user, but the bystander as well? And, where exactly is that threshold between the physical and the digital?â€™
INVESTIGATION IN ELECTRORGANIC LANDSCAPES
ground plane are multi-bay incubator spaces for entrepreneurial pilot industries that eventually move out into the community, enabling another venture to take its place. The cyclical relationship between the architecture and the landscape is magnified and strengthened as seedlingmotors acts as a reverse catalyst, empowering and rejuvenating neighborhoods one block at a time.
Fig 8: Seedling Tower
IN SEARCH OF THE ELECTEC-TONIC Seedlingmotors Seedlingmotors’ physical architecture is an industrial warehouse typology, articulated as a series of towers elevated on pilotis piercing an articulated ground plinth. Daring to defy the “edge” and cross it at an urban scale, the towers are perched precariously on the freeway retaining wall as witness to the artificial river of automotive travel. (figure 06) Underneath the
The complexity and flexibility brought about by technology opens up a way of overcoming the concept of the ground as simply a tray upon which buildings are placed. In seedlingmotors, the ground plane is de-laminated as a hardscape layer -- an artificial ground plinth supporting both figuratively and literally, the seedling towers above. The business zones located within the earth exist both because of the urban condition and in spite of it. The spaces below the articulated ground plinth are defined by multi-bay spaces for light manufacturing and / or technology based industries, run by the residents of seedlingmotors, eventually moving out not the community after an incubation period. A new topography is inscribed, one in the urban context; one which is both about the physical state of being as well as a portal to a border-less place, described as the matrix. The organic and the electronic both flow in a continuous line, completing each other and filling all the gaps. The landscape itself becomes the architecture. Seedlingmotors describes a condition where the movement through the elec-tectonic
Fig 9: Seedling Tower
landscape is fluid. The idea of meeting at the coffeehouse to interact with other individuals takes on an entirely new meaning. Because of the seamless interface between the digital and the physical, the margins between the real and the imagine are diffuse, always evolving and changing. Because of the ability to dissolve into the margin between organic and in-organic, collective activities take on new meaning. The town square is re-born as the new information square. What is also intriguing about the concept behind seedlingmotors are the opportunities for both tangible and intangible intersections between the architecture and the landscape, at both a macro scale as well as at the microscale of the human body. (figure 07) Our bodies become the filter or threshold through which we experience this brave new world. Our senses are amplified because of this electronic layer through which we metaphorically pass. This threshold is what is of interest here, as it defines a zone of suspended disbelief, where inside is outside, physical is digital, form is
Fig 10: Warehouse
form-less. The root of the word “matrix” is womb and is defined as “an enclosure form which something originates or begins.” The matrix describes the spatial condition of this hybrid threshold; it is electronic and tangible. It is a blended territory between the organic and the electronic, between technology and life. (figures 08-09)
INVESTIGATION IN ELECTRORGANIC LANDSCAPES
Fig 11: Towerhouse
Fig 14: Electrorganic Landscape
Fig 12: Towerhouse
re-/COMMUNITY Based on the style of industrial architecture originally developed in Detroit, the living warehouses are simplified to structure, services and skin. A steel and concrete structure provides the endurance and flexibility required to withstand an evolving urban environment. The warehouses provide a backdrop for the super-juxtaposition of the dynamic, everevolving labyrinth of life. The architecture becomes an extension of the body where walls become skins. On the north side, a fortified concrete edge houses the mechanical, electrical, and technological infrastructure, with the remaining skins acting as diaphanous layers wrapped on a steel skeleton. Screen walls deliver a constant stream of information as well as accept communication from the inhabitant. The transfiguration of a normative door into the dataspace within the circuit boards of our electronic devices acts as a threshold bet ween the real and the imagined. The containers for living dissolve into the background as the technology is made tactile-- a hypersurface allowing the inter section between the electronic and the organic. re-/COMMUNITY, as a prototypical environment, suggests that the warehouse/ home is the map for a post- industrial landscape. Like seedlingmotors, the relationship between the abstract and the tangible, the garden and the machine, are tested, explored, exploded-leading to a transformed reading of the environment at both macro and microscales. (figure 10) Architecture as a physical manifestation
Fig 13: Warehouse. Davis House
takes on a different meaning as that which is tangible within an electronic setting. Where seedlingmotors examines landscape with architecture at an urban scale, re-/ COMMUNITY explores this idea of landscape and architecture at the scale of the house, where wearable manifestations of technology suggest a new blueprint for living. The body is architecture is landscape is electronic. In the warehouse/HOME the architecture is the meeting ground between the body and technology. The local landscape of the human skin is amplified and extended by the electronic
INVESTIGATION IN ELECTRORGANIC LANDSCAPES
devices within the domestic space. Like the knight in his suit of armor, the individual wears his/her house. Spaces for living and working become blurred and indistinct from each other. The margins between the body and the architecture become hazy. (figures 11-12) The result is a sort of hybridization of space, place, and time. The house becomes a technologically extended organism, defined by the inhabitant. It becomes a living system. In the warehouse/HOME in re-/ COMMUNITY is a prosthetic device for its inhabitant. The architecture itself is an extension of the boy; its edges wrapping the figure inside, just as the fetus is wrapped in the womb. Returning to the root of the word “matrix,” this local landscape is the originator; it is the beginning--the threshold to the hybrid territory. Like seedlingmotors, the opportunity to re-define the notion of the door as the wall that melts into the dataspace suggest a fluid and apocalyptic world. The container for living dissolves into the background as the body is amplified though the interaction with the zone located somewhere between nature and artifice.
THE MATRIX: Revisited [or a prologue for a post-organic future] seedlingmotors and re/COMMUNITY speculate an apocalyptic landscape augmented by digital technologies, leading to a re-defined Detroit context. The imminent condition of space and placelessness offers the possibilities of more physical connections than before. The vacuous dystopia, the suburbs, will
become obsolete and this middle ground will be redefined and experienced as a magnified threshold. The zone is physical is electronic is fluid. Information will be disseminated, digested, and re-born. This electronic-scape is dynamic, existing because of the human element; unlike the current highways, existing in spite of the human element. The physical body enhances the invisible yet tactile electronic cloak as we occupy a hazy space made possible by digital infrastructures. The fact we are, in fact, sensual beings offer opportunities for transformed sensations of touch, of sight, of taste. The body itself is a fabric into which all things are woven. The notion of house as a prosthetic device will continue to amplify the relationship between architecture and landscape at both a localized scale of the human body and at a global scale as machines in the garden. (figure 13) The question here is what is the machine? Is it the architecture? Or do we, enhanced by digital interface, become these instruments? As Peter Rowe argued, “it is the time emergent dialectical relationship that is of interest, not simply the terms themselves. However, the task still remains to put the machine in the garden, or if we choose to come at it form the other direction, to put the garden around the machine.” As Detroit continues to evolve in reverse, it will emerge as the electronic landscape where technology becomes tangible; architecture is the backdrop; and the corporeal body is the modifier. The garden is the matrix. And the future is an electrorganic landscape. [figure 14].
End Notes 1)
ElectronicLANDSCAPES, a word originated by this author, describes a body of research initiated during post-graduate study. The term is not intended to be all-inclusive, but, rather, encompasses investigations of digital interface with physical membranes, of the human body as metaphor for architecture, and of craftsmanship enhanced by technologies. The merging of the electronic + organic describes a condition which this author believes to be a map of the future landscape at both macro and micro readings. The work discussed in this essay are the result of a collaborative partnership with Paul Kevin Matelic. Currently, explorations have been realized through original theoretical studies accompanied by reflections as a post-analysis, leading to the next set of questions.
To place our intentions within a context, in 1993, the Internet was just beginning to become more mainstream. Widespread speculations and predictions for the future suggested a digital present, where virtual experiences superseded physical realities. Most embraced this e-movement, while others pessimistically predicted a bleak future where human interaction would cease and we would al be “wired for living.” Paperless studios and offices were offered as the direction for the future. E-commerce and e-money were going to be the new economy. An e-topia, as coined by William Mitchell, was going to take over life as we knew it. (William J. Mitchell, Dean of the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, authored the term “e-topia” in describing the condition of electronic interface. He published a book, entitled e-topia: Urban life, Jim, but not as we know it in 1999). Paul Virilio confidently stated, “…with the disappearance of the architectonic to an electronic means of creating space, we will live everywhere, simultaneously.”
At the time (and still), I believed I a more optimistic view of an e-topian landscape. Within the current context of 2004, both Virilio’s and Mitchell’s projections for what the future held seems naïve, and perhaps, too big. Throughout history, advancements in technologies, from the horse and carriage to the horseless carriage to telephones and airplanes, have been met with a certain amount of trepidations as well as uneasy acceptance. It is easy to make projections for a fantastical future based on all we do not know yet.
Warren Chalk, ‘Architecture as Consumerist Product.’ The Japan Architect, 165, 1970, p. 37.
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Kenneth Frampton, Modern Architecture: A Critical History (New York: Thames and Hudson, Inc., 1985), 281.
Peter Rowe, Making a Middle Landscape (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1991), 250.
seedlingmotors provides a technology/information-based community at the intersection of I-75 and Woodward Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. The project engages the city along two of its major axes: one which built and reinforced the city (Woodward Ave) and one which divided it (I-75). By blurring the edge of the highway with new construction, the territory is reclaimed, metaphorically bridging the highway and extending the city’s boundaries. The project itself is organized as a pedestrian scaled, mixed-use urban community. The recreational node, along Woodward Avenue, provides experimental theatres and dance clubs and cafes. It extends the theatre district across I-75 and becomes the new ‘gateway’ to the downtown. The production zone at the northern edge of the site provides multibay spaces for entrepreneurial individuals. At the southern edge of the site, with a view to the city sky line, the residential zone includes a series of linear studio/housing towers. They are ‘warehouses’ with tele-networking facilities locally as well as globally through the Internet. The community becomes both technologically and physically interlinked serving as a support network to investigate and develop business opportunities.
Because of the increasing levels of superconnectivity and the endless buzz of email, cellular phones, PDA’s , wearable computing devices, the places for interchange between people take on new meaning. Nodes exist alongside the networks. Territories are becoming de-materialized and yet we are connected in more ways than before.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000)
Peter Rowe, making a Middle Landscape (Cambridge, MIT Press, 1991), 250
Volume 16, Trash, 2004
filum aquae: The Thread of the Stream Ronit Eisenbach Upon Reflection Ronit Eisenbach, 2019 The work, filum aquae: From Mouth to Mouth began with the consideration of a line on a map— the international border between Windsor, Canada and Detroit, Michigan that runs through the Detroit River—and the gaps that exist between the experience of place and its representations. These gaps are felt with particular clarity in Detroit where a sense of place is tempered by knowledge of the versions that preceded the current city. As a result, the standard representations of the city that describe only what is physically present now appear incapable of capturing critical information that contributes to the perceived character and experience of the city today. Representations that include what we see, know, and imagine might assist the City project itself into the future. The Detroit River presented an opportunity to examine the relationships between representation, spatial experience, and knowledge, particularly the contradiction between what we see and what we know. The border is a political construct described in the abstract language of mathematics. On the map, it is a plane with no thickness. From the air, one views a continuous vista with no physical breaks, just the river that connects and separates a territory. There is no physical expression of the border that one could understand without prior knowledge of its existence. The reality is that the international border, a political and cultural construct, divides the river and this area into two territories. Knowledge of the border transforms our understanding of the river and its two banks, which consequently effects our sense of place and creates an experiential dimension. This border condition—the contradiction between what we see and what we know can be explored by adopting a strategy that conflates and inverts these relationships. In October 1999, I set out with the goal of inhabiting and tracing this invisible line and by doing so transform the representation of the border from a cartographic line into a place. From the vantage of this linear non-place, I imagined that I would be able to see into two worlds simultaneously and find ways to represent phenomenological, geographical, and political understandings that contribute to our experience of place. With a crew of students, I set out, guided by the dashed line indicating the border’s existence on a paper map, a set of coordinates marking its path, and three invisible orbiting satellites.
filum aquae: The Thread of the Stream1 Ronit Eisenbach
The work, filum aquae: From Mouth to Mouth began with the consideration of a line on a map—the international border between Windsor, Canada and Detroit, Michigan that runs through the Detroit River—and the gaps that exist between the experience of place and its representations. These gaps are felt with particular clarity in Detroit where a sense of place is tempered by knowledge of the versions that preceded the current city. As a result, the standard representations of the city that describe only what is physically present now appear incapable of capturing critical information that contributes to the perceived character and experience of the city today. Representations that include what we see, know, and imagine might assist the City project itself into the future. The Detroit River presented an opportunity to examine the relationships between representation, spatial experience, and knowledge, particularly the contradiction between what we see and what we know. The border is a political construct described in the abstract language of mathematics. On the map, it is a plane with no thickness. From the air, one views a continuous vista with no physical breaks, just the river that connects and separates a territory. There is no physical expression of
Latent in the shared edge between two political entities are change and negotiation.
the border that one could understand without prior knowledge of its existence. The reality is that the international border, a political and cultural construct, divides the river and this area into two territories. Knowledge of the border transforms our understanding of the river and its two banks, which consequently effects our sense of place and creates an experiential dimension. This border condition—the contradiction between what we see and what we know can be explored by adopting a strategy that conflates and inverts these relationships. In October 1999, I set out with the goal of inhabiting and tracing this invisible line and by doing so transform the representation of the border from a cartographic line into a place. From the vantage of this linear nonplace, I imagined that I would be able to see into two worlds simultaneously and find ways
FILUM AQUAE: THE THREAD OF THE STREAM
Knowledge of the border divides an apparently singular territory into two.
to represent phenomenological, geographical, and political understandings that contribute to our experience of place. With a crew of students, I set out, guided by the dashed line indicating the border’s existence on a paper map, a set of coordinates marking its path, and three invisible orbiting satellites. This paper describes that journey and the resultant multimedia exhibition at Canada’s Art Gallery of Windsor shown in 2000.
In Spite of (or Perhaps, Because of)3 As places of meeting and separation, borders carry contradicting ideas. These thoughts and reflections were with us at the outset of our journey and developed as we traveled, shifting what we thought we knew.
Experience & Representation In spite of the ways our experience of place combines what we see, know, and imagine, our representations fail to describe the intertwining of visible and invisible objects and to convey the complexity of spatial experience. Or perhaps, because of the ways our representations reflect one or another set of assertions, we emphasize one set of viewpoints over another, include one set of objects over another. By experiencing a place we’ve only visited through maps, we gain a better understanding of the limitations imposed on our thinking about and understanding of place through our descriptions.
Perception and Knowledge In spite of the fact that we can’t see, touch, taste, hear, or smell the border as it runs along with
Photomap detail at the Ambassador Bridge.
the river, knowledge of its existence and history significantly effects our actions and experience of the Detroit River, including its two banks and two facing cities, Windsor and Detroit. Knowledge of the border divides an apparently singular territory into two.
Or perhaps, because of the absence of visible or physical evidence of the border, the uncontested and quiet nature of the border at this particular time allows us to imagine its absence entirely and to assert the reality of spatial contiguity in the face of territorial partition and cultural difference.
Overlap and Exclusion In spite of overlapping of perceptual, political, and geological territories, we manage to hold these simultaneous conditions in mind, and also negotiate their inherent contradictions. Or perhaps, because of the ways in which the Detroit River’s borderlands are simultaneously three overlapping territories, each with its own rules, viewpoints, and priorities, the border is a potential porthole where people and goods can shift between social and economic realities, as
well as a potential barrier, limiting access and exchange.
Change and Negotiation In spite of the fact that today, this section of border is peaceful and porous, exemplifying a situation of mutual cooperation, shared interest, and the downplaying of cultural difference, it hasn’t always been this way. Latent in the shared edge between two political entities are change and negotiation. By definition, the border is a threshold for exchange, a place of multiple possibilities, as well as potential conflict and potential partnership. Or perhaps, because of the differences of economy, culture, law, power, and opportunity on either side of the border there are efforts to cross from one political reality to another. Fugitive slaves escaping to Canada, rumrunners during Prohibition, and draft evaders during the Vietnam era all exploited this condition. Even today, the border’s porosity depends on who you are, why you’re crossing, and what you’re carrying.
FILUM AQUAE: THE THREAD OF THE STREAM
This Plane and Thick Threshold In spite of geometry, cartography, and international law that define the border as an infinitely high and infinitely thin transparent plane that cleaves the Detroit River, from Windsor or Detroit, the geological separation of the two cities dominates; in our experience the plane thickens, and the width of the river appears as a tangible threshold between the two countries. Or perhaps, because of our ability to assimilate differences in definitions and representations, and the way that objects behave in the space of action, the river can be simultaneously perceived as both whole and partitioned. Perhaps this understanding of overlapping categories and the limits of representation that persuades us to impose the logic of one way of thinking on the world of another.
infinitely thin plane, a threshold, a beginning, an ending, a porthole, or a wall that is simultaneously porous and opaque—it is never a space to be inhabited.
Perhaps, because of these and a host of other paradoxical and alluring reasons, I wished to trace the borderline in the River and represent this line as real based in my experience of the world. And perhaps because of these issues I chose to superimpose the logic of representation, the mapmaker’s dashed boundary line, on the space of lived experience to define a way of inhabiting the river and incorporating these paradoxes into my being.
Contradictions, Action and Representation In spite of intertwining experience and representation, the contradictions of perception and knowledge, the simultaneous overlap and exclusion of worlds, the potential for conflict and the necessity of negotiation, there are gaps between the idea of the border and its signs, effects, and manifestations.
Intersection of Geoffrey James photo of Mexican/American borderline and filum aquae installation.
In spite of the fact that the borderline can be described and experienced in so many contradictory ways—as an idea, an edge, an Initial view of installation from museum entry.
phenomenological, geographical, and political understandings in our experience of space. The crew consisted of myself and three University of Detroit Mercy Architecture students: Tim Rooney, Theresa Rossmiller and Adam Stadt, in addition to Alexis Cardoza, high school student, boat owner and captain.
Reading the newspapers.
Voyage: Tracing the Thread of the Stream A map is a dreaming device: a representation through which we imagine journeys to other places. This work began with these thoughts and the consideration of a line on a map— the international border between Windsor and Detroit—and the desire to inhabit this plane of space that cleaves the Detroit River in two yet has no physical or visible counterpart. Our river voyage had the goal of inhabiting and tracing this invisible line; and to find ways to represent the interrelationships of
We gathered for seven journeys. Winter approached, the leaves turned, and the river’s water level dropped with each voyage. Our vehicle, a little red motorboat open to the sky and equipped with a Jet Ski engine without a propeller, was repeatedly hampered by reeds and river grass that we had to scoop out of the icy water. Alexis steered and kept the boat going. The rest of us alternated videotaping directly ahead and behind, photographing to the right and left, and navigating. This was the first project that I have worked on that was so dependent upon weather and luck. At 5:00 am, before we were to set sail, we checked the forecast and then called each other to decide whether to go ahead as planned. Time was running out. We had no idea how long it would take to trace the boundary line, or how long the weather would hold. The boat was docked at Grosse Isle, an island on the US side located downriver from Windsor and Detroit. The island was notorious for protecting smugglers during Prohibition. Today it is an upscale, quiet, almost rural, residential community. Within the commuting distance from Detroit, it maintains a serious boat
FILUM AQUAE: THE THREAD OF THE STREAM
culture. Teenagers often receive boat licenses before they complete drivers’ education. We had to abandon our first attempt to trace the line. Seaweed choked our motor and we realized we lacked an adequate system to precisely locate the border or to rigorously document the view. Our second attempt was more successful. We sped downriver to the mouth of Lake Erie and into a fogbank. When we looked toward the center of the lake, we couldn’t make out the form of any object or land. When the motor stopped, we heard sounds not heard closer to Detroit: buoys clanging, gulls screeching, the hum of airplanes overhead, and the water and wind engaging objects and surfaces with more or less force. Until this moment, I had only looked at the river; I’d never been on it. Prior to this work, I had blithely assigned the river to the realm of nature in contrast to Detroit’s urban construction. But my notion of nature was very flat, lacking dimension. These journeys altered that idea for me. From the perspective of a boat, the river unfolded, the water and sky in colors, new sounds with familiar noises quieted. Wind, current, and speed intertwined and reinforced the potential threat of weather. At the same time, my idealized image of the river as the embodiment of nature required reevaluation. A quick study of this river’s history and its charts revealed hidden actions and rules. The river had been altered through dredging and filling. And tough invisible to
Display of Photomap.
Initial view of Project Gallery exterior from second floor entry. Stencil of Detroit River and window to Project Gallery.
Peeking through window into the Project Gallery.
observers on the shore, one-way shipping lanes used by international freight vessels were marked on navigational charts and delimited in the water by buoys.
This opportunity for observation filled out and diversified my image of the river and its banks. A few snapshots and the residue of human inhabitation, or lack thereof, follow in no particular order. Downriver both banks are swampy. Unlike the shores near Lake St. Clair where steel mills—some closed—edge downtown Detroit, the downriver shores are rural and undeveloped. From the river, Detroit appears quiet and uninhabited. Salt from mines beneath the river is piled along both banks waiting to be picked up by barges. Old concrete dock foundations appear like tombs sinking into the water on the Canadian side just before the Ambassador Bridge. Canada is the US’s second largest trading partner and thousands of trucks cross the bridge every day.
The Installation of filum aquae: From Mouth to Mouth This work aimed to illuminate the contradictory spatial situation of the Detroit/Windsor border by examining in an abstract definition: a folding plane placed in the “thread of the stream,” and the real experience of it as an economic and cultural fissure placed in a singular whole, the river, which is innocent of the political line that runs through it. Gallery viewed from interior.
FILUM AQUAE: THE THREAD OF THE STREAM
The Art Gallery of Windsor is a publicly funded municipal gallery. It receives funding from the Ontario Council for the Arts and the Canada Council. The gallery is one of a series of museums, located throughout Canada, dedicated to bringing art to the general public. Admission is gratis and artists receive a stipend for their work. These public museums have a particular interest in developing art that responds local conditions and questions.
Filum aquae: From Mouth to Mouth was exhibited with other works that focused on the border. These included Niagara: Stitching Freedom: The Underground Railroad Connection and Geoffrey James: Running Fence, which displayed photographs of the wall guarding a portion of the US/Mexico border. Filum aquae comprised three sections, dispersed through the museum. It employed various strategies to convey the border’s complexity and the experience of our voyage.
Newspapers Entering the gallery from the main corridor, viewers saw the front pages of the Windsor Star and the Detroit Free Press presenting what we know and what we bring to our experience of the border—the fact of two countries abutting. Each day, each front page charted the differences and similarities between the two nations. Their adjacent placement encouraged comparison between the news. Rarely did the papers highlight the same story and rarely did
Canadian news appear in the Detroit paper; but US news found its way into the Canadian paper.
Photomap In another area of the museum, a segmented, 90-foot long image presented what our crew saw traveling on the border line on given days during the journey along the river shorelines of both countries. Material for this photographic map was supplied by the systematic and simultaneous documentation from view lines to the right (Canada) and the left (US). On the wall, the image followed the angle of the corresponding border segments. Since the river curves and the border bends in response, these straight-line segments organized our journey and its representation. The photos were keyed to an adjacent chart of the river. A north arrow on the wall corresponded to the north arrow on the chart. This representation enabled the viewer to look simultaneously in opposite directions and at the two territories facing each another. This impossible view is reminiscent of the omniscient eye of the mapmaker and mapreader, one that hovers at a uniform distance above the whole territory at once. It is a view possible only in the imagination. A viewer can’t be in two places at once or see what is in front and behind simultaneously. Unlike a map projection, this photomap of the river and its banks was not an idealized
construct. The journey, the documentation, and the product were all affected by the intertwining of the idea and the physical situation. The speed of the boat, the power of the current, a slight miscalculation in navigation, the boats, buoys, and other objects in our way contributed to a document that intertwines the idea of the border and the reality of that particular voyage.
relationship to the tape line shifted—at times the visitor was led to imagine they were viewing a plan from above; at other times, the line is a horizon and at a crucial juncture, it became a transparent slot revealing spaces hidden within the wall and the gallery beyond. The line, the very sign of the border, has become a porthole penetrating the wall’s boundary
In the center of the photomap, a line is formed where the paired prints meet. The water does not quite match in this space that the boat occupied. This gap is the appearance of the border’s line as it is found in the work. Since this was a documentation of an actual journey, the placement of each photographic pair on top of or under the next one indicates a relation to time. Our actual movement was traced in the layering of the photographs, and embedded time in the work. Unlike in a map, time is explicit in this representation. The photos were taken from a particular place, albeit a “non-place,”at a particular time. The light, objects, and view all reflect the lived condition. The photomap has a beginning and end, just as our journey did.
Highway Tape A constant element throughout the installation was a line of highway tape—the ubiquitous mark that divides our roads into spatial corridors—and which helped create the sense of a journey through the gallery. Through the associations and conventions of symbolic language it also refers to the border and the partition of territory. In the exhibit, the viewer’s
Around the corner from this porthole an image of the river was stenciled on the wall at the entrance to the project gallery. The gallery was the culmination of the installation—an audiovisual experience of the boat’s path, narrowed to the image of the border plane itself. The viewer was invited to physically occupy this dividing line and to imagine inhabiting the plane of space that cleaves the Detroit River in two. The visitor begins in a dark room. Two parallel lines of reflective white highway tape divide the room; the tape is adhered to the floor, walls, and ceiling. At first glance, it appears a transparent plane divides the space. A light box with the Ambassador Bridge photomap segment hangs on the wall opposite the entry and the visitor must pass through the plane to view the image. At one end of the room, a black rectangle is painted on the wall. The sounds of the river are coupled with darkness: the wake of the boat coupled with motor sounds...images of a compressed journey coupled with silence... cerulean blue water in front of the boat coupled
FILUM AQUAE: THE THREAD OF THE STREAM
with motor sounds. Through video, these images are projected on the black rectangle while the sounds fill the room. The highway tape lines reflect the changing color and images and the pieces of the images that fall on the tape are luminescent, appearing to pull forward, away from the wall and into the space. The rest of the image (not “in the plane” of the border) recedes, visible yet dulled by the black paint. Eyes peeking through the porthole view the viewer. Museum visitors were invited to consider how one journey, tracing the border’s line on the Detroit River, was used to construct a second journey, the journey through the gallery, with the intention of raising questions about territories and borders. Altering the experience of space, this work aimed to illuminate the contradictory spatial situations of the Detroit/Windsor border by examining its abstract definition: a folding plane placed in the “thread of the stream” and how it might be inhabited. The combined representations were intended to reflect the ephemeral and contradictory qualities of the experience and the understanding of this line as both an end and beginning. Both thick and thin, absent and present, logical and illogical—a cultural, political, and economic fissure drawn through a body of water.
Reflection This article was originally prepared for the ACSA regional conference, “In Spite of (or perhaps, because of)” held at Arizona State University and appears in the conference proceedings. Over 20 years have passed since I imagined and then traveled the border line running in the Detroit River and separates the United States and Canada. Logic breaks down here our northern ally lies to our south and knowledge tells us that an invisible line divides what appears singular. Unlike the Mexican border, there is still nothing to see here. The international border line is held within the outlines of an international shipping corridor. Fish, water, birds, air, all cross and re-cross this territory without impediment. In 2018, Maria Jose, student editor of this issue of Dichotomy described her daily border crossing in this way, “The questions asked are straightforward and routine. After a while this process becomes a part of your everyday morning, but ultimately it creates a sense of division, a clear [distinction] between the two territories.” This line was a potent place to follow a ludicrous idea to its illogical conclusion, for though invisible and intangible, the border’s power to separate and sort is constantly upheld and recharged “through an infinite number of daily questions and practices.” We have just experienced the longest US government shutdown ever. Ostensibly this impasse is about building a wall on the US/
Mexico border, completing a division that already exists in law, through surveillance and that, in some places, already has a physical expression. It is, in fact, an architecture that filters, divides, defines, delineates, contains, and holds back human beings. Unlike the invisible, insubstantial US/ Canadian border in the Detroit River, if built this impenetrable divider will also hold back creatures, will severing their habitat and according to environmentalists cause major harm to wildlife some that are already endangered.4 What is behind this “wall” is an effort to change identity and ideology, how the US is represented and sees itself. If built it will be tangible evidence of an effort to re-present what America is and stands for, an ideological and identity shift from the country that welcomed my grandparents and generations of other immigrants to a version that returns to a sorting of “good” and “bad” immigrants. Like the maps we draw and interpret, which includes some parts of reality and excludes others, this representation of the border like all such representations reflects an ideology that impacts our future. In hindsight, filum aquae reads as a call to action, a process that literally took place, a celebration of access and the free movement of ideas, people, objects, and life; the elevation of what is unseen into the conversation about what we should and should not make.
FILUM AQUAE: THE THREAD OF THE STREAM
Endnotes 1) 2)
filum aquae - “the thread of the stream’ Is a term used In the negotiation of terrltorlal boundaries set within a body of water. This project was made posslble wit support from the University of Detroit Mercy and the Art Gallery of Windsor Speclal thanks to the crew, Tim Rooney Theresa Rossmlller. Adam Stadt and Alexis Cardoza and lnstallatlon assistants. Jeanette Oerowskl Chris Pomodoro. Michael Trudeau. and Brian Dubois This artlcle was orlglnally prepared for the ACSA regional conference. In Spite of (or perhaps. because of)’’ held at Arizona State University and appears In the conference proceedings. Will Stone, Weekend Edition, NPR March 11, 2017. https://www.npr. org/2017/03/11/519807735/proposed-border-wall-would-affect-many-endangeredspecies Accessed February 6, 2019.
Volume 17, Exchange, 2011
Confetti Tower Ania Jaworska Ania Jaworska is an architectural designer, artist and educator. She received her Masters of Architecture from Cracow University of Technology in Poland, as well as the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. She explores the connection between architecture and art in order to develop new means of architectural practice. Her large scale structures are very simple in appearance yet complex in content and meaning. Her work explores playful and iconic qualities through the use of proportion, form, material and color as well as conceptual, historic and cultural references. Her intent is to create architecture that produces a memorable emotion through work that socially engages the public. She was part of the “Fabrications” exhibition and symposium at the Elaine L. Jacob Gallery in Detroit, and group exhibition at the WUHo Gallery in Los Angeles, entitled 13.3%, “an exasperated reply to those who say: ‘there are no women making architecture.’”
Confetti Tower Ania Jaworska
“Confetti Tower” is a simple, sixteen foot tall structure that blows confetti when activated. This project was completed in 2009 and was presented during two exhibitions. The context in which the tower was exhibited determined the public’s interaction with it, which further extended the social value of the project. My projects are simple in appearance, yet complex in content and meaning. The work explores playful and iconic qualities through the use of proportion, form, material and color as well as conceptual, historic and cultural references. Natural and imaginative elements inform the structure’s shape in order to create an unexpected yet familiar experience for the viewers. I believe that the architecture that we remember is attributed to the emotion associated or conjured by a place or building. These feelings and memories are of detail, color, smell, specific sounds associated with a building, as well as of the people that inhabit a certain environment, along with the history and cultural practice related to the location. I have come to the conclusion that the way I read surrounding architecture is based on its atmosphere as well as my emotional input. For me, architecture is a representation of life and culture. With my work, I aim to transform these encoded memories in order to produce a new experience and establish new metaphors. In this way my work becomes a personal and emotional exchange with the viewer, and this
concept of social exchange is highlighted by the “Confetti Tower”, a structure that connects the public through playful interaction. The simple form of the “Confetti Tower” is inspired by the shape of an industrial exhaust pipe. Instead of hiding it on the back of the building or on the roof, like exhaust pipes usually are, I wanted to expose it on the most prominent site, which is usually an entrance or foyer of a significant building. Instead of blowing hot air the tower blows colorful confetti. I was interested in transforming the existing elements of the infrastructure and creating an iconic form that is unexpected and surprising for the viewer. It is the form that carries references, metaphors and conveys presence, life and emotion to the public. With this project, I pursue playfulness and explore character; as a result the structure appears human-like and ready for motion. The pose it strikes politely welcomes the visitors, and when activated, a blast of confetti engages the public in celebration. “Confetti Tower” was exhibited in 2 different settings, which influenced the way it was activated. The first site was the peristyle of the Cranbrook Art Museum in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan. The reason for celebration was the 2009 Graduate Degree Exhibition of the Cranbrook Academy of Art, titled “Loose Canon”, and it was the first time this project
was shown to the public. The Cranbrook grounds are isolated from the surrounding urban development, as a result only the people who planned to visit the museum had a chance to enjoy the project. During the exhibition, confetti was set to be blown at random intervals, or activated by the museum docents at specific times, which meant that a person had to be present at the right moment in order to experience the spectacle. In this setting the exchange between project and a person was limited to only a few occurrences, if any. The act of the confetti being blown could be seen only a few times a day, and consequently a person that witnessed the activated “Confetti Tower” was left with a sense of a rare astonishing occurrence. The second site for the project, however, was a busy crossroad in front of the Fountain Street
Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Confetti Tower” was exhibited during the “2009 Art Prize” event, and the location, traffic intensity, air flow and visibility affected the amount, frequency and method of the confetti to be blown. The characteristics of the site allowed spectators to become direct activators, and the tower responded to noise, touch and the amount of people standing in front of it, or passing under it. This project became very successful in the city environment where the surprise factor was amplified by random interactions with the public, who happened to be passing by. The frequency and amount of confetti being blown engaged more people in the celebration and interaction with the project and with each other. To even further expand this relation between the tower, confetti, site and spectator I allowed myself to control the launching of the confetti through a remote
controller whenever I felt it was the “right” time. I was able to “trick” people and “play” with them, as they gathered in front of the tower, which magnified a sense of mystery and excitement. The results were comical, as people were actively trying to trigger the tower, by screaming and jumping in front of it, passing under it several times, touching or hugging the columns of the structure, or even kicking it. In order to try to figure out what makes the confetti blow, people were coming back several times to try new methods of activation, which sometimes left them with even more questions. Based on the success of this interaction, I documented people’s reactions. I took
photographs and videos of the visitors interacting with the tower, and became interested in having the visitors draw or write about their experience in order to learn more about this piece. The Fountain Street Church members helped me to organize a “Confetti Tower Painting Workshop” for young members of the church as well as anyone passing by. Kids, teenagers and adults decorated the tower with drawings and paintings that reflected the intended function of the “Confetti Tower” itself. As a result, the subjects of the illustrations were happiness, playfulness and the best things in life, like ice cream cones falling in one’s mouth, the circus, amusement park rides and declarations of love. After the exhibition
ended the painted panels of the tower were removed from the structure and auctioned off during one of the church’s events. The profits were donated to the organization of young activists in order for them to visit and help rebuild the city of New Orleans. The importance of this project was placed upon the relationship of the site, time, and the observer / activator. By displaying the work in two separate environments I was able to see how greatly certain circumstances influence a project and how social engagement further defines the work. Those two sites demanded a different approach to how the confetti was triggered. The first site – Cranbrook Art
Museum – produced passive observers of the happening, while the busy city street of Grand Rapids allowed for dynamic interactions and transformed the observers into direct activators and participants. The social exchange within those two contrary sites allowed me to comprehend that the public itself should be considered as a building material, which must be utilized to further extend meaning and relationships within the built environment.`
Technical Information The project was 16’ high and 4’ by 4’ wide, with 4 columns that were each 1’ by 1’ wide and 8’ tall. The reason for the dimensions
was a standard 4â€™ x 8â€™ size of a plywood sheet, from which the structure was constructed, which contributed to minimizing waist of material and cost of the project. 30 sheets of plywood were used, which were cut by a CNC machine and faceted together like puzzle elements with screws, bolts and glue. The plywood was waterproofed and painted with white exterior paint that was sanded and reapplied several times giving a very smooth surface. A steel frame provided strength at each column and allowed for easy installation into the ground. The structure was bolted to the pavement using self expanding anchors. The confetti blowing machine was stored inside the soundproofed structure. Easy access to the mechanism was assured through the removable back panels. The confetti was made of biodegradable tissue that has been treated to be flame resistant and was manufactured from sources using approximately 90% recycled content.
Volume 18, Rumspringa, 2012
707PX Thomas Provost Reflection on 707PX Thomas Provost, 2019 707PX pursues reconciliation of a geopolitical border. In 2011, a collaboration with Canadian artist collective Broken City Lab spurred my plan for seven hundred and seven border crossings between Windsor, Ontario and Detroit, Michigan. Broken City Lab was working on a number of conceptual projects for a publication titled How to Forget the Border Completely. Our collaboration involved a series of tunnels and tubes beneath the Detroit River; part Warp Pipe from Mario (of Nintendo fame) and a nod to Terry Gilliamâ€™s Brazil. One year later, as I was scheming up my article for Dichotomy 18: Rumspringa, I kept with the border issue and designed something on the surface of the Detroit River, pedestrian and human-scaled, recalling the boardwalk experience at Point Pelee National Park in nearby Leamington, Ontario. Point Pelee is itself a natural projection into Lake Erie and as the Southern-most place in mainland Canada, reaches another limit of geopolitical space. In the original article, I mention a few moments from colonial history in which the site of this project, the Detroit River, had become intensely political and divided, such as the War of 1812 and the Underground Railroad. I would like to reinforce that 707PX was designed to create an anti-border space, reducing the medium by which we cross this border to its most intimate: the human body. This is a way of removing systems of control and barriers to entry. 707PX deconstructs the shape of the riverâ€™s edge and reorients it using the geopolitical border as no-more-than a datum. It is perhaps a preposterous project, but I maintain it is a very economical one: there are no parametric curves; it is materially monolithic; and it would support the wage of a generous number of laborers. Its simple purpose to connect people to place is overshadowed by 45 other preposterous geopolitical constructions of 2019.
707PX Thomas Provost
Crossing the river between Windsor and Detroit has long been a political issue. The founding of Sandwich Towne, one of four communities pre-dating the amalgam of Windsor, stood in direct opposition to Fort Detroit. The French and British had long been making peace with the indigenous, which were perhaps the least political group of all. The crossing of the river was the threshold to freedom for the many slaves following the mossy side of the trees north to Canada. During abolition, rumrunners scurried across the frozen river with barrels full of bathtub brew. In the early years of the 21st century, the privately owned bridge company created a derelict neighborhood adjacent to the ramp on the Canadian side as a testament to failed plans to twin the span. The result is a void that speaks of the extreme politicization of the border, charging private ownership against public access. This will forever be the fight of geography. As part of the world’s longest undefended border, one would expect mutual, overarching principles of neutrality, sustenance, and respect. The reality is otherworldly: a mix of fuel and smog soiled into our daily lives. A satellite scan just south of the 42nd parallel reveals a startling abuse of situation known as Zug Island. Most severe is its proximity to our everyday movements and permeation
into our lungs, day after day. Around the year 2010, Windsorites started reporting latenight rumblings that have been sourced to “The Zug” and continue like clockwork every Friday at 6pm. In addition to the aural and olfactory, it impedes on our ability to experience the river as a source of recreation. It is not the only inhibitor, for much of the downriver and west-Detroit waterfront has been industrialized for decades. Consequently, neighborhoods are unable to grow around these areas and create a domino effect that would otherwise generate human-scaled expansion alongside the river. It has long been time to move past the lore that weighs down the river’s reputation. Leamington, Ontario natives The Sunparlour Players capture this lore best in their song The Detroit River is Alive: “Count all the fishes in the water and I think I stopped at five. I felt a burning on the soles of my feet and I hope to God I get out alive.” We are in a time where expectations demand surpassing. This is not a comfortable, happy-with-whatwe-have era. There are new relationships to create linking Windsor and Detroit beyond automobile manufacturing, sports, sins, and slot machines. Is it now possible to transcend the geographic and political definition of the river in service to humanity?
The profile of the Detroit River was meticulously traced over the map from 1796 (1); both sides were sectioned at multiple scales and sequentially arranged (2); the components were arranged in order on their respective sides (3); the form is activated along the invisible geopolitical borderline (4).
Ronit Eisenbach describes the border between Windsor and Detroit as a political construct described in the abstract language of mathematics.1 She set off on a motorboat in October of 1999 to trace this imaginary line using a GPS and documenting the experiential dimension of the dividing plane. Eisenbachâ€™s inhabitation of the line unfolded the river into a world unto itself, and placed her in the center of a transient, organic space. In spite of cartography defining the border as infinitely high and infinitely thin, the river was simultaneously perceived as being both whole and partitioned.2 The sounds of airplanes far above and buoys bobbing in the distance were amplified by the cool body of water and wrapped the human world tightly around her. The constructs splitting the body of water are purely a matter of perspective and live in constant contradiction. This duality is essential to transcending the border.
707PX is a speculative project engaging the border cities of Windsor and Detroit in a new entanglement. The geopolitical division acts as an indicator only, a naĂŻve datum. The architecture examines the surreal condition of complete pedestrian dominance with form as an end goal of the process. Ultimately, it is the process that dominates to form a surreal pedestrian condition along the river. The conceptual idea took physical form after pursuing the connection of =division native to its very own history â€“ the French ribbon farm. The ribbon farms are noticeable on the map from 1796 as they indicate human presence. They are cordoned off plots, extending narrowly and perpendicular to the river. By alluding back to this system, the architecture can interfere with the modern schema at the human scale.
The multiple collections of river’s edge sections are then distributed evenly on their respective sides, in sequential order. The sequence creates tactility close to rippling, with a rhythm clearly visible on both sides. With the border as a datum, both sides dialogue and seesaw at various moments, creating subito and crescendo. The finale occurs when the sequence, thought of as attached to a string, is lifted and becomes conformed to the unique, precise, and mathematical geopolitical division. It should be noted that the 1796 map omits division. The river appears as a singular moving force between bodies and is left graphically plain. The form of 707PX reifies the singularity of the river by adjoining both cities and entertaining a pedestrian agenda. This investigation answers the question of how one is to forget the border while simultaneously subverting its presence.
Endnotes 1) 2)
Ronit Eisenbach, “Filum Aquae,” Dichotomy 16: Edges (Fall 2006): 40 Ibid, 42 “Detroit River Image Credit: 1796.” National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, <www. noaa.gov> Public domain in the United States. This applies to U.S. works where the copyright has expired, often because its first publication occurred prior to January 1, 1923.
Volume 19, Ugly, 2013
On Types of Seductive Robustness Jimenez Lai Jimenez Lai is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Leader of Bureau Spectacular. He graduated with a Masters of Architecture from the University of Toronto. Previously, Jimenez Lai lived and worked in a desert shelter at Taliesin and resided in a shipping container at Atelier Van Lieshout on the piers of Rotterdam. Before founding the Bureau Spectacular, Lai worked for MOS, AVL, REX, and OMA/ Rem Koolhaas in Toronto, Rotterdam, and New York. In the past several years, Lia has built numerous installations as well as being widely exhibited and published around the world. His first manifesto, Citizens of No Place, was published by Princeton Architectural Press with a grant from the Graham Foundation. Draft II of this book has been archived at the New Museum as part of the show Younger Than Jesus. In 2012, he was named a winner at the Architectural League Prize for Young Architects.
ON TYPES OF SEDUCTIVE ROBUSTNESS
ON TYPES OF SEDUCTIVE ROBUSTNESS
ON TYPES OF SEDUCTIVE ROBUSTNESS
ON TYPES OF SEDUCTIVE ROBUSTNESS
It is simply ugly in a grotesque way.
ON TYPES OF SEDUCTIVE ROBUSTNESS
ON TYPES OF SEDUCTIVE ROBUSTNESS
Volume 20, Old, 2014
Reconsidering Authenticity Ida D.K. Tam A New York based architectural designer, photographer and film maker. Ida D.K. Tam holds degrees in Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Nottingham (UK) and a Master of Architecture from Cornell University (US). She has published and practiced architecture internationally, working on projects in London, Hong Kong, Shanghai and New York. She specializes in computational design, building information modeling and digital simulation. She is also very passionate about adaptive reuse of historic public and cultural buildings, and has been actively exploring the connection between historic preservation and computational design tools. Her research has been recently published on the Architecture and Civil Engineering Journal in the US and Journal of Urban Construction and Theory Research in China.
Reconsidering Authenticity Ida D.K. Tam
1. Introduction As Beijing became more urbanised in the 1960s, the resulting explosion in population and motor-vehicle traffic demanded urgent infrastructural change. The result was manifold destruction, from severance and subdivision to complete demolition of Beijing’s historical building typology- “Siheyuan”. To make way for development, walls of Siheyuan are being cut, sliced and subdivided into multi-family units; temporary structures are being plugged in to accommodate new roads and living spaces. To preserve Siheyuan we first have to understand the tangible and intangible qualities that shape its characters, the qualities that make Siheyuan neighborhood a “place,” that makes it instantly recognizable. To preservationists, authenticity is the key word. The notion of authenticity symbolizes genuineness, localness, origins, and sincerity. These are crucial qualities in forming a unique identity of a “place”. However, is the state of “authenticity” a stable condition? Is the authenticity of Beijing in the past equal to the authenticity of Beijing today? When we say we want to preserve the “authenticity” of Siheyuan, what do we actually mean? Is it about keeping physical fabric of the entire architectural landscape intact? Is it about keeping our favorite landmarks and to avoid their being replaced by faceless towers? Or is it about stopping transnational brands such
as Starbucks, H&M from placing themselves in the area before they homogenize Beijing and turn it into a disenchanted generic area? By prioritizing the preservation of a people and their cultural evolution rather than their past physical, typological embodiment, this article recognizes the inevitability of change and calls for opportunities for preservation strategies that add relevance to the historic typology. The objective of the article is to evaluate the consequences of current Beijing preservation and urban design policies, through review of the criteria for what to preserve, specific to the protection and rehabilitation of Siheyuan and Hutong. Based on an analysis of the district of Dazhalan as a case study, this article proposes to expand the scope and function of preservation in Beijing to include community building, sustainable and computational design strategies and methodologies to better accommodate social and cultural evolution.
Figure 1. Changes in Siheyuan since 19491 (a) In 1949, Total residential area 13,540,000sqm; Siheyuan 12,720,000sqm (b) In 2000, Total residential area 0.42 bil sqm Siheyuan 3,000,000sqm (c) Population Density in Siheyuan (d) 2010, Number of Siheyuan
2. Background Materials and Methods 2.1. Overview of historic preservation in Beijing The government of Beijing adopted preservation policies as early as 19572, when shortly after the Cultural Revolution, the government identified individual monuments for protection. By the year 2000, more than 8003 sites were placed under protection and underwent restoration. The attitude of historic conservation in Beijing and in China at large differs greatly from that of the West. The goal of conservation in the Western world, particularly Europe by the 18th century4, is to present the object in a way that the object’s message remain comprehensible without distortion; efforts are made to protect the actual pieces of artifacts of important historic buildings. Any interventions to the state of an object should be minimal, with preference given to methods of intervention that are reversible, identifiable, and will not prejudice possible future interventions5. As a consequence, European landmarks tend to show their age. On the other hand, the objective of preservation in China, has historically been politically motivated. Historic Chinese capital cities were often destroyed in the warfare between newer and older dynasties. Damaged buildings were repaired with an emphasis toward establishing a continuity of form and usage, which would
in turn sustain cultural continuity and imperial pride6. Today, the monumentalizing of historic sites acts to glorify political power7 through honoring the past, with the goals to stimulate patriotism and help to ensure the political stability of the country. Methods used in historic conservation tend to rebuild, restore, replace, and repaint elements of monuments to the extent that they look brand new. These interventions are not meant to be identifiable or reversible, and they would not likely fit Western definitions of preservation. In 1982, national preservation legislation expanded the scope of protection for zones by adding the protective measure of ‘drawing certain construction control zones in the vicinity of the preservation site’ to ensure the maintenance of the environmental character of the monuments8. But it was not until 1999 that the Beijing municipal government approved the boundaries and detailed plans for the protection of twenty-five preservation districts9. However, neither of the legislative acts provided guidelines for the appearance of new buildings or for their relationships to each other and to public space. The only implied guidance for the design of individual projects was the suggestion that each new development should mimic the treatment of monuments by being set off from its context and surrounded with greenery and open space. Though new buildings within the zones were required to be limited in height and stylistically harmonious with the historic architecture, this stipulation lacked specificity, providing no definition of ‘style’ or ‘harmony.’10
Figure 2. Siheyuan 800 year-old traditional building typology
Figure 3. Different components of a Hutong neighborhood
Figure 4: Densification Black- Self-help housing activities to increase living spaces White- Original Siheyuan Structure
Figure 5: Widening of Road
2.2. Overview of the architectural components of Hutong neighborhood
in addition to size of buildings and material finish or ornament, reflect the wealth and status of the owner. For example, a typical person’s residential Siheyuan will likely have one courtyard with a primary building to the North, while a titled or wealthy family’s residential Siheyuan would likely have two or more courtyards in which the major courtyard would be situated in the center, separated and protected by the “Fore courtyard”, a walkthrough pavilion, and “corner courtyards” at the rear end12.
2.2.1. Siheyuan Siheyuan (Figure 2), meaning “quadrangle,” is an 800 year-old traditional building typology prevalent in Beijing, consisting of four one-story, tile-roofed, grey brick buildings surrounding a central courtyard. Siheyuan are of sociological interest in that their physical characteristics reflect the socio-economic status of the owners in relation to their community, while residential Siheyuan’s internal organization and composition reflects the familial hierarchical structure of its residents. This basic unit is the typological model used for residences, palaces, temples, monasteries, family businesses and government offices11. Variations on the Siheyuan structure include increasing the number of courtyards, which,
2.2.2. Hutong, the alleyway Hutong (Figure 3) is the alleyway that forms in between blocks of Siheyuan planned according to the etiquette systems of Beijing. It follows a clear hierarchical organization and classification system: a big street (DaJie) is 19-36 meters wide, a small street (Lu) is 10-18 meters wide, and alleyway (Hutong) is 1-9 meters wide, spaced 60–70 meters apart, and run east-west
in parallel lines. Hutong form the living room of Beijing. For example, contrary to the private courtyard within Siheyuan, these circulation routes serve as open spaces providing venues for T’ai Chi, mahjong and chess, and playground for children’s play.
2.2.3. The cultural meaning of Hutong neighborhood The wall and its organization plays is a very important role in the organization of Siheyuan and Hutong neighborhoods; it represents stereotypical characteristics of Chinese people. The inner courtyard satisfies the introverted, quiet demeanor, private and domination of family-minded values13. It is a physical, as well as psychological boundary that separates the family from the external world. In addition to the tall and windowless perimeter wall that borders the Siheyuan, the gate at the southeastern corner is connected to a screen wall to minimize external visual intrusion. In contrast, the Hutong spatial organization limits visitors to only pedestrians and cyclist, thus enabling a way of life that creates a strong sense of community within its neighborhoods.
2.3. Evolution of Hutong neighborhood since 1960s 2.3.1. Densification During land reform of the 1960s, rooms in courtyard houses were assigned to different
residents. To accommodate more families, larger rooms were subdivided into more units by transforming Siheyuan from single family to multi-family occupation. During the population explosion of the 1970s, “self-help housing activities” started to emerge as informal unit extensions constructed by residents to cope with overcrowded living conditions. (Figure 4)
2.3.2. Widening of Road As Beijing became more urbanized, car ownership became widespread and infrastructure for emergency vehicle access became necessary by modern building codes. In 1993, the Beijing Master Plan required nearly all street rights-of-way to be widened to relieve congestion14. However, there was no consideration given to the environmental and social impact of such requirement. In many instances, Hutong are widened by literally slicing off the fronts of Siheyuan (Figure 5), the fragmented facades are then patched with poorly made or found materials. The configuration and privacy of the typology are tremendously altered.
2.3.3. Historic Preservation of Siheyuan and Hutong Neighborhood The earliest designation of Siheyuan for historic preservation started in 1984. At that time, only individual Siheyuan were considered worthy of preservation as examples of classic Qing residential architecture to be protected. As of
the 1993 Master Plan revision, the number of Siheyuan being designated to municipallevel has grown to thirteen. Preservation of Siheyuan as a neighborhood only began in 1990, when the Municipal Government initiated designation of twenty-five sites as “historiccultural districts”. However, it was not until 1999 that the municipal government approved specific boundaries and detailed plans for the districts to be protected.15
3.0. Case study To understand the impact of Beijing’s current preservation policy beyond the theoretical implications, the Dazhalan Preservation District has been selected as a case study. Dazhalan, a grassroots neighborhood situated immediately south of the impartial wall, Northwest of Tiananmen Square, South of the Forbidden City, and north of the Temple of Heavens, is one of the twenty-five designated preservation districts in Beijing. Since the Ming Dynasty (AD1369), Dazhalan has been one of the most important commercial and residential regions in Beijing. (Figure 6) Unlike most neighborhoods in inner Beijing, which functioned to serve the imperial family and nobles, Dazhalan is unique in that its primary function was to serve the commoners (laobaixing). It is comprised of diverse typologies including traditional retail, factories, academic, public and residential spaces. As a result of its unique grassroots socioeconomic status, its infrastructural grid
Figure 7.Different areas of Dazhalan (1) East Dazhalan (2) Noth-SouthDazhalan (3) West Dazhalan
has unconventionally deformed from the rest of the city grid. In addition to the conventional East-West Hutong, Dazhalan also has Hutong running perpendicularly from North to South, and diagonally from Northwest to Southwest to maximize the economic efficiency needed. Based on the above factors, Dazhalan provides a representative case study to evaluate the successes and shortcomings of current Beijing preservation and urban design policies.
Figure 6. Location and historic context of Dazhalan
3.1. Restoration: Commercial Sector (East Dazhalan) East Dazhalan has been occupied by traditionally well-known commercial institutions, corporations and old brand name businesses (Lao zihaos). Notable retailers exceeding 100 years in business include: Tongrentang – Chinese herbal medicine; Rui Fu Xiang – silk fabric; Ma Ju Yuan – hats; Nei Lian Sheng – shoes; Zhang Yi Yuan – the tea shop. Dazhalan was also the former entertainment center of Beijing hosting the five grand Chinese opera theaters. In the 1980s when the commercial strip of East Dazhalan was pedestrianized, retail landmarks
and theaters were restored to their original appearances; broken elements were being replaced. Notable residences were restored and repurposed to house government offices, hotels, clubhouses and restaurants to exclusively serve high-end customers and politicians. The facades of these structures remain physically intact, look newly built, and the interior retail spaces have been expanded as much as permissible. However, the original configuration in which retail is situated at the front face of the building connected to living quarters via a courtyard, no longer exists. The current main demographics of visitors include day-workers, tourist and high-income consumers. Neighborhood shop owners, sales persons, laborers, who used to work and live
Figure 8. East Dazhalan (For location refer to Figure 7) Black- New Built Structure White- Original Siheyuan Structure
in the community, have moved to the outskirts of the city where rent is more affordable. The diversity and close neighborhood ties that once defined the area have now disappeared.
3.2. Reconstruction: Cultural Sector (West Dazhalan) West Dazhalan, an area that includes the famous Liulichang arts and crafts street and Rong Bao Zhai Arts Academy, once housed the most reputational art institutions, colleges and bookstores in the country. However, the fact that West Dazhalan is located within the
boundary of Dazhalan Preservation District did not save the area from destruction. Under the pressures of skyrocketing land values and low economic incentive to preserve academic typologies, the original historic buildings were demolished. New identical standardized grey brick shells are constructed in place of the historic facades. These new constructions are set back to allow for vehicle access in Hutong. They are rented out to antique arts and crafts retailers who sell low end art pieces, souvenirs, and often fake antiques catered towards tourists. Since
most art academies and institutions were not reinstated, West Dazhalan is no longer a place for knowledge exchange and art creation. In an attempt to emulate the past, West Dazhalan falls just short of resembling a Chinese version of Disneyland theme park.
3.3. Neglected: The Local Community (North-South Dazhalan) North-South Dazhalan is a region that is mostly residential, connected by a network of local community and local retail services. Off the bustling boulevards and major avenues of commercial activities, this area has been less attractive to real estate developers and therefore remains highly residential, occupied by multiple families and filled with “self-help housing activities”. As deduced from the surveys, these “selfhelp housing structures” are direct extensions adjacent to the subdivided Siheyuan houses. They are 2-3 meters in width, and often used as kitchens and cooking spaces. These units usually only contain one room in which living and sleeping are integrated. In some instances, bigger units are rented out by bunk beds equipped with no living and dining areas. Furthermore, these “self-help structures” are often built of temporary materials, construction waste and scavenged materials characterized by short life spans, structurally unstable and noncompliant of building code and fire regulations.
The high density of “self-help housing structures” leaves circulation spaces between units to less than 1 meter, and eliminates almost all open spaces of the courtyard. As residents generally lack living and leisure spaces within their own unit, the role of the Hutong as the communal space has gained growing importance. It often becomes play and study areas for children, and kitchen and dining area for families during unbearably hot summers. The original private courtyard spaces are turned into semi-public corridors; these corridors are turned into small courtyards whenever possible. To widen the roads with the least cost, Siheyuan houses were being cut and sliced off a meter inwards. This dismantled one facet of the perimeter wall of Siheyuan; the four sided wall then became 3 sided. In low-income areas with little investment, the fragmented facades can only be patched with shoddy materials. The boundaries between public and private, inside and outside, become further blurred, redefining the privacy levels of the Siheyuan.
4. Discussion 4.1. Evaluation of current scope and goals of preservation in Beijing In order to preserve Siheyuan and its Hutong neighborhood, we first have to understand the tangible and intangible qualities that shape its character – the qualities that make Hutong a
“place,” that makes it instantly recognizable. To preservationists, authenticity is the key word. The notion of authenticity symbolizes genuineness, localness, origins, and sincerity. These are crucial qualities in forming a unique identity of a “place”. When we say we want to preserve the “authenticity” of Hutong, what do we actually mean? Is it about keeping the physical fabric of the architectural landscape intact? Is it about keeping our favorite landmarks and to avoid them replacing by faceless towers? Or is it about stopping transnational brands from such as Starbucks, H&M from placing themselves in the area before they homogenized Hutong and turn it into a part of a disenchanted generic city? In East and West Dazhalan, their physical fabrics are “preserved”, but the social goals, the preservation of classes, are lost. The 100-year old silk garment shop remains, but the tailors can no longer afford to live there; people who first gave the neighborhood its authentic aura: manufacturers, artists or even middle class residents, have been displaced. This definition of authenticity: preservation of classes, will seek continuous evolution of courtyard housing typology through transformation and adaption; alternative design methodologies will have to be a balance between economic and environmental sustainability. The case study of Dazhalan has exposed three main issues regarding its current scope and goals of preservation in Beijing: museumification, gentrification, and false preservation.
4.1.1. Museumification The 1990s Master plan for preservation attempted to define an overall characteristic form for historic Beijing. With the goal of preservation, primarily political and patriotic, Beijing is designed to be appreciated “from up high, rather than on the ground, in the street.”16 This over-simplified, top-down policy suggested that preservation is more an expression of state power than an act aimed at sustaining the local culture embodied within everyday life. The city of Beijing is in the danger of being ‘museumified.’ Museumification is a process originated from museums, though not necessarily confined within one. In the interpretive medium of museumification, everything is a potential ‘artefact’ - entire villages, or abstractions such as ‘ethnicity’ and ‘nation,’ or even human beings. Yet, reality cannot be represented: museumification distorts, inverts and subverts meanings.17 In East Dazhalan, it is true that investments from tourism and high-end service industries have maintained individual monuments and notable Siheyuan alive. Meanwhile, the Hutong, which lie off the major avenues of the imperial city, such as those of North-South Dazhalan, wait in neglect, undergoing rapid deterioration. Among others, Kees van der Ploeg18 theorized: by trying to freeze the city in time, it is in danger of becoming “a sugary-sweet backdrop” that “bears hardly any real relation to normal
Figure 10. North South Dazhalan (For location refer to Figure 7) Black- New Built Structure White- Original Siheyuan Structure
urban activities, between image and reality”. In addition, on a city scale there are far greater historic buildings than can be turned into museums; it is not financially realistic to restore all buildings worthy of preservation without creating conflicts with present needs. By attempting to turn the city in an open air museum is also making it incapable of coping with contemporary challenges.
4.1.2. Gentrification The historic designation of neighborhoods and the attempts to preserve the city often lead to gentrification; East and West Dazhalan, are no exception. Architectural preservation has created an enclave of wealth, business, and tourism. The market forces forced the poor to move, frequently pushing them outside the city’s center. These new typologies marginalized populations such as laborers, artisans, neighborhood store-owners, the underemployed and the elderly. They are expelled from the historic environments of their own culture, often by forceful clearance and minimal compensation. Since 1990, more than 580,000 Siheyuan residents19 have been relocated to the outskirts of Beijing. Frustrations from these forceful clearances have led to public protests and lawsuits against lower-level government agencies and real estate – and in extreme cases, suicide attempts.
4.1.3. False Preservation As discussed earlier in section 2.2, based on the differences in attitude of conservation between
East and West, whether reconstruction and restoration of the Siheyuan can be classified as historic preservation is still largely disputed. Nonetheless, the effort of restoration in East Dazhalan, similar to other historic landmarks in Beijing such as those on Qianmen Main Street, is hardly an accurate depiction of the original buildings as they appeared in any dynasty. They have failed to demonstrate the potential historical significance of these ancient structures and to achieve the objective of restoration which is to retain as much of the historic period fabric as possible. The method of ‘reconstruction’ in West Dazhalan is also a very representative example of preservation in Beijing and can be found in the vicinity of major landmarks such as Houhai and Qianhai lakes, the Drum and Bell tower. Unfortunately, it has proven to be unfaithful to the definition of reconstruction, and did not attempt to retain as much of the evidence of the historic period as possible. The new construction methodologies are standard shells that are being plugged into the site. Other than material palette and scale, these reconstruction methods have no relation to the historic property that once existed. Despite being protected by legislation, by no means has the historic fabric been faithfully preserved.
4.2. Expanding scope and goals of preservation in Beijing The singular and formal aims of the current preservation policies have reinforced the narrow and exclusive approach to urban
investment. This has resulted in the loss of historic architectural heritage and displaced previously diverse socio-economic classes, further exacerbating social inequity between rich and poor. As argued by Rose on the evolution of scope and goals of historic preservation of the United States in 1981, on top of the two phases which is first â€œto inspire the observer with a sense of patriotism,â€? and second to preserve for cultural, artistic and architectural merits, in order to maintain the physical environment necessary for an urban community, it is more important in providing procedural vehicles for community organization and activity. As demonstrated in the case study of Dazhalan, there is an emerging urgency to expand the preservation with the aim of strengthening local community ties and social organization. The following sections propose an expanded scope and function of preservation in Beijing to include community building, sustainable design strategies and methodologies to better accommodate social and cultural evolution.
4.3. Design considerations in the expanded scope of preservation 4.3.1 Typology and demographic If authenticity and aura are the integral and desirable aspects of a neighborhood, to capture and preserve a historic neighborhood is more than preserving the formal qualities of the neighborhood. It also requires the preservation of the kinds of people who make up the
community of that neighborhood. Therefore, when assessing a buildingâ€™s importance to the community, criteria to be considered should not be limited to its age, historic significance and architectural merits, but must also include the present typologies of the community.
4.3.2. Energy optimization Similar to vernacular housing types in other cultures, Siheyuan evolved as inherently efficient and sustainable responses to the geographic and climatic factors by building organization, orientation and scale. However, such sustainability principles are compromised by the unplanned densification and overpopulation of residents. Therefore, any design solutions should try to generate value through high energy performance, low maintenance and cost-effective construction solutions, in order to provide better living conditions, and incentives for continuous investment.
4.3.3. Computational and digital simulations tools Consider the inseparable link between computational tools and performance. As computational tools, such as digital simulation, rationalize scientific behaviors and turn them into design trials and viable alternatives, design solutions generated are inherently efficient and performative. Digital simulation design tools also allow designers to develop inclusive site strategy that potentially improves the environmental conditions and prepares for
Figure 12. Progressive datamaps of optimized locations for light well and outdoor spaces
Figure 11. Daylight datamap model
repercussions in future crisis. Not only does it offer new sets of nonlinear constraints and opportunities working both bottom-up and top-down, it also forms a series of feedback loops that connect varied scales and scopes, providing more inventive, performative and economic alternatives.
4.3.4. Conceptual reconsideration of traditional building elements In East Dazhalan and West Dazhalan, restoration and reconstruction preservation approaches have adopted the strategy of referencing the past. They utilize the symbolic value of traditional architectural elements and forms to rebuild the identity of the location,
and make it instantly recognizable as very â€œChinese.â€? Traditional building elements of Siheyuan have rich and intricate values that used to be cultural, functional and economical. However, such literal translation of architectural languages diminishes their relevance to us, and much of the meanings and functions are lost in the relentless evolution of human societies. Therefore, to effectively deploy the symbolic values of traditional building elements, we must repurpose them and give them meaning and function that is relevant to our time and demands.
4.3. Potential Design Methodologies 4.3.1. Daylight System Assuming the need to increase occupancy capacity of Siheyuanâ€™s original accommodation, the daylight system attempts to search for the most energy-optimized scenario for densification. By inputting 3-dimensional data of the site into energy analysis software,
Traditionally, brick was only allowed to move in 2 dimensions creating a flat facade. If we turn the normative arrangement into 3 dimensional structural configurations, we can begin to generate porosity and volume using its modularity efficiency and produce a new wall that has different degrees of porosity that encourages interaction and filtration between inside and outside.
Figure 13. (a) Wind rose of Beijing (b) Wind vector
building mass, geography and climate information is utilized to generate a datamap of daylight factors of each site subdivision. (Figure 13) Datamaps of optimized locations for light wells and outdoor spaces are being identified. Progressive densification scenarios are also being generated, ranging from most dense to least dense. (Figure 14) All these scenarios are then consolidated into one single datamap incorporating different priority of factors such as growth, economics and program.
4.3.2. Wind System Much of the Hutongâ€™s characteristics are defined by walls; namely, the height and distances between the perimeter walls that bordered the Siheyuan. As a consequence of road widening, privacy has decreased, and the wall has opened up new privacy levels. This might give rise to a new opportunity in which we can reinterpret the cultural significance of the wall that defines the characteristics of Hutong.
The frequent sandstorms in winter and heat waves in summer have posed difficult challenges to the building performance in Beijing. By beginning with behavioral studies of seasonal air-flow in Beijing (Figure 15), computational models are set up to translate the data of direction and magnitude of wind vectors into variable parameters. These parameters govern the degree of rotation and separation in between bricks, forming a 3-dimensional structure that will be further refined by daylight, natural ventilation and programmatic strategies. (Figure 16) We can then efficiently generate variation in porosity and volume due to its inherent modularity
5. Conclusion In conclusion, a lack of development of a formalized set of criteria for strategically prioritizing buildings for preservation, with financial realities and a preserve-all attitude, have resulted in the deterioration and ultimate loss of potentially invaluable architectural gems. This handicap, imposed by the blanket desire to maintain formal characteristics of
Hutong across all of historic Beijing functions to suffocate the city by neglecting development of the non-monumental, yet still important, neighborhood communities. Through insights gained from Dazhalan, we can see that despite the effort to emulate the past, the preservation of classes is lost and thus reminds us the need to design for the community, which includes their socioeconomic, cultural and behavioral patterns. Ultimately, identity and authenticity is generated and regenerated by the people who live in Hutong. By proposing the use of computational and digital simulation tools, it is suggested that any resulting interventions should not be just an object with architectural merits, or a new skin that possesses material and textural connection between the past and present, but also a performance-based solution that is capable of dynamically responding to community building, environmental and pragmatic considerations. Figure 14. Wind vector translated into orientation and spacing between bricks
3) 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) 11)
12) 13) 14) 15) 16) 17) 18)
M. Greist, Making Place for Neighborhood in Beijing, University of Florida, Journal of Undergraduate Research Volume 8, Issue 6 - July / August 2007. Online available from: www.clas.ufl.edu/jur/200707/papers/paper_greist.html Beijing Municipal Cultural Relics Bureau, Xin Bian Wenwu Gongzuo Shouce [New Edition of the Handbook for Cultural Relics Work]. Beijing: Beijing Yanshan Press, 1996, p. 457. Beijing Municipal Cultural Relics Bureau, Op. cit  A. M. Tung, Preserving the World’s Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis. New York, p. 163 A. Stille, The future of the past, Picador, 2003, p. 56 B. M. Feilden, Conservation of Historic Buildings, Architectural Press, 1982, p.5 A. M. Tung, Preserving the World’s Great Cities: The Destruction and Renewal of the Historic Metropolis. New York, p. 165 A. M. Tung, Op. cit , p. 165 D. B. Abramson, The aesthetics of city-scale preservation policy in Beijing Planning Perspectives, 22 (April 2007), p. 139 D. B. Abramson, Op. cit , p. 139 G. Wang, “Kaifa Jianshe Zhong de Beijing Jinrong Jie: Ji Beijing Jinrong Jie de Guihua yu Jianshe [Beijing’s Financial Street in Development and Construction: Notes on the Planning nd Construction of Beijing’s Financial Street],” Beijing Guihua Jianshe [Beijing City Planning Da Zhou Yang, Take a Lesiure Stroll in Hutong of Beijing, Wa Wen Press (2003), p.5 Mingde Li, A Culture Tour to Beijing Hutong, China Architecture & Building Press, 1st edition (November 2005), p. 19 X. Hu, Boundaries and openings: spatial strategies in the Chinese dwelling, Policy and Practice, J Hous and the Built Environ, 2008, p. 357 D. B. Abramson, Op. cit , p. 141 D. B. Abramson, Op. cit , p. 139 D. B. Abramson, Op. cit , p. 141 P. Dellios, The museumification of the village: cultural subversion in the 21st Century, Culture Mandala: The Bulletin of the Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies, The Bulletin of the Centre for East-West Cultural and Economic Studies, Volume 5 | Issue 1 Article 4, 11-1-2002, p. 1 W. Denslagen, Romantic Modernism Nostalgia in the World of Conservation, Translated by Donald Gardner Amsterdam University Press, 2009, p.9
Volume 21, Odds, 2015
Space Oddities Perry Kulper Upon Reflection Perry Kulper, 2019 “The Play of Architecture (re)Production” looks to the past as a way of projecting forward to the future. The writing of this paper arose due to questions I had over twenty years ago that the future architects I taught would be able to visualize in their own minds what the computer could visualize for them. What I have discovered since then is that students do indeed need to go through some type of three-dimensional, tactual process to fully visualize the three-dimensionality of a future project that is to be (re)presented by drawings – there needs to be some type of tangible and spatial connection between the architecture of their imaginations and the future buildings their drawings represent. Architectural design is an embodied process that requires the situatedness of being in the world through use, cognition and perception. The architectural drawing (re)presents an imaginary or future building. In making a drawing, its creator needs to be able to mentally build up the threedimensionality of the project in the mind’s eye, which requires the ability to translate a fourdimensional experience (e.g. walking through a building) into a three-dimensional imagination of a building that is to be represented by a two-dimensional image (even if an axonometric or perspective representation or a video “fly-by”). Unfortunately, fantastic images produced by the computer can easily confuse the difference between the real and the imaginary, or the actual experience versus the imaginative potential of a creative image. Play is a type of mimetic imitation that copies a procedure or action – an active, embodied, and perceptual process that metaphorically (re)constructs a four-dimensional activity. Similarly, architecture (re)production is a process that uses visual (re)presentations to imitate the procedure of production of a future building. The play of architecture (re)production is an assurance of similarity between the real and the imagined.
“Ground control to Major Tom, Ground control to Major Tom, Take your protein pills and put your helmet on” --David Bowie, “Space Oddity” Odds. Space oddities. Dangerous territory. Maybe it’s time to lean into that equation?
I’m interested in things that are unusual; a bit off center. Maybe in the depths of our human capacity, we all are. Knowingly, the Surrealists constructed a consistent diet of the strangely familiar, off-center things that broadened what qualified as art, while challenging bourgeois values. Much of their production offered alternative ways to experience a world increasingly driven by standardized practices. Prompted by the theme of Dichotomy 21, much of what underwrites what I enjoy is that sense of familiar strangeness: inherently structured relationally through paradoxical constructs. And while that may be a consistent conceit, my interests are multiple, frequently trading on cultural, representational, and spatial gambles; “grounded’ misfits”, if you will. I’m interested in the prospect of making design propositions that have cultural durability, that participate in the history of ideas, that have real capacity, and that might be a bit anomalous, off-kilter. Who knows? Maybe they even challenge the status quo. This is risky business to say the least. Some persistent interests I frame towards these promiscuous ends include: relations between art and architecture (I don’t make unnecessary distinctions); collections, taxonomies and curiosity cabinets; puzzles and games; hybridization, speciation, and genealogy; shape grammars; ambiguity, eccentricity, unusualness; scaling and miniaturization; emergence, incompleteness and indeterminacy; alchemy; mythologies; alternative temporalities; the generative use of language prompts; and analogical thinking, to name a few. If conventions and typological insistence predict spatial practices, then familiar estrangement might keep us alive, vivifying that which has
gone flat; reframing our habitual practices through a tensional play between that which orients us and simultaneously catches us offguard. In my work I use a range of techniques to reconsider what might be expected. I stretch programmatic framing; broaden what might qualify as spatial elements; enlarge what is possible through the ‘conceptual catalysts’; and make phase-specific and tailored architectural drawings. Programmatic (re)framing (frequently something recognized coupled with something that causes a distance) can structure relations that are otherwise difficult; leaning into strangely familiar shadows, if you will. In the David’s Island proposal, for example, there are programmatic elements that are prickly, relaxing the predictive roles of most programs; the island features landings for mythical sea travelers; a multiplied officer’s headquarters; an axis of mutiny, or an inaccessible divide; camouflaged surfaces; labyrinths of emptiness or air turbulence fields; moving and mis-coordinated landscapes; a machinic surveillance field; erosion surfaces; polished metamorphic rock gardens; ballasted space; an attractive shell surface; easement fencing; photo ops; panoramic steel walls; and no fly zones. In my Central California History Museum proposal, some of the programmatic elements include: tractors square dancing; a fescue, rose and cattle-clad archive filled with molds and jigs for objects that never existed; a beauty pageant for farm animals; and a theater of the muses. This kind of programmatic thinking trades on relatively normal, or expected topics that are relationally assembled, in unexpected ways. This enables innovative form from the bottom up, which unsettles the norm.
Davidâ€™s Island, Strategic Plot ODDITIES Using notation, indexes, writing and figurative marks this drawing plots variedSPACE relations over and through time. At the same time it helps discover what kinds of programmatic possibilities might be used to structure the interests and ambitions of the proposal.
Central California History Museum, Competition, Proto-formal Drawing Similar to the cryptic drawings, this drawing advances formal and material possibilities in a more definitive way. It is a mediating drawing, enabling insight about the movement between ideas and the formal and material articulation. It points to programmatic components as well, including: the harvesting surface; floral robots; electronic marionettes; and the theater of the muses.
The framing of (a)typical spatial elements animates relations that wade into the waters of the uncanny or anomalous. In the Fast Twitch desert dwelling, a range of designed elements structure the key ambitions or interests of the proposal. A handful of those interests include: nuanced perceptual tweaks in the desert to vivify things taken for granted;
hybrid archetypes that de-familiarize existing archetypes; the possibility to structure temporal logics that move between the geologic and immediate, thus displacing more normative expectations about when and where we are; and a tensional play between domestication and the wild, which enables a play between the security of being somewhere while creating a sense
Central California History Museum, Competition, Aerial View Assisted by: Sen Liu In this image you can see some of the programmatic components of the proposal played out: the fescue, rose and cattle clad archive; the surfaces for tractors square dancing and the theater of the muses (the corset like bit on the large building).
of wonderment and discovery. Developed spatial elements that relationally structure the potential of those interests spatially include: a pink dust garden; chrome shadows, etched with architectural fragments that will never arrive on the site of the house; milled garden surfaces which are configured by landscape milling machines and encrypted with seemingly
familiar, but unknowable languages; milled and real cacti; a miniature cast-bronze bi-plane; a miniature and non-functional stair to nowhere; an oversized ovoid and chromed billiard ball; a rubber storage sack; a miniature version of the project constructed on the living space (the tall architectural object filled with logs); and an inaccessible labyrinth. Among other things,
Fast Twitch, Desert Dwelling, â€˜Top Lozengeâ€™ Assisted by: Sen Liu Here, many of the architectural and landscape elements of the desert dwelling are visible: the milled garden surfaces; chrome shadows; the labyrinth; a miniature cast-bronze biplane; and the pink dust garden.
Fast Twitch, Desert Dwelling, ‘Miniature + Hawks’ Assisted by: Sen Liu A miniature version of the desert dwelling is constructed on the side of the ‘living space’- a steel clad, log filled space. The steel is calibrated to dematerialize in 100 years, leaving a pile of logs one the milled garden surfaces and desert. One lives in, or occupies a pair of baskets that are suspended from the steel clad, patterned and now partially erased architecture.
these elements establish the sense of estranged familiarity, reconstituting what our occupation of a desert landscape might reveal. The conceptual catalysts, equally implicated in the theme of this issue of Dichotomy, are speculative conceptions of architecture. I have imagined more than 60 of these to date. Imagine: spatial ventriloquism; materializing the space of a buildings construction rather than materializing the architecture; pixelated architecture; using literary terms analogously (aphorism, metaphor, simile, alliteration, and so on) as the construction logics for architecture; erasing drawings to produce architecture; architecture that produces false shadows; and time lapsed architecture. These spatial alternatives are lightly finished projects that serve to keep my imagination alive, provoking ways to think about what might be possible spatially. Odd, maybe, but given current technological, global and material advances, they might not be so odd after all; they are definitely grist for the mill for the new generation of architects, the contemporary cultural agents. Lastly, in the spirit of the thematic focus of ODDS, are the spatial visualizations: the architectural, sometimes invented, drawings. Often made using a combination of conventional techniques, some are tailored for the work they intend and for what might be discovered through making the drawings while designing. Like other aspects of my work, these drawings are sometimes a bit odd: cryptic site drawings that introduce the DNA for a spatial proposal; strategic plots that plot conceptual frameworks, objects, and events over and through time; relational drawings that
simply work on specific relationships; aspectival drawings that challenge the authority of perspective drawings, frequently leaving gaps in the drawings and gaps in the architecture; and analogous drawings where things or elements in the drawing are only like other things or behave like other things. Many of the visualizations are phase-specific, augmenting conventions and broadening those ordained and sanctified traditions that protect what is known.
Bleached Out: De-commissioning Domesticity, Relational Drawing, v.02 Within a very limited framework, or set of ambitions this drawing studies erasure, censoring and recoding. It is a pre-cursor to an architectural proposal- a relational drawing with no particular scale, orientation or direct spatial implications.
Central California History Museum, Competition, Cryptic Site Drawing, v.02, Detail This drawing detail is a kind of chromosomal drawing, a site drawing, made of indexes, notations and construction marks for an eventual spatial proposition. The genetic make up of the drawing anticipates formal and material make up without knowing either of those things, yet.
Maybe familiar strangeness or the grounded but incongruous—the uncanny, might be a way into more accessible spatial and cultural potential. The German philosopher Schelling discussed the uncanny in ‘Philosophie der Mythologie’ in 1835. Anthony Vidler observed that Schelling linked the uncanny to the origins of philosophy, religion and poetry and was a force to overcome toward the possibility of poetry. Freud enlarged the social consciousness through his writing on the uncanny, linking it to our marginalized and repressed impulses. And, many of the surrealists made a steady practice of strangely familiar provocations, altering known and habitual cultural contours. They delivered a strong sense of estranged familiarity by structuring paradoxical and often irreconcilable relationships, releasing the cultural equations in the arts into new forms of possibility. Arguably, releasing the strangely familiar as a relational and actionable pursuit might still have cultural purchase, unlocking dormant architectural and human potential; a seductive possibility to be sure. ODDS is an attentive call to arms; timely, telling; a cheeky shout-out to the silo we call the discipline of architecture; tickling taboos and provoking thoughts against the odds. This particular issue champions the defiance, or at least augmentation of conventions, thinking outside the box, advocating for risky business and calling out loudly into the deep margins of a discipline. Provocatively, the strangely familiar might be a way to project forward, advocating for the uncanny, the paradoxical; a way into the deep streams of cultural consciousness, a rallying call for what might
be possible. And who knows, maybe even striking resonant cultural chords on the run. The Surrealists might have gotten it right— real right.
When the bell rings how will you respond? Can you hear me Major Tom? Can you hear me Major Tom? Can you hear me Major Tom? Can youâ€¦ Here I am floating round my tin can.
Volume 22, Creep, 2016
Subversive Tehran Ivo Pekec and Fereshteh Assadzadeh Sheikhjani
PEKEC AND SHEIKHJANI
Upon Reflection Ivo Pekec and Fereshteh Assadzadeh Sheikhjani, 2019 The passage of time finds a way of revealing who we are in both pedagogy and practice. In rereading the interview, I invariably come to confrontation with an important part of our foundational years. While the partnership did not survive the test of time, many of the ethics that underlie its practices have found ways in which they can be translated into contemporary terms. Since 2002, when the interview occurred, my practice has also evolved a good bit --till 2010 under the banner of Office dA and since then in collaboration with Katie Faulkner and Arthur Chang, under NADAAA. Thus, some of the questions that were posed have also had the opportunity to be tested in relation to practice and the many buildings, installations and experiments that have happened since. So too, we have seen pedagogy evolve in substantial ways, pushing us to pose different questions, and examine old ones from a different point of view. For one, the role of materiality has proven to remain a seminal part of our practice, examining not only commissions as the basis of exemplary experimentation, but the catalytic detail as the site of invention. For this reason, while much of our work has had to make difficult choices about how to engage the conventions of building industry, much of its most productive moments have been the result of transformative discussions about how the quality of construction, the invention of systems, and the incorporation of new protocols may transform the quality of life for the very inhabitants of these buildings. But beyond that, we have also witnessed how material studies have been radicalized in our pedagogies, sponsoring new laboratories, and the engagement of other disciplines into the fabric of our thinking. To this end, I credit the next generation in their adoption of some of this early thinking, bringing in biology, computation and the invention of new fabricational protocols to create an inter-disciplinary environment within which our explorations may expand. From the political perspective, this has been an instrumental way in which the means and methods of construction have been re-channeled back into our hands, not so much for the sake of recentering power, but also to re-assume certain responsibilities that have withered over decades. This is very important, given the transformation of practice in the past decades, the expansion of â€˜expertiseâ€™ in different aligned disciplines, and the design-by-committee process that has come to dominate most projects. Within this context, the architect has had to become re-educated, reinvested in the very means through which other experts operate, and become conversant with a wide array of issues that impact the design process --without which their voice stands to become marginalized.
All this has also happened in a historical moment when the disciplines of architecture, landscape and urbanism have had to adapt to a very different relationship with the production of knowledge --through the very data, information and feedback that is made possible today but way of information technology, data visualization and a command over the larger global environment that is unprecedented. In this sense, our understanding of urbanism is no longer tethered to the scale of the city --or suburban-- context as it might have been just twenty years ago. We have access to a vast array of information about such phenomena as pollution, migration, global warming, or the degradation of ecologies than ever before. In great part, our ability as designers to participate in these larger global conversations depends on how we are able to enter into the ‘means and methods’ of researching, speculating on, and materializing the world around us as part of a broader political conversation. To this end, we continue to ask what we bring to the conversation that others cannot. While many disciplines bring greater technical expertise to the gathering of data, it remains arguable that few have the ability to translate it into formal, spatial and material terms. By extension, few have studied the vast historical body of work that has examined the very precedents that form the cities, environments and places within which we live, analyze, and transform. Our ability to leverage the very organizational, generative and representational means through which these themes may be studied and explored remains a vital part of the possibility that the architectural discipline may survive as we know it. To this end, it also matters how we construct and engage our audiences. To the extent that we know we cannot control design processes or the very environments they produce, it is important to better understand where design agency matters, and where participation might catalyze other possibilities. But to understand this is also to imagine how the architect might evolve to a larger responsibility of ‘speaking different languages’ to bring consensus between a vast array of different expertise and demonstrate a vision that is larger than the sum of their parts. While practice, and the unprecedented speed with which cities have evolved, has shown how critical our role might be, much of our pedagogies have not caught up with the pressures of the environment around us. Thus, this is also an exciting time to re-evaluate how we build curricula to imagine how to discover a world through new means that were once not accessible to our vision.
PEKEC AND SHEIKHJANI
Subversive Tehran Ivo Pekec Fereshteh Assadzadeh Sheikhjani
“The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognise who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space.” (1) Italo Calvino
The project aims to show how public space works or “rather” doesn’t work in Tehran, to illuminate the strategies and mechanisms that are used to counteract this very particular phenomenon in the urbanization process of Tehran and to show how it manifests in the city. Illuminating the unstoppable process of urbanization and digitalization in Tehran on basis of an example in opposition to its very unusual conditions reveals a new and usually forgotten side of these factors.
The history of the urbanization of Tehran is not filled with glory. The crowded, chaotic and paradoxical urban fabric of Tehran can neither be characterised as purely traditional nor modern. Tracing back its history to about 200 years ago, one is confronted with a development that faced many ups and downs. In the last century alone, the city experienced a massive population growth from merely 200,000 inhabitants to becoming the third largest city in the middle east, right behind Cairo and Istanbul, with a population that extends to 13 million inhabitants. Almost 60 percent of Irans’ population is under the age of 30. The youthful and well educated population of Tehran in particular has the potential and desire for a high participation in the public sphere. The problem “however” is that a conventional public sphere is almost nonexistent in Tehran.
“The freedom to make and remake our cities and ourselves is […] one of the most precious yet most neglected of our human rights. David Harvey
To understand the subversive spaces that stand in opposition to the public space it is necessary to first look at the way public sphere is defined. According to Habermas a public sphere can be described when three conditions apply – a guarantee to access for all citizens, to freedom of assembly and to freedom of expressing ones’ opinions. (3) Habermas sees modernity as an incomplete project.(4) Should this project ever be fully realized, it would have a big positive impact on the world. The way towards achieving this project is through the connection and interaction of
Photograph by Ako Salemi. www.akosalemi.com (supplied by the photographer)
PEKEC AND SHEIKHJANI
Photograph by Hossein Fatemi. www.hosseinfatemi.com (supplied by the photographer)
people. The public sphere makes this dialogue possible. Simplified, a public space is a space open and accessible to everyone, where a free exchange of opinions and ideas can take place. They are always a “space of appearance”(5), the visibility and performativity embedded in them is central to their functioning as a democratic space. As spaces of everyday activity, the idea and practice of democracy is ingrained in public spaces. Even when they face a multitude of exclusions, as they do in the example of Tehran, it is possible to look at them as places that have the potential of democratic activity, even if they have to become subversive to be
able to continue existing. Henri Lefebvre’s idea of the right to the city is fundamentally ingrained in this concept. David Harvey further specifies the right to the city as going beyond “the individual liberty to access urban resources [...] it is the right to change ourselves by changing the city.”(6) It should never be seen as an individual but as a common right since” this transformation inevitably depends upon the exercise of a collective power to reshape the process of urbanization.” (6) The face of a city is dependent on the social structure of the society that embodies it.
Changes to the social structure can, depending on the severity of the change, fundamentally modify the city. In pre-revolutionary Iran, for example, despite diminished political freedom, the attempt to reflect the new, modern and secular Persia found manifestations in the public spaces of it’s capital. Radical changes happened after the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Massive transformations in the social classes and crippling ideological and religious rules triggered rapid changes in the cities of Iran. The ones in power started remaking the cities according to an ideology based on an austere version of Islam. In Tehran, now the capital of a newly founded Islamic Republic, a segregation of its citizens from the public spaces began as a consequence of the new restrictions, instead of continuing to use them as a tool of urban, social and political integration. Large public spaces were taken over by pro regime forces, and slowly they transformed into “‘enclosed’ or ‘interior spaces’ of their ideological self ”.(7) Now, only by adhering to the new and mandatory conditions was it still possible to appear in public. Gradually, people were “pushed into the enclosed spaces of their private habitats.” (7) Looking at the development of public spaces in history, it can be observed that they are inherently contradictory, in the sense that they have always been exclusive in who has been able to participate in them, they have never been truly democratic. Nancy Fraser coined the term counterpublics (8) to describe the spaces
that people excluded from the public sphere establish as their own public realm to respond to the lack of concern for the activities they might need public spaces for. As most of these spaces stand in opposition to the impositions enforced by the authorities in Tehran, they are usually very dynamic and in constant flux, their users are required to persistently restructure and reinterpret physical space in accordance to the changing conditions. Due to the social changes that happened in Iran after 1979, individuals gradually began to move the activities they used to partake in in the public sphere into their more protected and safe private spaces, to be able to practice what is repressed in official public space. As a result, activities that normally take place in public, evolved very differently in Tehran than they did in most other cities, in a way that appears striking to outsiders that visit the city for the first time. The project Subversive Tehran is concerned with visualizing the way the people of Tehran adapted the city, reclaiming their right to the city and the way they re-appropriate parts of the City for activities that they are no longer able to do in public. By losing the right to express themselves freely in public, many people ceased to participate in any form of activity in public spaces. They find or invent alternative solutions in order to be able to continue interacting and connecting as freely as possible with their peers.
PEKEC AND SHEIKHJANI
In an isometric snapshot in time of a fictional district of Tehran, the project shows how new strategies are applied to the city to continue certain activities, and the new forms of space that get created in the process. The first view shows the city the way it is, embedded with information about the hidden spaces in form of scannable QR codes. The second view makes the locations of the subversive spaces visible. The third view visualizes the network between the spaces and their connection to the digital world. As these spaces usually correspond to a more hidden, private and underground layer of the city, they are volatile, flexible and in constant change. Activities might start in a given space, but they could rapidly change their location or even cease to exist at all, either because they are shut down by the authorities or because they simply are replaced by other options. “Like any emergent system, a city is a pattern in time”(9) Steven Johnson Meaning is applied to the public by the people that use it; the concept of public space and democracy is being redefined by people through their lived experience. “Time, and not space, should be seen as the primary context in which architecture is conceived. […] By positioning time as the key context for architecture, space becomes active, social, and it’s released from the hold of static formalism.” (10) Subversion is fluid; the temporal dimension is essential to these spaces. This gives them a certain immunity against control. 320
Saskia Sassen combines these types of spaces under the term open source urbanism, by looking at the “incompleteness of cities, which means that they can constantly be remade […]” through a “myriad of interventions and little changes.” (11) The current urban fabric of Tehran is under supressive control from the authorities, but as Saskia Sassen puts it, the “city talks back.” (11) All the ways in which people use hidden spaces to exercise their right to the city might look insignificant when looked at individually, but as a collective network of hidden spaces they might be interpreted as hinting at a larger, more severe and imminent change to the city as a whole that challenges the status quo of Tehran. Taking the terminology one level further, the appropriation of spaces can be referred to as “the software of peoples practices” (11) on top of the hardware that is the city. “The city is dead, long live the network.” (12) Thomas Sieverts Given the hidden and constantly changing nature of these subversive spaces, collecting data about them becomes very difficult. As the project is visualizing a part of urbanization that is mostly invisible, describing it with empiric data was impossible. Nevertheless, there are ways to understand the underlying relations of space that are repressed but are essential for the understanding of the present Tehran. The data and information collected for the project is of qualitative nature. It was gathered through field research, by directly experiencing and observing the hidden spaces, in conversations with people that have accessed them and shared their personal
Illustration by the authors
PEKEC AND SHEIKHJANI
experience, by reading historical documents and information, by studying literature and films that have hidden spaces as part of their content and by rumours.
“If we want to download an article we must sit for hours, and sometimes we fall asleep.” Tweet by Hasan Rouhani, current President of Iran, in 2014
Gaining access to these spaces is not easy, as it depends mostly on the network of social connections of the individual trying to go there. The more connections one has, the easier the access usually is. With the right phone number it is usually possible to attain almost everything. When someone from outside the country visits for the first time, they usually don’t expect nude art galleries or rock bands performing in apartments, but things like this are commonplace in Tehran; they simply are not visible or easily accessible.
For certain functions the digital realm has completely replaced what used to be located in public spaces. The best example for this is any form of political discourse. Paradoxically, even high profile politicians use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter (despite banning them previously) to express themselves more freely than they could in the public sphere controlled by the Iranian authorities. The digital realm reestablishes virtually parts of the participatory nature of the city.
Taking the idea of hacking the city one step further raises the question if subversive spaces should become part of the digital realm of the internet and cease to exist in physical form. In recent years, despite attempts to censor its use (13), the widespread use of internet cafes, fast private internet connections and mobile phones has allowed a large percentage of the population to access information that was previously unattainable in the public sphere, mainly on social media. In contrast to the physical city, the restrictions one encounters on the internet are more easily overcome (through VPNs and proxy servers), making it a viable strategy for some types of subversive spaces.
The subversive spaces developed from being in a fixed physical space to more fluid counterpublics that are accessible with the right kind of information (a phone number for example). The logical next step is the counterpublics developing away from a “space of places” to becoming pure a “space of flows.” (14) Manuel Castells sees the main paradigm of contemporary society as a network that is dependent on the flow between goods, resources and, most importantly in the case of understanding counterpublics, information. It is “however” very unlikely that they will disappear completely, even in the face of the further digitalization of life, as space forms “the material support of time-sharing social practices.” (15)
Illustration by the authors
PEKEC AND SHEIKHJANI
In the case of subversive spaces in Tehran the digital realm does not replace physical spaces in most cases. It mainly opens a door to more stable and safe ways of communication that are used to access the physical counterpublics. Especially fringe groups of society, for instance the LGBT community, religious minorities, or writers affected by censorship, have found safer ways of partaking in their activities online than they could in physical spaces. Members of the Baha’i religion organize university classes online (as they are not allowed to attend regular universities in Iran) and cyber synagogues “free the Jewish community from the struggles they experience in public.”(16)(17) Digital spaces allow them to take part in public space that is part of the “intangible meta-structure”(18) of the internet. To conclude, creating spaces for the activities taken away from the citizens of Tehran in the public realm can be described as a form of hacking the city, regardless of if they exist as physical counterpublics or if they shift to the digital realm. By applying these methods people manage to interact and perhaps gradually unveil the repressive veil that has been put over their city.
Illustration by the authors
PEKEC AND SHEIKHJANI
Endnotes 1) 2) 3) 4)
5) 6) 7) 8) 9) 10) 11) 12) 13) 14) 15)
Calvino, Italo. Invisible Cities. London: Vintage, 2007. Harvey, David. “The Right to the City.” New Left Review 53 (2008): 23-40. Habermas, Jürgen. The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere: An Inquiry into a Category of Bourgeois Society. Translated by Thomas Burger. Cambrige: MIT Press, 1991. Habermas, Jürgen. “Modernity: An Unfinished Project.” Translated by Nicholas Walker. In Habermas and the unfinished Project of Modernity, edited by Maurizio Passerin d’Entrèves and Seyla Benhabib, 38-55. Cambridge: MIT Press, 1997. Valentine, Gill. “Children should be seen and not heard: the production and transgression of adults’ public space.” Urban Geography 17 no. 3 (1996): 205-220. Harvey, David. “The Right to the City.” New Left Review 53 (2008): 23-40. Bayat, Asef. “Tehran:Paradox City.” New Left Review 66 (2010): 99-122. Fraser, Nancy. “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy.” In The Phantom Public Sphere, edited by Bruce Robbins, 1-32. Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 1993. Johnson, Steven. Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software. London: Penguin Press , 2002. Till, Jeremy. Architecture Depends. Cambride: MIT Press, 2009. Sassen, Saskia. “Open Source Urbanism.” The New City Reader 15 (2011): Page Unknown. Sieverts, Thomas. “De Regie van de Stad / Mastering the City.” Exhibition: Netherlands Architecture Institute Rotterdam, 1998. Small Media. “Revolution Decoded: Iran’s Digital Landscape.” Accessed January 28, 2016. http://smallmedia.org.uk/revolutiondecoded/a/ RevolutionDecoded.pdf Castells, Manuel. The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Volume I. 2nd ed. Malden: John Wiley and Sons, 2010. Castells, Manuel. “An Introduction to the Information Age.” in The Blackwell City Reader. 2nd ed, edited by Gary Bridge and Sophie Watson, 40-48. Malden: John Wiley & Sons, 2010.
16) 17) 18)
Small Media. “LGBT Republic of Iran: An Online Reality?” Accessed January 28, 2016. https://smallmedia.org.uk/media/projects/files/lgbtrepublic.pdf Small Media. “Knowledge as Resistance: The Baha’i Institute for Higher Education.” Accessed January 28, 2016. https://smallmedia.org.uk/media/ projects/files/KnowledgeAsResistance_2013.pdf Arch Plus. “Planetary Urbanism - Critique of the Present in the Medium of Information Design.” Accessed January 28, 2016. http://www.archplus. net/home/planetaryurbanism
Volume 23, Hungry, 2017
m(eat) Jeannine Shinoda Digesting (m)eat: of process and product Jeannine Shinoda, 2019
When writing about my project (m)eat - I began to imagine the world through the lens of a material. As an artist and architect, it only made sense for me to use meat (the medium for that work) as my inspiration to look at space-making when I wrote for Dichotomy 23. The 2+ years I spent working on (m)eat with the assistance and support of The University of Wisconsin Meat Sciences and its culmination in a performance was emblematic of my artistic process where research and making go hand in hand. The writing was a means to continue the work and an opportunity to extend the inquiry beyond the performance. A performance is such an amazing amount of energy for a temporal and fleeting experience. It takes time and distance to really process and digest the aftermath. It is important to mark these moments (in the moment) because with time, the meaning changes and evolves with you. The residuals of the artistic process are the sculptural artifacts, the memories, and the documentation (video, photographs or writing). As the artist, writing about your own work makes you think more critically about your decisions and actions – where they came from and what they mean. For me, writing is a learning process and part of my practice where the selection of words is just as hard if not harder than creating the form. As I look back at this project in the context of my own body of work – things that were once anomalies are now patterns. My obsession with: food, the everyday, systems, research, groceries, etc. They keep coming back – and that’s what it’s like to be passionate about something. With time, you begin to trust that whatever you love (or hate) will keep coming back – to bring you inspiration, teach you lessons and move you forward.
(m)eat Jeannine Shinoda
The project (m)eat began as a simple idea to create a flip book using bologna as a medium. The aim was to insert a short narrative into a lunch time staple. What I discovered in the process of creating this work was that the story of the bologna was equally if not more interesting than the stories inside the bologna. Via (m)eat, I began to investigate bologna’s material complexity and my own location within a system of consumption. Let us first begin with the whole animal. When the body becomes architecture – we are prone to see this corporal room as an empty space. The metaphor leads us to visualize a building using the skeleton to generate proportions (structure) or spatially arranged around bodily functions (adjacencies and program). What if instead of imagining a hollow form, we envision a live body, full – of liquid, muscle and organ? What if we made form of not the solid and rigid, but the soft and the flesh? Using the meat that is separated from the bone and the organs cleaved from the body, what would happen if the de constructed solid rather than the void became the volume generator? When making bologna or frankfurters, you must combine ice water with raw meat(s), pureeing the mixture until the texture of the muscles is no longer distinguishable and the proteins are left un-tethered by the chopping and the salt.
This highly sticky and malleable material, which is more liquid than solid, is full of possibilities but lacks a distinct form. At this point, the form potential of this semi-liquid material is defined only by the mold that can carry it.
020” / Cow Ear
Historically, the internal organs (stomach, rounds/small intestine, caps/caecum, middles/ large intestine, bungs and bladders) of animals were used to encapsulate products using the blood, brains, liver and smaller bits of muscle meat. When we think of the shape of meat beyond the constructed cut of the butcher, it is often the roundness of a meatball or a sausage stuffed into an intestinal casing. A meat emulsion can act much like concrete, plaster, cake batter, or Jell-o. Homogeneous and stripped of its directionality, the anywhere-ness of these materials in their liquid state means that
shape is defined by gravity and the container. The parameters of liquids or emulsions create opportunities to explore the potentials of container forms as well as the imperfections of a vessel (joints and leaks) and the transitions between the controlled and unrestrained (surface tension and meniscus). The transformation of a meat emulsion from liquid to solid – begins with addition of heat and the binding/solidification of the proteins caused by the cooking process. To create a juicy and consistent bologna, the meat must be degassed before being stuffed into a casing and warmed until the internal temperature reaches 158 degrees Fahrenheit. The combination of emulsifying agents, the removal of air, the consistent pressure exerted by the casing materials and the modulation of temperature extremes keep the fat and water molecules evenly dispersed. Any deviations such as a fast rise in temperature or failure to degas the emulsion can result in a heterogeneous product: a tougher meat with pockets of fat, air and gelatin. Thus bologna’s casing must be a closed container that distributes pressure evenly and stretches with the expansion of the meat caused by cooking. While this brings to mind pneumatic structures and balloon forms, modern meat innovations have broken the typology of the amorphously soft meat form with the standardized circles of sandwich meats, cuboids of SPAM and tear drop shapes of canned ham. Processed meat’s aim for consistency has led to a normative of rigid geometries and branded shapes. Today the major distinction between a modern beef
“O_S_C_A_R” / Inkjet on Watercolor Paper, Frame, Bologna and Nail
hot dog and a slice of beef bologna lies solely in the diameter of the cylinder. Unlike other products that are characterized by the type of meat used to produce them, the individual and/ or combinations of proteins used in bologna are far less important than the familiar flavor profile and texture of this distinctly American product. For me, this external constraint and internal freedom meant that multiple proteins could be used simultaneously while still maintaining the bologna-ness of the product. The section of a bologna loaf became an opportunity for image; the length of the loaf, the limitation of a story; each protein, a color in a palette. Change happened in the 1/8” of a slice and the shapes evolved with the pace of consumption. Imagine going to the deli counter to get a few pages of a book. What story would you like to see in your bologna sandwich?
“An Unexplicable Coincidence” / Beef and Chicken Bologna
“After a Cook, Smoke Cook, Cook and a Cold Shower” / Frankfurter and Casing
Documentary Images by the artist
Documentary Images by the artist
Documentary Images by the artist
Process in (m) eat Lex Morgan Lancaster
The performative power of oscillating terms—of nouns becoming verbs, of a static material yielded by live active processes, of bodily ingestion (eat) that also sounds like social interaction (meet)— signals another kind of play at work in the exhibition (m)eat; the playful tension between the formal or material concerns that prompt sustained investigation of an object and the interpersonal relationships that form when our conceptual trajectories lead us through another kind of process. This particular process is one that implicates both art making and economic systems of production, for which the circular form of the bologna provides a generative medium. This is a cyclical, repetitive process of both industrial systems and human consumption. After the turn to abjection in contemporary art of the 1980s and 1990s, it is not unusual to see works that deal explicitly with bodily processes, or to see conceptual art objects themselves that are made of animal substances such as lard. After “relational aesthetics,” it is not necessarily surprising to view food as art, and serving or eating as a creative process or performative catalyst. Inspired in various ways by artwork of recent decades, and extending some older concerns around commodity culture in sixties art, (m) eat conveys no clear political or moral stance
about its own content. This might prompt us to ask, again, whether creating a spectacular example of consumerist production can also enact a critical reflection upon these same systems. Is there power in complicity? The answer might come to us in the deceptively simple design of the bologna medium: the circle that reflects upon the repetition of food processing and the movements of human ingestion, of insidiously catchy jingles, and the cultivation of tastes that develop through habits of consumption that are intimate but never entirely personal. These are the repetitious patterns of a political-economic system from which we cannot discharge ourselves. But within this system, as the objects and actions in (m)eat remind us, there are opportunities for poaching and interventions that yield
Documentary Image by Amy Cannestra
Documentary Image by Jim Escalante
repetition with a difference.(m)eat supplies both the congenial space of the deli as an interactive performance and the altered material objects of the meat industry served up in a white gallery cube. Both forms of display are exposures of consumer exchange processes: we meet them with acceptance as well as wonder at the overlooked spectacles of violent production and sweet nostalgia. Without the didactic claim that something is amiss, that things could be different, (m)eat asks that we approach the tedious everyday exchanges of an industrial animal/ object with a new awareness of our own complicity at the end of the production line. With all of the hopes and wishes we invest in the products we buy and ingest, is it possible that this processing, packaging, and serving of animals as food is already reflective of what we want, of how we consider our own
lives; that our values of â€œpurityâ€? are already undermined in the production of nothing less than mid-western tradition? After all, there is nothing more natural and American than a bologna sandwich, we assume. But when put on display in a gallery, removed from the deli aisle, that which is ordinary becomes very strange. There is a disjunction between what the bologna represents, and how it is rendered in various forms as a conceptual art medium. (m)eat denaturalizes a loaded and significant consumer food product, returning us to some of the most critical concerns of contemporary art and life. And if we are complicit, it is within the systemic activities and relationships of production and consumption that we find small measures of intervention; the alterity that is already there, implied in the circular patterns of the product itself.
Endnotes 1) 2 3)
Loughborough University, School of Civil & Building Engineering, UK Chongqing University, School of Urban Construction and Environmental Engineering, China Rural land is different as it’s actually owned by individuals or rural collectives. This land should be purchased or compensated for by the local government. The land value of rural land is a fraction of urban land; however, local governments have the authority to change the land over which immediately increases its value (up to 40x). The tier labelling system for Chinese cities is an unofficial system that represents a city’s economic development which includes GDP, infrastructure, transportation systems, etc. The tier system is often used to help companies prioritize key markets. Within the last two years construction of villas has been made illegal by the Chinese government as a wasteful form of housing. The home on the left did a refit prior to moving in, but didn’t have enough money to refit the windows. Two years on now, they have money to refit the windows and the lower panels while living in the home. It’s worth noting that a law was passed in 2007 that provides owners with a level of reassurance that the government will not take the land away from them at the end of the lease period; however the owner is likely to have to pay to lease the land from the government again.
References 1) 2) 3) 4) 5) 6)
Bosker, B. 2013. Original Copies: Architectural Mimicry in Contemporary China. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press & University of Hawaii Press. Campanella, T. 2008. The Concrete Dragon: China’s Urban Revolution and what it means for the world. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Han, S. and Wang, Y. 2001. Chongqing. Cities 18 (2): 115-125. Miller, T. 2012. China’s Urban Billion. London: Zed Books. Ren, X. 2013 Urban China. Cambridge: Polity Press. Shepard, W. 2015. Ghost Cities of China. London: Zed Books.
SOA 4.0, 2019
UDM SOA NEWS Dean Will Wittig
SOA 4.0 Dean Will Wittig
As Dichotomy turns its attention to this retrospective issue reflecting on 40 years of student led critical discourse in 23 previous issues, the School of Architecture is also about to embark on a new chapter, which has been informally referred to as “SOA 4.0.” After fifty five years as an independent School at the University, we are about to name just our fourth dean in the School’s history – another occasion worthy of reflection. Three important topics; study abroad, diversity, and community engagement may help tell our story as a reflection of both the present and the trajectory of the school during the tenure of three deans. Reflecting on our shared past, one pivotal time in the late eighties comes to mind that stiches several eras together. Our Founding Dean, Bruno Leon, was touring Italy at the time, in search of a new home for our study abroad program. Among other destinations on that tour was the small medieval hill town of Volterra, a magical place we have been sending our students to ever since. At that same moment, an architecture student from Kansas (and a student of Lou Michel, who many alumni will remember), yours truly, was studying in Tuscany and made a very memorable trip to Volterra. Back in Detroit, Steve Vogel was running a very successful practice and teaching in the program as an Adjunct Professor. And there was one additional character in this story
of intersections - passing through that same vortex at about the same time, Wladek Fuchs was an exchange student studying in Detroit, on loan from our exchange program with Warsaw University of Technology. Perhaps no other accomplishment in our recent past stiches together our collective history more so than the realization of a dream shared by all three deans – securing our own facility in Volterra as the anchor of our study abroad programs. All three deans were also fortunate to literally witness that dream come true through the phenomenal determination of Professor Wladek Fuchs. Since 2013 we have had the pleasure and privilege of occupying the Pagnotta International Residential College in Volterra Italy, in addition to our continued presence in Warsaw, our other home away from home. Providing access to outstanding study abroad experiences to as many of our students as possible remains a hallmark of the School.
Deans Leon, Vogel, and Wittig in Volterra, May 2013
UDM SOA NEWS
Professors Virginia Stanard, Kris Nelson, Erika LIndsay, Emily Kutil, Claudia Bernasconi, and Allegra Pitera
Another topic that serves as a measure of the arc of progress over the decades is the (slow) transformation towards gender balance and ethnic diversity in our field, which is timely, as we have witnessed several benchmarks this year related to gender equity. In the early years of architectural education, beginning in the 1920’s with our program in Architectural Engineering, there was a complete lack of diversity in the field. As an example, there were no female graduates until 1949. Marguerite M. Farney Decker was the first female graduate (and the grandmother of Molly Decker, class of ‘13), and there continued to be very few female graduates into the late 70’s. Kathleen Reehil, who in 1967 was just the second female graduate from the School of Architecture after
we became independent from the College of Engineering, was honored this spring as our 2019 University of Detroit Mercy Alumni Achievement winner, in recognition of her stellar career at Herman Miller, SmithGroup, Knoll, and Gensler. Although Kathy and others taught as adjuncts from time to time in the 70’s and 80’s, unfortunately, there was also a marked absence of gender balance on the faculty at the School for some time. However, since 1993, most of the individuals hired as tenure track faculty have been female, and in 1998 Ronit Eisenbach became the first female faculty member to be granted tenure in the School of Architecture. Although progress has been too slow, and we still have a long way
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to go, we are pleased to report that twenty years later, and for the first time ever, of the twelve full time faculty at the school today, six are female, two of whom also hold key directorships. And we are confident it wonâ€™t be long before we can celebrate our first female at the rank of full professor. Not coincidentally, we are pleased to announce that Routledge will soon be publishing a book entitled â€œTeaching and Designing in Detroit: 10 Women on Pedagogy and Practiceâ€?, co-edited by Professors Steve Vogel and Libby Blume, and featuring ten current and former female faculty from the school. We are also pleased to report that for the first time ever a majority of students in the School of Architecture are female. We are also seeing a gradual increase in the ethnic and racial diversity
in our student body, and we hope that our next chapter will be enriched by a rapid acceleration towards ever greater equity and increased diversity of all types in the School and in the profession. As a coda to this theme, the advent of six excellent new faculty members who have been hired in the last four years has also enabled us to make great strides in developing a new 21st century architecture curriculum. The third theme is our consistent dedication to the role of the architect in the development of strong communities, which has influenced the humanistic underpinnings of our curriculum philosophy and our many outreach efforts throughout our history. Recently a new buzz word has been gaining traction in some design
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circles – “user experience design” – sometimes indicated with the hip moniker ‘UX design’ a supposedly novel concept that suggests that designers ought to focus their attention on the people who will actually use their products and spaces. I am confident all of our alumni reading this will find this idea to be anything but novel. Throughout our history, we have consistently emphasized the idea that architecture is a means to creating exceptional experiences and communities, not an end to itself. Dean Bruno Leon once said “What makes your architecture good is not how people feel about it when they experience it, but how it makes them feel about themselves when they are in it.” As we continue to strive towards great placemaking in our work through the Detroit Collaborative Design Center and many other community based initiatives completed by our Architecture and Master of Community Development students and faculty, our work remains grounded in this human centered approach to design. We consider our clients and all the stakeholders we serve to be coauthors in all our projects. They bring their deep expertise to the table as full partners in our endeavors, and are much more than “users” in each and every project we pursue. As a bookend with our satellite campus in Volterra, this theme is also reflected by another recent expansion of our facilities. In February of 2019, the Detroit Collaborative Design Center celebrated its 25th year of service to the community with the opening of our new
outreach office – Neighborhood HomeBase – a new storefront space located on McNichols just west of Livernois that we have developed in collaboration with the City of Detroit Planning and Development Department, Live6 Alliance, and Century Partners. This marks an important expansion of our commitment to the community that will help us expand our efforts and give our students new opportunities for place-making based in the real world. With multiple renovations recently completed in our “headquarters” here on campus - including the addition of up-to-date technology, and a new satellite campus in Tuscany, and a second off-campus location for the Design Center - our physical resources have never been stronger. With the Detroit Collaborative Design Center boasting a 25 year track record supported recently by average gross revenues of a million dollars a year, we are confident we will continue to have a positive impact on our community. And with enrollment up 35% over the past four years and increasing diversity in the student body and the faculty, we expect the School of Architecture will continue to move towards our goal of reflecting the community we serve. As we await the advent of “SOA 4.0,” it is clear that the School of Architecture is poised for what promises to be the most dynamic, exciting, and impactful chapter yet in the years to come.
Issue 25 Call for Entries Soil both unites and divides us. It is the foundation of the Earth in which we all inhabit â€“ we grow from it, we prosper from it, we build upon it, we pollute it, we dichotomize it. Soil is organic; providing a sustainable base for life, yet degrading or dirty. How is it that soil can unite nations, yet divide people? What power does it have in cultivating the built environment and defining its boundaries? Dichotomy invites you to define what perspective grounds you in soil. Submissions should consider Soil as a response to the growth, prosperous, developable, polluted, dichotomized, and / or divided earth that is the foundation of our built environment, as well as its relation to the discourse of architecture, urbanism, design, and the arts. Submit a 300 word abstract and 3 images to http://dichotomy.arch.udmercy.edu/ submit-25/ by December 15, 2019.