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Six on Four Marina Carretero Beatriz Fernández Gómez Ana González Granja Fernando Jiménez Salmerón Candela Oliva Varier Blanca Pérez González Edited by David Goodman

Selected Texts from Culture and Theory V IE University - Bachelor of Architecture Program Prof. David Goodman 2011


Six on Four Selected Texts from Culture and Theory V IE University School of Architecture and Design Prof. David Goodman


Six on Four Selected Texts from Culture and Theory V IE University School of Architecture and Design Prof. David Goodman 2011

Marina Carretero Beatriz Fernández Gómez Ana González Granja Fernando Jiménez Salmerón Candela Oliva Varier Blanca Pérez González


FOREWORD The texts in this volume are the result of may weeks of hard work by students and faculty alike. The work illustrates the results of an ongoing experiment in how to teach history, and how to infuse it with the energy and sensibilities of studio design teaching. I´d hoped to introduce students to several of the key questions facing the architect today, presenting key texts related to these issues, and placing them in context with pairings of contemporary and historical examples. In this way, the idea was to afford the student a solid base in these fundamental texts and case studies, but we can also make the case quite directly that these historical examples are directly related to problems and questions that they will face in practice and that are intimately related to any kind of contemporary cultural production, no matter the medium. The idea is to create a living, applied history by showing how the meanings of objects themselves are contestable, malleable, etc. But there is also a secondary goal. The course was also a study in argumentation, rhetoric, and information design. It was my hope to make this a design course in a certain way. As you will see in what follows, students advanced their arguments with concise, focused writing, but also through drawings, graphics, collages, etc. What you see here, then, is the collected effort to grapple with a few key questions. The dedication of the students included here makes this series of essays much more than a mere collection of opinion pieces, or essays on given topics. What we have here are explorations and questions. They are openings and provocations, not conclusions. David Goodman Director of Undergraduate Studies in Architecture IE University


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Chapter 1: Unmasking the Myth: Traditional Innovation Chapter 2: Language in Architecture Chapter 3: Ideally Formed/Formally Informed Chapter 4: Artifically Natural/Naturally Artificial


Unmasking the Myth


Tradition First of all, we should explain these two concepts seem to be opposed, as tradition is “a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past” and innovation, coming from the latin “innovare” meaning “to renew or change”. So far, it is clear that the two terms are linked, but could they coexist together?

Innovation


Unmasking the Myth: Traditional Innovation


In the world we live in, little it is done in a naïve way, everything has an implicit objective, especially in advertising. There is not a single detail that is not completely studied to give a certain sensation. The unpredictable is banned in this world and the target public do not realise what is happening, but really, and this is the most beautiful part, they do not want to think that are being influenced. As we will see this tool is not used only in advertising. Even architecture plays with these tools. There have been thousands of pieces of architecture filtered through the media with different purposes, but let us take a single example and focus on it. This one is from Volkswagen and it uses this building in a specific way.

Building Silhouette 2

Building Car

Seattle Library

Silhouette 1 Seattle Library Silhouette 2

Silhouette 1

At first sight we can just see two silhouettes, one car, and two buildings with no more meaning than the idea that each word represents, as William of Ockham would say in his nominalist theory, only the individuals exist. The rest are just abstractions created by our minds.

Diagram of the amount of space taken in the Ad

Car

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


On a second level, we perceive that the car takes up less room in the ad than the silhouettes and the buildings but it remains defined and attracting element. Getting deeper on this level we can achieve the idea of quality vs. quantity, biggest is not necessarily better and we could even introduce the idea of Mies Van der Rohe of “Less is more”, the most appealing object in the image is the smallest one. Focusing the analysis on the building, we realise that it is not a common building like the one in the back of the image, it is the Seattle Central Library by OMA, the innovation of this building is absorbed by the car, but wait, is this really innovative? Breaking all the rules? Yes it is, but it is archieving that innovation by traditional means, pure geometrical shapes (rectangles) joined together by the envelope that is just a line from corner to corner.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


Innovation made by tradition, does this relate to this car whose image has hardly changed for the past 10 years? We need to dive deeper inside to find that there is something hidden behind, there is still the idea of less is more, having a “traditional” or let’s say, a not “aggressively” innovative façade doesn’t mean that it is not innovative, because it doesn’t need to show it on the facade, in these terms we can suggest that OMA chose a serious design in comparison to the ones that are being developed in the same period like Gehry’s Walt Disney Concert Hall. The architects conceived the new Central Library building as a celebration of books. OMA wanted to let the building's functions dictate what it should look like. They also went one step further in this sense, they implement the old traditional way of circulating from the 1920 Library into this new one, but the implement it on the system, they get the tradition and convert it into innovation. Unmasking the Myth | Chapter 1


Innovation is behind


The importance of the building is the function, OMA based the design on defining areas, how will they be connected, how everything work together and when they reached a perfect system, they clad it in a subtle dress. One step further than Mies with the Barcelona pavilion, he reached the perfect system but he innovated highlighting this system by cladding only with precious materials empowering the beauty of this already perfect system. OMA believes even more in the beauty of their system, they based the innovation in not innovating, traditional geometries and shapes could reach greater levels of complexity and innovation but if we want to be able to get a glimpse of this we need to unmask it, if we look through the veil they put on their building we will see that the real importance is not outside but inside, it is not on the faรงade but in the system, it is not in the universal but the particular, it is not on the car but in the engine. But if we dig one more level we find the inevitable that is being sold to us, and we have a clue on the slogan of VW .

Unmasking the Myth | Chapter 1


They do not trust that anyone can drive their car, they will select the drivers, they will have an interview at the car dealership and they will evaluate if you are able or not to have one of this cars. That is the sensation I have when I read it. This try to resemble the Ferrari strategy, which is exactly that, you have an interview with you and they will decide if you are able to handle the glamour this brand give you. Not so long ago a Spanish bullfighter was denied the right to buy a Ferrari because he didn’t reach the level of standing intended by this firm, even if he has money to buy 10 of that cars in cash that morning. And even more in brands like Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, etc... But clearly VW is not that, it is just what this try to represent, even the high class firm of VW (Porsche) sells their cars to whomever wants one. Looking at the image with this idea in mind we can also extract some ideas. The VW that is kind of a medium class car is next to a clearly high class building, trying to reinforce more how exclusive they are. A building that cost 20 times more just in terms of design and “function”, but still it is a serious design that aim the sensitivity not just a visual banal image that shocks once and never again. You want to enter this building because is exclusive, there is no other in the world, the sensation you will have inside will be unique. The same will happen with the car: you want to have a masterpiece of car engineering in your garage knowing that just you and 4 others can experience that.

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Quoting Roland Barthes “Architecture is always dream and function, expression of a utopia and instrument of a convenience”. We will see that this is pretty obvious with two examples from both sides, one from the dream and other from function. In case of the Eiffel Tower, the architecture has no function so it is all dream but little by little those dreams of people give function to the tower and more over, they give a much higher and relevant function than any other that could be given by man (telecommunication, meteorology, etc…) . These dreams that in the beginnings were different depending on the individual started to converge, thanks to the media, and started to create a more collective and universal dream of the tower, this changed the tower and turned its meaning into the mythological one. It started to be the icon of those several “dreams” an icon of France, icon of love, etc...


On the other hand we have our example, the Seattle Public Library, which has a completely opposed thought on the part of the architect, it is purely function, everything is dictated by the customers, how they use the space, how they travel through the building, what are the needs of each space, etc.. The design started from practical considerations as Rem Koolhas said, he started asking questions: What activities will the building be required to handle and how can similar functions be grouped together? After analyzing functions and space requirements, five broad categories emerged: administration and staff, collections, information, public space and parking. The architects visualized the space as five stacked boxes and used that as a starting point for the building's design. The rectangular boxes were repositioned to allow better views and light. Everything was already studied, nothing was left to chance, even the façade which at the time was one of the most important elements to define the building. It was made to serve the overall function, to block the sunrays, protecting both visitors and books from direct light, but letting the magnificent views that were already planned to each space.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


We could think that with this overwhelming plan there is nothing left to dream, but let’s quote the experience of two of the first visitors to the building. "It looks like a place where you can do a lot of dreaming," said Seattle resident Tom Bartlett "Like climbing Mount Fuji to see the sunrise — if you go in the afternoon, you won't see it the same." So there are still dreams in the minds of the visitors, because there will always be. In this case as in the beginning of the Eiffel Tower, each one has his own dreams about it, their own experience, but when the dreams of lots of people get together it creates the mythological entity, and most of the times, the media have to interact between the dreams and create a collective one, architecture is a instrument of convenience just because alone has no meaning, it is when it interacts with the individual when it acquires a real meaning.


As William of Ockham told us, only the individual entity exists, the rest are just supra-individual abstractions, i.e the mind of each person in the world is different and will abstract differently the individual and thus, there is not a clear and pure universal meaning for that individual. In my opinion that’s why we are allowed to dream, and why reality can’t be fractioned sometimes? Different for each one of us, and just 100 % real when it is together in a single idea for the humanity. And extending Barthes affirmation “use shelters meaning”, I would like to say also the contrary, meaning also shelters use, as we have just seen the dichotomy between function and meaning is not such, they are linked and feedback one from the other in the way that if one does not exist, it is being created by the other and I would even say more, if one architectural piece has a lack of one of them for giving total priority to the other, what you get in response is a huge development of the one you left out as we have seen with this two examples. In the media world that we live in, opinion is what has most interest, it is when something (a building, or a painting, or a book, for example) makes all the opinions points towards one direction or idea when that is truly developed in a bigger sense. The work of the media is just trying to confuse the people’s critic ideals because in the end everything is what we think about it. There are good critics, there are bad critics, there are interested critics but we must affirm that beautiful moment in which the critics conflux, that fleeting level of complicity we get.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


So maybe the media is trying to sell us an ideal that is not true but after generations of constructed ideal it finally appears and this level of complicity that could only be reached on the one on one scale is reached in the global human scale. Perhaps in the end media are just creating universal truths so people of different cultures have common points. Obviously that is not their purpose but they are influencing the critic ideal of everyone, and in the end making complicity between all of us. It is good to influence people’s critical ideals? I can’t give a certain answer, but we are having that every day, from your family trying you to think as they are, to the school, university, news, etc... there not objectivity, critique is everything, we need to be aware of that and act in consequence, but as long as people feel good being part of something higher, realising that they are part of a group (and which group is bigger than humanity) it is good to break it, even if is something untrue at the start? As Barthes said, it is good to unmask the myth, as well as it is good to unmask the critique but I think that we should never break them, because somehow they could be part of someone’s thoughts and maybe someday, part of the thought of everyone.

Unmasking the Myth | Chapter 1


Language in Architecture Culture & Theory V Fernando Jim茅nez Salmer贸n


Since ancient Rome, buildings have followed the rules that the Greeks imposed in their great temples, after generations, those rules were adapted to the use of the building or rather mixed with other new rules existing. The result was a hybrid.

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Here, we will focus on an example from the Roman Baroque, the church of Il GesĂş. Here the architects Vignola and De la Porta tried to mix the classical Greek temple with the church typology. Both are temples but the rules for each are quite different. So how do the architects manage to mix them?

Unmasking the Myth | Chapter 1


Before starting to talk about the peculiarities of this architectural piece we need to know that the church of Il Gesu was made during the Counter-Reformation. The Counter-Reformation, created during the Council of Trent, aimed to confirm the power of the Catholic Church and take away the corruption pointed out by Martin Luther's movement. What is interesting here is that the Council also created a decree on art against mannerist style, taking Michelangelo as example, they found mannerism as a threat to the idea of the conservative church with their “modern” ways of interpreting the language of past architecture and transgressing the artistic limits of what could be shown in the house of God. Everything had to be perfectly harmonious and balanced and the art of Mannerism was quite different (Nudes, combination of Classic+Christian+Mythological, etc…) It is ironic that after that the Catholic Church banned Michelangelo’s art they asked him to lead the first commission of Il Gesu, and when he rejected it, they gave it to Giacomo da Vignola, who was one of the three architects (with Andrea Palladio and Giulio Romano) that later would become the main figures of the Italian Mannerist movement and the pioneers anticipating Baroque style.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


A quick chronology of this building would start in1534 when St. Ignatius founded the Society of Jesus in Paris while studying theology there and settled in Rome. After that in 1540 Pope Paul III recognized the Society of Jesus and Ignatius began fund raising for his church in Rome. In 1550 the Foundation laid under direction of Giovanni Bartolomeo di Lippi, an architect and sculptor also known as Nanni di Baccio Bigio, but constructione was delayed until 1554. Michelangelo was then called to redesign the church, but refused the commission. In 1554 the second foundation was laid; again construction founded because of disputes with neighboring Muti and Altieri families. In 1568 Cardinal Farnese agrees to fund the church and final construction begins. The church designed by Jacopo Barozzi, also known as Vignola. In 1571 Vignola dies and work is completed by Giocomo Della Porta, who designed the faรงade and the dome following his own designs in opposition to what Vignola had set. In 1661-79 the frescoes inside the church were painted by Baciccia. Finally in 1696-1700 the altar-tomb of St. Ignatius was designed and made by Andrea Pozzo among others.

Language in Architecture | Chapter 2


The facade will be executed later in1571 by Giacomo della Porta, whose work is one of the main examples of transition from Mannerist style to Baroque. Della Porta was also a follower of Michelangelo, who finished two of his main architectural projects (Piazza del Campidoglio and St. Peter’s in the Vatican at Rome) During that year, Della Porta prepared and presented a design that was a bit different from Vignola’s. He eliminated the decorative saints that surrounded the church, and he added two large scroll-shaped buttresses to create a sole piece with maintaining a clear distinction between the lower portion and the upper one by eliminating the pilasters stepping out in the middle portion. Although he continued these pilasters in the upper level he creates a pause in the continuity of the façade, the sense of vertical harmony that Vignola set was broken on the sides.

Vignola’s design Fernando Jiménez Salmerón

Porta’s design


Della Porta's faรงade had to be harmonious and serious, or at least it had to seem to be, so it accomplishes the goals of the Counter-Reformation maybe that is why he reduces the openings from six to four, transforming two of them into blind windows. The lower portion of the facade is full of Palladian architecture, its paired columns and pilasters try to follow the harmony of ancient Greek and Roman temples but playing with this classical language, Della Porta placed them in several layers going back and forth accomplishing also his mannerist aims. Another interesting fact is the vertical continuation of the two main pair of columns perforating the ceiling and protruding behind the main top pediment, like a joke of the classic principle of structure of the Greek temples.

Language in Architecture | Chapter 2


In the upper story, the columns and pilasters follow the same scheme but with four instead of six pairs of supports as in the windows, six to four. Why is this happening?. In my opinion the reduction is to give a more serious (massive) facade, which matches better with the aims of the counter reformation. The difference in width between the two stories is solved with the buttresses and maintaining the Renaissance ideal of height equalling width that was not achieved by Vignolas design. We can also note the layering that will then happen on the lower portion, on these buttresses, the lines separating levels and even the top pediment is horizontally broken by these layers stepping in and out.

The line separating the two levels of the building has to do with the classical orders but here it finds a different use. It is growing to the exterior and used as a separator of pilasters. We have a pilaster on top of a pilaster instead of a continuous one. Also the triumphal arch that is a continuation or part of this line of separation and it is breaking the pediment by enclosing it.


We have text going from one side to the other, as in Vignola’s design, which was added after the official presentation of the façade because it is breaking the symmetry and also following the back and forth steps that the building generate so it is impossible to read it completely. Unless you walk the whole façade from one point to the other and the theatrical approach to architecture is common in the Baroque, the interaction between the individual and the building, that later will also turn into the language of tectonics and the building seen as a mechanism of making an impression on the visitor, very present in the baroque.

Also we can find some problems Della Porta found when making this relief to the façade, and it is the pilaster intersection with the next step, we see here the solution by cutting it as it continues behind creating several layers but we cannot see how they continue. The last thing we find is another line that it seems to be marking something happening on the interior, a floor division perhaps, discontinuous going behind the pairs of columns and pilasters.


The language of the building continues on the interior but using the same tone as on the exterior, the bold plan uses the central planning of the High Renaissance, marked by a large dome, the prominent pathways and by the extended nave. As in the exterior, this apparently normal, serious and harmonious plan hides some further reading. Looking at this corner points one discovers a linguistic trick , instead of putting literaly Roman columns on the interior, Vignola engraved the patterns of these columns onto the corners were images of saints are located and also on the main nave. It is as they had been in that place but now all that remains is the image, making a language of relief, like Braille, that later on will be used by Borromini. And in my opinion also it is introducing literal classical compositions as a “Ruin”, we need to play with classic features instead of placing them as 1500 years before: a hidden manifesto of mannerist style.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


This idea is also repeated in postmodernism, subtle clues of the past are left in the building for some reason, a great example is Robert Venturi in his many buildings but we will focus on Venturi and Scott-Brown´s Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery (designed by William Wilkins and founded in 1824).

Corners of Il Gesu

Roman Column

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Language in Architecture | Chapter 2


The Sainsbury Wing dates from 1985 and it is designed to be a mimetic continuation of the previous building while at the same time conserving its own identity as a postmodernist building. For this purpose, Venturi uses the language of the original museum made by Wilkins, literally taking the architectonic elements and placing them in the new addition. Most of these elements belong to the classical language of architecture, but Venturi does not place the elements according to classical lines. He distorts the language, turning it into a text to be read. Sometimes we can just guess why he does that but there are clear references and winks made for…whom? I can’t give a clear answer, but it is clear that this refrences has to be for someone that knows classical language of architecture, if not you can just receive what tectonics of the building give you but not decipher the deeper meaning left there by the architect . Venturi’s addition is made of four completely different facades, each one telling one story; we will analyze them from the National Gallery towards the West.The first part we find is the transition made from the old building to the new. This is made by a curtain wall glass façade facing the pre-existing Gallery, with completely different materials and techniques. It is a pause on the horizontal story line coming from the old and made clearly on purpose as a mark, acting as what we inguistically use as a full stop in English and “punto y seguido” in Spanish, meaning that he will continue talking about the same topic but in a new way of use and understanding, using classical language with his own rules and aims.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


Unmasking the Myth | Chapter 1


As I have mentioned, in the main façade, Venturi and Scott-Brown start to use the classical language brought from Wilkins. They copy the Corinthian capitals, but when placing the pilasters instead of obeying the rules of symmetry and proportion they made what Colin Amery in his book “A Celebration of Art and Architecture” describes as follows “... the closely packed pilasters at the eastern end of the new façade look as though they have been drawn back and folded away, like a screen.”

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


The façade is broken in different pieces depending on the element you look at, but is is clear that Venturi is playing a game of discontinuity, as Della Porta did on the façade on Il Gesu with the vanishing lines and the layering, it is just that Venturi takes this language one step further. For example, if we look at the top balustrade, the façade is divided in 3. First with the saw tooth line that turns into a normal balustrade line and ends disappearing on the rest of the façade. If we place our attention on the top part we see what seem to be the remains of a balcony on the ceiling, what does that has to do with the rest of the composition? What is it for? It is just a mere joke? Placing our attention on the eastern blind window, we can see a exact copy of the one from the National Gallery as well as the balustrade beneath but as we move towards west the second window seem to be filled up and the balustrade line ends abruptly under this second window, the third one is almost a mere outline and finally it vanishes as we get to the next façade, but incredibly he recovers the balustrade in this next façade disregarding completely that the windows are not anymore on top of them and it is cutting them from the middle, but wait, the same happens the other way around! Looking at the top of windows from the third façade we can see a subtle line coming back east and cutting the blind windows inherited from Wilkins.

Language in Architecture | Chapter 2


LEFT HAND PAGE Please start your document, with

Fernando Jim茅nez Salmer贸n


RIGHT HAND PAGE Please start your document, with

Unmasking the Myth | Chapter 1


We can make a parallel from these windows with the inside of Il Gesu as Venturi is presenting us this window as kind of “Ruin” that vanishes away from the old to the new, this could be also a hidden postmodernist manifesto of the change to Modernism, from the ornamental façade to the blank non-ornamented, and then again to play with classical language in post modernism, making a parallel between RenaissanceBaroque and Modernism-Postmodernism. If the pilasters are the elements you look at, you will find them marking the transition as I described earlier, but what we miss in the description is the role of the big entrance holes Venturi placed in between the oversized columns, again the language of discontinuity. He is marking and remarking the space in between the pilasters showing that is not symmetrical, they don’t follow any order and the pilasters are placed in a way that they just seem, as a decorative motif highlighted by this holes, the eastern hole is not even an entrance, is a hole closed by a piece of fence! Why does he do that...? The third facade is, in my opinion, a distorted mixture of the second and the fourth, full of signifiers. From east to west, the signs start to dissolve and vanish until we reach the blank pure facade with the engraved name of the gallery, in this “transition” facade we have signs from the previous facade with the balustrade that suddenly stops, he even places a vertical line stepping out and marking (without touching any line) the start of the plain clear side of the facade. From the fourth facade it takes the “modern” columns that Venturi and Scott-Brown created for this

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


building, but without following any rule or principle, vertical harmony is completely disturbed and horizontally it seen to have a rhythm but it is not so, the first are a pair of columns together the other are separated and he keep making these purposeless holes on the façade, the western one, as in the previous facade is just marking the big column but in this one is filled by two little ones borrowed from the fourth facade. Analyzing the composition as a whole, it gets clearer and clearer until it has no ornament and then it mutates into the fourth façade that has nothing to do with the rest, perhaps with the curtain glass wall, as both are somehow “modern”.

Unmasking the Myth | Chapter 1


In this last façade Venturi and Scott Brown mark all the window divisions, one with recessed stonework and the next with a metal column (even if the column has to be in the middle of the entrance disturbing the door), creating a vertical dialogue. It is odd that in the other façade he uses “ancient” elements without obeying the laws and in this one he use modern devices obeying a classical law. Everything is reminiscent of classical language; you just have to find where it is hidden. But why does he hide all these details and leave all those clues? Just for a student like me to write about it, he perfectly knows that not everybody will read what he is expressing and even I, before this essay I would not notice all the richness he included in his work. Quoting Venturi, “conventional use has always been made of “inherited” traditional elements” The idea I get is that today’s transgression is tomorrow’s norm ... may be ...

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


Unmasking the Myth | Chapter 1


On the interior we find arched doorways aligned each one narrower than the one before and framing in the end the selected painting, On “A celebration of art and architecture” the galleries at Sir John Soane’s Museum cited as a precedent, maybe he wanted to represent some of his ideas of the “grand tour” with this play of perspective. An allusion to arches is made also in the main stairway with some metal arches literally floating, in the place where the vertical connector to the ground should be there is nothing but air, it is hanged by the side instead of from below (which is the natural way) another wink to us? Does he do this on purpose? And what is the aim of it?

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


Language in Architecture | Chapter 2


With Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour book Learning from Las Vegas (1972) in our hands and trying to define inside his categories the Sainsbury Wing I would suggest two stories. The first one is about the Duck. If we look at this building from far away it seem to be a replication of the National Gallery, a little duck beside the big one, using the same elements, the same materials, more less same internal use, etc. But as I analysed the building, I cannot merely define this addition as a duck, because, in my opinion it is not purely so. It has also part of a decorated shed because just two of the four facades try to replicate Wilkins building, the other two are screaming claiming attention and saying “I do not belong to this composition” and the part that mostly changed my mind from the duck to the shed are the big holes in the entrances and the space between the fence and the entrance, it seems that everything is just fake and all those columns, capitals and balustrades are just a fancy mask the building has to be read as part of the other but you can see that it is not. But we don’t really know if his aim was to be mimetic, because it reminds me of an insect, that butterfly that seems to be an owl but only from one perspective. That is the reason why I think it is a decorated shed, but as they are his terms, he plays with them creating a decorated shed saying “I’m a duck”.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


What it is clear in the reading of the whole building is the game of language that Venturi’s postmodern works have just as in the baroque with De la Porta and Vignola. But what is this for? What is this language and how do they use it? And the most important question WHY? This is the big question without a clear answer. In my opinion, language and architecture are clearly linked, as I have said, architecture itself is a language that speaks through the tectonics and relates directly with the user. It has several layers, as any kind of language, the more you know about it, the more you can play and understand others use of it. I.e. a person that does not know about architecture would just live the tectonics of Venturi’s building without reading any further, maybe could guess that something is going on but he could not understand what or why.

Language in Architecture | Chapter 2


Making a parallel with language I understand this just like if someone tells a joke in other language, maybe you are able to understand exactly what each word means but do not recognize the joke until people around you start to laugh. Why? Because you didn’t have enough information to join the pieces together or even if is in your own language but it is about something that happened before you came, everybody will laugh but you will just get the simple meaning of the words. The same happens trying with language in architecture. All languages are based on preconceived ideas or rules, architecture also, and playing with these rules we get a more complex and surprising use of language. In my opinion, architectural language is made out of 2 elements, the first one is unique to each building and is the tectonics, which is the language of that specific building, then we have another one, which I will call, “Elements of meaning” which are elements that already had a meaning (by being on others building or just because it has a preconceived idea with it), an example of a preconceived idea could be a pediment or a Corinthian column inherited by culture but we have some others, for example Eissenman’s operations signs in the building would also be a preconceived idea even if just a few ones that studied the building could make a complete reading this “Elements of meaning”. Mixing this two together and creating a narrative is the work of the architect and his decision to make an easy reading building or not.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


According to this, a building is a text to be read, and the role of the architect to play with 2 elements, mix them or just hide them (even if it is impossible erase the basic ones like putting 2 columns and a lintel on top) as in the modern movement, in early Le Corbusier to the maximum expression with SANAA erasing all traces of the elements of meaning as well of trying to hide the tectonics of the building, in this case is a clear refusal of these 2 elements that conform a buildings language. We also have buildings full of the first element of language like Peter Zumthor’s, use a language of caves, massiveness, mysticism, very related to tectonics, is a language everybody could understand and maybe that is why is so popular nowadays. And finally we have the ones like Venturi or De la Porta that plays with both, distorting the language. And this raises the final question I ask myself, does it matter what author wants to say? Maybe for us, architects, the answer is a clear yes, we delight ourselves reading others buildings but it is so for the man on the street? Even among architects some are not interested, so I’m afraid I don’t have the answer to this question, but as there are people that like to learn and know how and why things are done, there will be people who matter about what the author wants to say.

Language in Architecture | Chapter 2


Ideally

Formed

Formally

Informed


The Question of the Natural Culture & Theory V Fernando Jim茅nez Salmer贸n

Artificial Made by humans; produced rather than natural. Made in imitation of something natural; simulated.

Natural Not produced or changed artificially; not conditioned Produced by nature


Ideal Relative to an idea A conception of something in its perfection

Informed Given form or character to Imbued with a quality or an essence


The first doubt that came to my mind was if architecture has a possibility of being natural. As we belong to a language based society I looked for my answer in the dictionary and I found what I was looking for, architecture is inevitably artificial. As we have seen, something natural is something in which no human being has intervened. According to this definition even the primitive hut is artificial, no matter which example you take. But this made me ask myself a question, the primitive caves were natural but when we started inhabiting them, painting the walls, storing things there, did we turn them artificial? Is a rock artificial just because a man makes his mark on it? The answer seems to be a clear yes. But we, as human beings, are natural, why then when we touch something we turn it artificial?Nature is informed by the acts of all the living creatures except for us, because we are sensitive to the changes made by other human, equally if a bee were capable of think and talk, when she find another hive she would recognize it as something artificial. We too, find something artificial when we see a hive, the ideal part of the hive made out of hexagons, such perfection does not resemble the beautiful chaotically informed nature we are used to, resemble the human

construction based on laws and regular shapes.

Fernando Jim茅nez Salmer贸n


So even thought nature, or the natural, is unconsciously related with something informed, informal, not regular, without a clear law, there are still room for ideals, we can see pure geometry in nature but that doesn’t mean that it is natural. We can see an example of ideal in nature in the hive; the main structure made out of hexagons is or could be covered on the exterior creating levels. So, could architecture be natural? Yes, it could be, when it is .done by someone different than a man.

Unmasking the Myth | Chapter 1


But if we take nature as referent, when something is ideally formed there is always a point in which is formally informed. Nothing is 100% perfect, nature tends to be in disorder, that is when comes the formally informed. Architecture in this case as a natural thing, has the same problem. Here comes the big error of the first theorist in architecture. Vitruvius took a good example of nature, the ideal of proportion, but what does proportion have to do with nature and with beauty? Perfection is in the imperfection, in the unexpected. It is there where beauty arises, in the informed. They are lacking the second part that makes nature so wonderful. Vitruvius neglected this part, searching for the formal perfection but is that possible? Moreover, is it beautiful? Nothing made out by human hand could possibly be perfect, it could resemble so or be near to it but never accomplish the goal, there will always be a part which will be formally informed. Why should we avoid this? Why should we make something that is going against our human nature? In my opinion, following Vitruvius line to today, we find much more mature theorists which are the parametric designers, like the architects of the Beijing Bubble building. They extracted the parametric laws behind the aggregation of bubbles and they applied them onto the façade of the building,creating an artificial bubble layer of huge scale.

Fernando JimĂŠnez SalmerĂłn


When they finished that layer, people realized that it didn’t resemble a bubble and after time they found that what really makes a bubble is not just the parametric law but the superimposition of several layers one on top of the other, now they realized the need of the formally informed, the random combination of bubbles so they placed another layer behind and it worked just fine. Now the question, it is natural? Clearly not. Why bothering using then natural laws and rules? Because people as human being identify itself with nature, feel comfortable with it, but nature does not rely just on ideal but the combination with the informed.

Unmasking the Myth | Chapter 1


Natural creations always serve a purpose, they are made for fulfilling a necessity as Sullivan said, form follows function. But he got further than this, all the buildings have an Essence, he found the essence of the tall building that was being tall, but my question is what is the essence of the building itself ? In my opinion the ultimate essence of the building, a part of it that will never disappear is being artificial. And according to Sullivan, it has to be artificial in every inch; resembling nature would be a betrayal of this principle, a fight against the real architecture. According to this conclusion, why then do so many “natural� architects hide the real essence of the building with rounded corners and resembling what is not inherent to it? Seeing the Open house by Coop Himmelblau I find a more natural building by means of resembling essence than the organic ones from Wright.


The first thing that comes to your mind is informed and artificial, but there is something natural on this “decontructivist� work, the accident of a spacecraft or the collapsing of a building and the remaining parts on the ground are seeing as something natural, as the stacking of rocks on a hill, it is shocking how it is resembling nature by highlighting the artificiality. It is artificially natural as it has both parts, it is ideally formed and ideally formally informed. Every building is both ideal and informed, it always comes from the ideal of something to finish being informed as something else, close to the ideal sometimes but never the same. In my opinion all the constructions are ideally formed on the beginning to after being formally informed and the more conscious we are about this facts, the better architecture we will create.


Artificially Natural

Naturally Artficial


Artificial Made by humans; produced rather than natural. Made in imitation of something natural; simulated.

Natural Not produced or changed artificially; not conditioned Produced by nature


The Question of the Artificial Culture & Theory V Fernando Jim茅nez Salmer贸n


As we know after the question of the natural, architecture is inevitably artificial. So the question of the artifitial has to be answered. What makes an object artificial is a modification made by the intervention of a human being. This still raises some doubts, it is artificial only when the modification is made consciously? For example, is a human footprint in the forest artificial? Literally it is a mark of an animal on the forest. But according to the set criteria, if it is made by human, it is artifitial. Nature has more “artificial” creations than the ones we sometimes make. For instance, if we see an image of a dam we instantly think of a human creating it, it is something artificial, there is no way that happens naturally. But yes there is, beavers create dams, bees create hives, moles create tunnels, birds create nests.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


Nature is full of natural architecture, when nature represents a unique type of animal or process is then naturally artificial, because it is not natural in the whole sense of the word. Even if it is classified as natural it disturbs the natural composition, it is noticeable for the human eye, but as long as it is made by animals it will still be natural, so let’s call it naturally artificial. What then should be then naturally natural? Nature that does not represent anything but nature, the beaver itself is naturally natural, a tree is naturally natural. On the other hand we have humans imitating nature, a clear example of this could be the Kogskyrkogarden Woodland Crematorium by Gunnar Asplund or Central Park in New York, a perfect representation of nature, artificially natural. At this point I would ask, if I ask to select the more natural image from the two below, which would you choose?

Language in Architecture | Chapter 2


Why do we concede that interventions of Asplund or Law Olmsted & Vaux have the quality of nature. As Walter Benjamin suggests in “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”, “Even the most perfect reproduction is lacking in one element: its presence in time and space, its unique existence at the place where it happens to be”. It is that a reproduction is always lacking something, what he calls “aura”. That is why this example is so natural, because it is not a reproduction, it is an artificially designed landscape, every point is thought to be consumed, it is made for a clear purpose and that is why it has its own presence in time and space. Following Sullivan’s definition of essence, Landscape architecture has its essence in being natural, that is why it has to be artificially natural but we certainly mistake nature as an essence and nature as a decoration. But Vitruvius would argue here that this landscape architecture is not pure, it does not have a proportion. Of course it is not perfect in terms of proportion, because sometimes nature is proportional and sometimes not. For the purpose of pleasing the eye the proportion ratios have demonstrated their effectiveness, see the comparison between the spheres. Spherical shapes claim our attention, if this bug made something not geometric it would not be so special but he did not made it on purpose is just a purely functional creation, again inside the naturally artificial side.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


Language in Architecture | Chapter 2


Between these two compositions, the work of art is somehow lacking the “aura” that the lower one certainly has, you cannot imagine that bug in the city centre with the ball crossing the road but you could imagine the upper ball in any museum, but maybe the aura of the work of art is linked with the museum because one cannot imagine the wire ball on the middle of the desert for example, it would not make the same impression on me to see it on the MOMA than in the middle of the jungle. However, apart from the natural ones, we have more examples of this obsession with proportion in our culture (in photography, sculpture, etc…) but why should we care? Which is better: a photographthat is completely out of frame or the one that perfectly frames the object? Which architectural panel is better? The one framed by a grid or the random one? Obviously, proportion has something attractive to the human eye in this two cases, but what happens if we give it a different perspective? For this I would ask, are we more pleased by the cliff made by Asplund the with coy disregard to symmetry, proportion and ratios, and for which he uses the natural language applying it to the composition or if instead he just created a perfect elliptic cliff, proportionate with the tree space?. Imitating nature sometimes is needed, but for that we could not use the language of proportion, proportion is not always equal to nature we need a further language. As mentiond earlier the architectural language is made by the tectonics and then supported by what I called “elements of meaning”, here we have the natural language.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


The first question arises, what is this language made out of ? Could we possibly know that? I can’t give a certain answer, as many architects tried to dominate the natural language without success. We can deny, resemble, imitate or copy nature but it just successful when the project claims it. Natural or artificial doesn’t relate to good or bad, is the need of being natural when it is not or vice versa what is good or bad. I think Sullivan would agree with me in this sense. Landscape architecture has the essence of being natural, now the question which is the essence of modern architecture? Rem Koolhaas answers this with his essay “Junkspace”, and that is, according to him, the ultimate essence of modern architecture. “Junkspace seems an aberration but it is essence”, true, it is the essence of modern large scale architecture. The question of the natural doesn’t matter anymore, if they try to be natural or artificial is irrelevant because the scale gives a quality to the building, the quality of junkspace. But he also proposes that junkspace is “ the sum total of our current architecture” with which I differ, I think junkspace essence relates only on the large scale architecture from which the unique detail or unique essence is denied but provided by several, you can’t say it is natural or artificial because it could have part of both, this hybrids are created as an aggregations of meaning.

The Question of the Artificial | Chapter 2


Fernando Jim茅nez Salmer贸n


The Question of the Artificial | Chapter 2


Language in architecture operrates on a bigger scale, in case of Venturi, he plays with architectural features creating buildings that in a way “teach” the visitor, in case of Eisenman the building talks about the theory process behind, in case of junkspace it is an aggregation of speaking pieces. Each level speaks for itself; you can have such a large combination that the pieces lose identity and turn into junkspace where what matters is not the piece itself but the circulatory system along the pieces. The ultimate example of junkspace is the Crystal Island proposed for Moscow and designed by Norman Foster. This building is is currently planned to have around 2,500,000 square metres of floor space and a height of 450 metres in which different buildings get aggregated by an intricate circulatory system that connects everything. The façade of the building acts as a sustainable exchange element with the exterior, providing light , energy and green spaces. In the end, we are getting into the scale of the city; we are trying to analyse cities with the tools of analyzing buildings, that is why we think they are aberrations, junkspaces but should the importance of the analysis rely in the overall composition? In case of large scales, they won’t have a harmony between members but maybe it does in the particular element separately. The individual is capable of having a simple, clear and natural meaning.

Fernando Jiménez Salmerón


Candela Oliva Varier

Chapter 1: Beauty Killed the Beast: King Kong and The Empire State Building Chapter 2: The Question of Language: Belvedere Staircase and Vanna Venturi House and Belvedere Staircase Chapter 3: Scottish Parliament Building and Taichung Metropolitan Opera: The Question of the Natural Chapter 4: The Question of the Artifical in Playboy Architecture


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Beauty killed the Beast

King Kong and the Empire State Building


The final scene of 1933 film King Kong is an image we are all familiar with,

The giant ape climbs the Empire State Building to the pinnacle, holding the

in biplanes, he gently sets the lady down in the observation deck and tries to Candela Oliva Varier


even almost eighty years later.

blonde lady in his hand. As he starts receiving the attacks of the military

fend them off. King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


The planes circle around the skyscraper while they shoot Kong, and he

He manages to swat one plane down, but gets weaker and weaker. Candela Oliva Varier


waves his arms furiously while trying to keep balance.

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


The planes circle around the skyscraper while they shoot Kong, and he

He manages to swat one plane down, but gets weaker and weaker. Candela Oliva Varier


waves his arms furiously while trying to keep balance.

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


In the end he is mortally wounded by machine-gun fire. He desperately tries to

102 storeys of the Empire State Building and landing in the street below. Next

-�Well Denham, the airplanes got him" -"No, it wasn't the airplanes...it was Candela Oliva Varier


grab hold of the pinnacle, but finally plummets to his death, falling along the

to the dead body, the last dialogue in the film takes place:

Beauty killed the Beast." King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


giant ape

skyscraper

Candela Oliva Varier


rebellion chaos violence instincts

technological, finantial, cultural & military supremacy reason

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


national threats

USA

Candela Oliva Varier


There is, however, a second level of meaning in the image of the monstrous ape being defeated on top of this specific building in New York. Behind the appearance of a depoliticized family movie, there is a myth used to communicate a certain hegemonic idea, in the way described by Roland Barthes. In order to perceive it, we should take a look at the context: King Kong was released in March 1933, days before Roosevelt’s inauguration. It was the high point of the Depression in terms of number of unemployed, and in this period of intense capitalist crisis, there was a latent possibility of revolution.This contributed to the linking of a series of ideas about race, miscegenation, communism, etc. in sectors of the American consciousness. We could say that Kong embodies the dominant class’ fear of masses “losing their chains” and threatening the “American civilization” (1). And what better symbol of this “civilization” than the just-completed Empire State Building? It had become the tallest building in the world, at 102 storeys and 270,000 kg. The building's steel skeleton went up in just over eight months and was a constant news story around the nation. Citizens followed the process with lifted sipirits: if such majestic structure could be built in times of recession, then America could overcome anything. It became a collective reminder of America’s technological and economic power, and their hability to withstand difficulties based on their embracing of the modern technological age. With this in mind, it is easy to understand what the hidden message in this scene is: the new values, capitalism, science, law and order will always win over chaos, rebellion and violence.

(1) Source: King Kong. Race, Sex and Rebellion by David N. Rosen. Jump Cut: A Review of Contemporary Media, no. 6, 1975, pp. 7-10

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


In fact, if we abstract even further, the sequence probably exorcises the fear of any internal or external forces willing to break the equilibrium of the “American cilivilization�. These will for sure be defeated by the US technological, military, cultural and economical supremacy. Just as Kong was shot down and died at the feet of the famous skyscraper. However, we cannot ignore the fact that King Kong, as violent, subversive and aggressive as he seems, is also presented as a noble creature. He genuinely falls in love with the pretty blonde, and, with his naive reasoning, has no choice but to kidnap her to have her for himself. When he is about to die, he places her gently on the observation deck of the building before falling to the ground in the center of Manhattan, a city where he was brought chained and dominated by superior forces. When the movie ends, we can´t help but feel sympathy for the ape, but at the same time our expectations are fulfilled: the giant monkey climbing our buildings and kidnapping our women must die. We feel sorry for King Kong, but the plot had to go that way. However we feel proud that we are righteous people that can feel empathy for Kong. We are doing our best, even if sometimes we have to do this kind of things. That is exactly the ultimate myth of King Kong: making the contingent (the actions and decisions we make which somehow contradict our morals) seem necessary and inevitable. Even natural, normal and common-sense... and subsequently relieving our repressed feeling of guilt. Did King Kong have to die for our sins?

Candela Oliva Varier


The same myth is found in other timeless products of our society, such as Western movies, where history is transformed into nature. We feel pity for the natives as their territories are confiscated by the settlers, and in fact, the hero of the movie is usually the cowboy that has the best relationship with them. But the truth is, we are the good ones. It was necessary that we conquered the wilderness, we had no choice but to bring our civilization (often depicted by the piano playing, prostitutes, gambling, drinking and shooting in the saloons), which anyway is much better than the natives' reality. The violence and unfairness involved in the process was too bad, though. Then, are the expressions of our society (cinema, arts, media) fulfilling the role of spreading this myth? It is interesting how, from the 1960s on, there is a more sympathetic representation of the native, so the duality hero / villain starts to blur. The same happens in the second King Kong movie (1975), where the ape evolves from a fierce creature with a hint of humanity to a rather sensible being that is able to love despite its terrifying aspect. This reflects, of course, the emerging ecologist attitudes of the 1970s, and portrays how a team of petrol searchers (not cinema producers anymore), drag Kong from its natural environment into the city. In short, later versions of these movies tried to look revolutionary rather than reactionary: they clearly sided with the original enemy. However, it could never work, the myth beneath them is so strong that it always comes to surface. The maneuver becomes then a mere adaptation to current society's moral “conventions�. It would have been a very unwise decision, for instance, if Peter Jackson had portrayed a 2005 King Kong that so explicitly connotes a sexually aggressive black male kidnapping a naive stereotypical blonde, and then being dominated by white male capitalist structures. It is only a matter of looking for new codes that are able to pass on the myth.

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


1931 Empire State Building

1972 World Trade Center

2001 9/11 attacks

Candela Oliva Oliva Varier Varier Candela

(19 76 ) on g gK Kin

Kin

gK Kin ong gK (19 on 3 g ( 3) 20 05 )

paradigm transfer


It must be pointed out that in 1976 King Kong, which is a continuation of the 1933 plot, the finale is quite different: it takes place not in the Empire State Building, but in the World Trade Center towers, also in Manhattan and the new tallest buildings in the world. This seems to be a logical step, as the Twin Towers used to bear similar values to the other skyscraper, only updated: they became the quintessential symbol of commerce and financial power not only for the US, but probably for the whole of Western civilization. After the 9/11 events, the focus went back to the first: the most recent King Kong movie (2005), is a remake and the story takes place in the New York of the 1930s. Therefore, Kong’s spectacular fall takes place from the Empire State Building’s top again. What does this ultimately mean? Do we need to refer to the past to depict a powerful New York? It may be true that a myth such as King Kong's would not make sense in the painfully empty post-9/11 skyline, not only to Americans' consciusness, but also thanks to media and popular culture, to the rest of the world. New York used to embody many other myths, however, after the attacks they somehow lost strength, or were blocked by other perceptions: it is difficult to be exposed to an image of present Manhattan in the media and not feel the tension of the absent towers, as proves an endless list of self-censorship in movies, advertising, video games, tv series, etc. So in order to avoid all the present connotations, until New York finds a new identity and comes back with all its mythical strength, we may look nostalgically to the past, to a New York that no longer exists. There, we don't have to worry about the towers and all their evocations, because they hadn't been built yet, and we are free to immerse completely in the amazing myth of King Kong.

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


Candela Oliva Varier


Meanwhile, in Germany....

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


Candela Oliva Varier


(...) the hour of death at the Feldherrnhalle has become the hour of birth of the future Reich. Völkischer Beobachter, Nov. 9, 1935

There are many other examples in history where society has imprinted its fears, frustrations, tensions and yearnings onto a piece of architecture. The case of the Feldherrnhalle is interesting, because it was not built as a cathartic tool, like the Empire State Building. It was long after that society imposed a new meaning (a myth) to the construction, when its original purpose was not relevant anymore. The Feldherrnhalle (Commander's Hall) was built between 1841 and 1844 at the southern end of Munich's Ludwigstrasse. It was conceived and built under the command of King Ludwig I as a monumental loggia that would honor the Bavarian army, and so it contained the statues of illustrious military men. Let’s now take a jump in time to 1923. Post World War I Germany’s economy is devastated by hyper-inflation, the Ruhr area has been occupied by the French and the Belgians, and the government is as unstable as ever. In a beer hall not far from the Feldnerrhalle, members of the Munich government enjoy a meeting. Adolf Hitler, leader of the Nazi party (one of the many groups opposed to the democratic government in Berlin) storms in with a group of armed supporters and announces a coup d’état. Afterwards, they start marching down the Ludwigstrasse towards the Feldherrnhalle, to start the so-called "people's revolution". However, it does not end as expected: the state police order the marchers to stop, and when they fail to do so, they open fire and kill sixteen. The effects of this event were immediate: Hitler was sent to prison for a few months, the sixteen “revolutionaries” became martyrs and the Feldherrnhalle, in front of which the fight had taken place, somehow became the container of all the anxiety and frustration that was latent in the German society. The Nazi movement got more support from the population than ever, and in 1932 they were able to win democratic elections.

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


Ludwig II of Bavaria

myth #1: national pride

1841

1923 Beer Hall Putch

myth #2: frustration, disillusion, hopelesness justification for Nazi regime

Great sector of the German population

Candela Oliva Varier


As soon as Hitler was in power, he turned the south facade of the Feldherrnhalle into an altar to the matyrs of the Nazi cause. It was permanently guarded by military men, and people passing by the building would make a salute (showing respect to the building and, as an extension, to the National-Socialist heroes and the whole regime). Moreover, many families from all over the country would travel to Munich so as to pridely show the Feldherrnhalle to their children. It would seem that no one remembered the Bavarian mariscals anymore. That meaning was now obsolete, it had faded away and people had promptly imposed a new myth to it. The Feldherrnhalle was the sublimation of their new hope for the country’s economic, political and moral recovery. The back of the memorial read Und ihr habt doch gesiegt! (”And you triumphed nevertheless!”).

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


Candela Oliva Varier


The Myth Today

Zero-waste city (Abu Dahbi). Foster + Partners

Coca-Cola headquarters (Madrid)

The Palm (Dubai)

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


So what kind of worries, hopes or fears does contemporary architecture reflect? It is hard, due to lack of perspective, to realise what kind of myths we are imprinting in the architecture we produce. However, I believe we can say that sustainability and eco-thinking is one of the obsessions of the beginning of the 21st century: it can be applied more or less sucessfully to amost every activity we engage in. And of course, it has changed the way we practise architecture, from the construction process to energy supply. Most of the time, sustainability in architecture is assessed in a useful and effective way, but there are also many examples of the so-called “greenwashing�, defined as "the phenomenon of socially and environmentally destructive corporations attempting to preserve and expand their markets by posing as friends of the environment and leaders in the struggle to eradicate poverty" [2]. What is the reason for that? Are we maybe expressing, or experiencing our guilt through buildings with green facades and solar panels, and then turning a blind eye on the solutions that would really make a difference (but are less convenient to us)? There are many current projects in which sustainability has become an almost ridiculous matter. Their greatest achievement is probably showing how deeply scared we are. In the view of all the recent natural disasters, we make jokes about prophecies of the end of the world. But secretely, we are thankful for all our LEED-awarded buildings, collective redeemers of all our past environmental mistakes. After all, we are doing our best...

[2] Eco-fraud: 'Green buildings' might not be all they're made out to be, www.thedailygreen.com

Candela Oliva Varier


Star Strategies + Architecture. Green Sathire

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


Candela Oliva Varier


So what is the role of the critic?

Once upon a time there was an Emperor so vain that he spent all his money on being well dressed. One day he hired two weavers who promised to make him an exceptional new suit, made of a fabric that was only invisible to those unfit for their positions, stupid, or incompetent. The Emperor could not see the clothes himself, but pretended that he could so as not to appear stupid. The weavers mimed dressing him up, and so the monarch went on a proud parade in front of his subjects, naked. All the ministers and citizens started praising his new clothes, for fear of looking stupid or contradicting the emperor, until a little boy cried out, "But he isn't wearing anything at all!� Critics are the little boy. We all live immersed in the dominant metaphors or ideologies of our own time, and we all have the capacity to decipher them. However, most of the time we are fed with these myths without even questioning them, probably because it requires an extra intellectual effort that is just more comfortable to avoid. But we must be able to identify the myths we live by. The role of the critic is to point out that all these constructions are not normal or natural, and certainly not necessary, as Roland Barthes would put it. And maybe, if we are able to act, choose and judge, disregarding artificial constructions, we can have a freer existence.

King Kong and the Empire State Building | Chapter 1


The Question of Language. Belvedere Staircase and Vanna Venturi House


Candela Oliva Varier


The Question of Language | Chapter 2


Cortile del Belvedere, a huge courtyard in the Vatican Palace in Rome. Here, Bramante was able to solve part of a series of problems that Renaissance architects found, becoming an important reference for the whole century.

Its spatial organization is quite simple: a shallow cylinder with a spiral supported by columns.

delimited by the columns, and he achieves it by making them look massive.

Candela Oliva Varier


contradition #1 spiral end

The Question of Language | Chapter 2


spiral ramp and the base of the column, and also a smaller one between the capital and the architrave, so as to achieve an architectonically coherent result.

Classical principles, here elevated to the status of universal truths, a composition that is developed in many levels can not depict a single stylistic order of the columns, but on the contrary there must be a hierarchy.

growth, this poses a paradox. Every time the column order changes, there is a strange situation:

sector, something that is, again, totally contradictory to the rules (the Classical language). Here, Bramante tries to conceal the contradiction, by placing the unmatching pairs of columns next to

was certainly hard to combine with the columns function as load-bearing members.

rules with his own new system of rules: he establishes an innovative relation for the dimensions of

a single entablature spiral strip.

Candela Oliva Varier


contradiction #2 wedges (Drawing by Martin Kuilman)

The Question of Language | Chapter 2


composite

Ionic

Doric

Tuscan

contradiction #3 change in order

Candela Oliva Varier


contradiction #3 change of order. transition.

The Question of Language | Chapter 2


modeling the rules to their advantage, the symbol changes: from order, harmony, symmetry and unity as universal truths, to faith in the unlimited expansion of human possibilities (we had indeed been able to manipulate and adapt the classical orders!).

However, the greatest achievement of Bramante's staircase, as well as that of many other Renaissance works, lies in the critical attitude towards the past values, and the stubborn intention

in this work of art.

Language here acts on so many levels. It is textual, in the use of Classical orders as a system of conventions. It is also indexical: the idea of wrapping a series of columns, that represent a historical evolution in art and thought, around a helicoidal axis that responds to Renaissance aesthetic and technological concerns, is an operation that becomes a vocabulary. It is obviously archeological, as the orders refer to the values of Ancient Greece and Rome. And maybe we can also say it's iconical, as the form of the staircase itself is meant to produce emotional appeal as a more direct way of communication.

Candela Oliva Varier


The Question of Language | Chapter 2


Belvedere staircase, American architect Robert Venturi designed and built a small house for his

a modernist horizontal window for the kitchen and square windows serving the bedroom and bathroom on the other side of the front facade.

In the interior, he also experimented with scale. Certain elements are “too big,� such as the

in height, especially in contrast to the grandness of the entrance space. In the rear elevation of the house is an oversized lunette window, which follows the main elements of the exterior that are exaggerated in size. A manifesto for Postmodern architecture, the Vanna Venturi House is a composition of rectangular, curvilinear, and diagonal elements coming together (or sometimes juxtaposing each other) [1].

But perhaps the best way to describe the house and Venturi's ambitious intentions are his own words: I have written of the house as modern but also as referential/imageful - as a generic/iconic house - as not striving to be original as architecture, but to be good. It connects with ideas of mine of the time involving complexity and contradiction, of accommodation to its particular Chestnut Hill suburban context, to aesthetic layering I learned from the Villa Savoye, its

[1] ArchDoc AD Classics: Vanna Venturi House

Candela Oliva Varier


Vanna Venturi House (1964)

The Question of Language | Chapter 2


pediment derived from the upper pediment of Blenheim Palace, and the duality-composition derived from the Casa Girasole in Rome, and involving explicit applied elements of ornament. But it is a modern house; my mother enjoyed living in it and also entertaining the many young architects who visited it!“ [2]

It is quite clear, then, that the Vanna Venturi House is speaking a fairly textual language which

step to understand what Venturi wants to express. All these elements, that according to him are almost a “copy-paste� of parts of other remarkable buildings, are part of the grammar, the tool that carries all the meanings.

Just as Bramante used the classical orders in the Belvedere staircase, practically the same way as

between both grammars: although both use elements from the past, the attitude towards it is

Ancient Rome because of the Renaissance man's profound veneration for Rome, a keystone to great part of our civilization, as Summerson explains in

[3].

Rome was the greatest and wisest, and that was it (and it was not further questioned until the 17th century).

On the contrary, Venturi seems to use traditional forms in architecture as a way of creating

[3] John Summerson,

Candela Oliva Varier


The Question of Language | Chapter 2


complexity through contrast and double meanings. For instance, the most immediate form in the Vanna Venuri House is that of the sloping roof house, that has become an icon in contemporary culture denoting “house”. However, when we acknowledge the proportions, symmetry and the huge scale of the front, it starts to remind us of the pediment of a Greek temple. And if we take it even further, and we are familiar with Laugier's theories on the primitive hut, Mrs. Vanna Venturi's house may as well reference a couple of tree branches providing the most basic shelter. And if so, what does all of it have to do with Le Corbusier's logic?

staircase were mere accidents, inevitable “mistakes” that he tried hard to solve or at least conceal. In Venturi's house, contradictions are the language.

linguistic complexity as a way to create valid, vital works. As Venturi puts it in “Complexity and Architecture”:

to the banality or prettiness of current architecture. It is an attitude common in the Mannerist periods: the sixteenth century in Italy or the Hellenistic period in Classical art, and is also a continuous strain seen in such diverse architects as Michelangelo, Palladio, Borromini,

Furness, Sullivan, Lutyens, and recently, Le Corbusier, Aalto, Kahn, and others.

Candela Oliva Varier


question would probably be: so why would Bramante and Venturi need language, anyway? Was a grammatical construction the only way to develop their architecure successfully?

It is quite clear that in Bramante's case, it was. For the Renaissance man, the aesthetic values and logic of Ancient Rome were supreme truths, so not playing by their rules would be unthinkable. As of Venturi, he answers the question in Conventional Element choose a convenient set of rules for each particular building. He exposes the theories of prominent architects: Mies, "create order out of the desperate confusion of our time"; Kahn, "by

His thought is more in line with Kahn's, and he states that "order must exist before it can be broken". In order to create anomalies, uncertainties and all the contradictions explained above, which give validity to architecture, it has to be reacting against something.

deeper meanings of architecture.

role of language. Architecture happens in its language. It is a necessary frame, out of which architecture could never happen. Language is the code, the support that is going to carry the meaning. Every creative process has a language, a way of proceeding and taking decisions. In the case of architecture the language deals with materiality, function, volume, perception. Far from

The Question of Language | Chapter 2


role of language. Architecture happens in its language. It is a necessary frame, out of which architecture could never happen. Language is the code, the support that is going to carry the meaning. Every creative process has a language, a way of proceeding and taking decisions. In the case of architecture the language deals with materiality, function, volume, perception. Far from being a constriction, the “rules of the game� are the tools that allow a piece of architecture to be powerful in meaning and functionality. We could say it is, or should be, the expression of

people of its time.

Language is the expression of its particular context and it continues to deliver a message, or a meaning, as long as the building stands. However, although it happens in a particular time and place, it is also independent from its context: it allows the architectural discourse to be raised to an abstract conceptual level, where issues such as form, proportion, expression, character and

many times we need a previous knowledge that depends on cultural context. I'm thinking of the example Roland Barthes uses when explaining the myth, the cover of a magazine depicting

An architectural parallel to this example could be the Vanna Venturi House. A person who has

Candela Oliva Varier


[1] Judith Bakacsy, Anders V. Munch, Anne-Louise Sommer, Architecture, language, critique: around Paul Engelmann, Rodopi, 2000

The Question of Language | Chapter 2


Candela Oliva Varier


The Question of Language | Chapter 2


The Question of the Natural. Scottish Parliament Building and Taichung Metropolitan Opera


Candela Oliva Varier


The Question of the Natural | Chapter 3


building walls and furniture, the interpretation of which is subjective to each individual. In any

ornament is very similar to Frank Lloyd Wright's. He argued that ornament should be assimilated by the building as part of its organic intention. Integrity is to be kept in mind at every moment,

But ornament is not the most outstanding similarity between both architects' ways of understanding organicism. We could say that landscape, Scottish people and their culture are to Miralles what Nature was to Wright. In In the Cause of Architecture [1], he states in that there is “no source so fertile, so suggestive, so helpful aesthetically for the architect as a comprehension of Natural Law”. He encourages us to look beneath her most obvious forms to look for a sense of proportion, to achieve a “sentiment that will never degenerate into sentimentality”. With that he is probably positioning himself far from Vitruvius' interpretation of the natural, embodied by a strict grammar of harmonic proportions and platonic solids.

that shape the building are its physical and historical context. It seems natural, given by a superior Truth. It is however an informed truth, that is, one contaminated by contingencies, as opposed to Vitruvius' exaltation of geometry and mathematic relations as the universal (and therefore, natural) order.

1. Frank Lloyd Wright, In the Cause if Architecture: Essays by Frank Lloyd Wright for Architectural Record, 1908-1952, McGraw-Hill, 1987

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The Question of the Natural | Chapter 3


Candela Oliva Varier


generation, which relies on algorithms as a creative force for a new kind of spaces. I will use an example from Toyo Ito, whom I consider to be one of the few architects that is truly working with parametrics as a space-generative force. I must state this beforehand, because in recent years parametric tools have been widely used as a tool to design sculptural constructive elements, furniture, and most of all, faรงades. In this case, the parametric logic is almost used as mere

Brown's terminology). I am thinking of the Water Cube olympic swimming-pool in Beijing.

investigates how to move on from Euclidean geometry, the one we have always inhabited, into a parametric organism that can grow in all directions. Algorithms are now the mathematic, ideal Truth that gives logic to architecture. Vitruvius and Ito are twenty centuries apart, but very close in their thoughts.

of not assigning a space to each particular activity of the user, but rather providing a frame for it to happen, is not new. Mies van der Rohe, also an idealist in his understanding of architecture,

remarkable that we, as human beings and designers, can not escape from the grid. We always return to some sort of geometrical order that gives logic to our creation, al least in the big scale.

The Question of the Natural | Chapter 3


Going back to parametrics, their premise falls into a basic contradiction: a building, the way we understand it, needs to be a unit, a more or less independent entity. How does this match with

required dimensions that cuts the growing pattern (the same strategy was used in Sendai

were facing four centuries ago: how to adapt the Natural and superior set of rules to our

ideal and pure structures? Why do our conventional seats (shaped by centuries of

Opera House? Parametric partisans claim that variables will create a system able to react to

autonomy, the fact that the system does not need the architect as a generator (as opposed to the

that of a controller or a restrainer of the growing organisms.

the other way around.

Candela Oliva Varier


The Question of the Natural | Chapter 3


Candela Oliva Varier


The Question of the Natural | Chapter 3


The Question of the Artificial in Playboy Architecture


First of all, I must state that this essay is intended to build on the ideas presented in the outstanding book

, by

against the feminine concept of domesticity, mostly through the creation and mediatization of

happens in the context of the Cold War, when there had been a proliferation of the suburban house, and we could even talk of a domestic spacial regime, inhabited by a heterosexual, white couple and their children (consequence of McCarthy's puritan moral and the economic convenience of the family as a consumption nucleus) [1].

Let me make a parenthesis to remark that this idealized world, which can be understood as the inverse of the playboy lifestyle, was somehow reproduced in Celebration, a master-planned

reality that incarnates the values of purity and innocence which are attributed

1. Beatriz Preciado, Anagrama, 2010, pp. 38-40

Candela Oliva Varier

, Colecci贸n Argumentos,,


The Question of the Artificial | Chapter 4


low-density housing, expansive green lawns, sprawling houses, gardens and swimming pools, and of course, inhabited predominantly by white, upper income-bracket families. Celebration is a

supposed to reproduce. It is more real than the real. It is hyperreal

most powerful advantage of architecture, as it is most profound than attentive observation and is able to mobilize the masses, as Walter Benjamin would put it in Mechanical Reproduction.

mansions, round beds, tropical grottos, themed bedrooms, transparent swimming pools and

something that exists, but rather something that should exist naturally. It is a prosthetic reproduction [4].

Pleasantville (1998, Gary Ross). See also (1998, Peter Weir) 3. Baudrillard explains that “Disneyland is presented as imaginary in order to make us believe that the rest is real, whereas Los Angeles [is] no longer real, but belongs to the hyperreal order and to the order of simulation”. Jean Baudrillard, ”Simulacra and Simulation”, Jean Baudrillard, Selected Writings, Ed. Mark Poster, Stanford University Press, 1998

[Extracted from dictionary.reference.com]

Candela Oliva Varier


The Question of the Artificial | Chapter 4


Candela Oliva Varier


whose habitat becomes a place for work, for sexual encounters and for leisure, a place to enjoy “a

that the apartment works as a machine which attracts women and gets rid of them with equal

Saarinen Tulip chairs, rotating bars, sliding screens, translucent curtains, all act as mobile devices that permanently restructure the interior to act as a “trap” for the guest, making her allow to what Playboy calls “instant sex” [5]. In other words, Playboy understands technology, design and architecture as natural prosthesis of the masculine body, that compensate the bachelor's incapacity to seduce women and engage in no-strings-attached relationships by his own means.

time that the limits of domesticity were being explored by architects such as Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson, with exposed the interior through glass façades, Hefner insisted on life in the

TV ). Long illustrated features were devoted to parties, events, and even to interior design and

5. Beatriz Preciado,

Colección Argumentos,

objective is consummated. See the “Kitchenless Kitchen”, pp. 96-98

The Question of the Artificial | Chapter 4


as a natural phenomenon, as reality.

Nothing further from the truth: Walter Benjamin would agree, had he been able to see it, that the people smiling and posing while sitting in their luxurious living room or sipping from a glass of champagne while holding a “bunny� around the waist were playing the same role as a movie

it happens to be, disappears [6]. But that is not important at all. It is in fact the whole intention: the photographs and videos of those happenings have their own value and authority, they are the

representation.

in Playboy magazine: as Hefner admits, on many occasions the model was a random girl who

contemporary perception.

1936, pp. 3-8

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Hugh Hefner and several employees on the tarmac in Los Angeles following the opening of that city’s Playboy Club, 1965. Vanity Fair May 2011 U.K. edition

The Question of the Artificial | Chapter 4


within the Playboy mansion, not every guest had access to the original / real: a trap door in the living room connected the living room with the basement, the tropical cavern, where only a “happy few” were allowed to enter and enjoy with the half-naked playmates. A photograph published in Playboy magazine showed a few unlucky visitors observing the scene from above, looking as if the whole idea of masculine sexual pleasure was conditioned by that hole (the trap door) and their ability to penetrate in it. Meanwhile, Hefner peacefully contemplated the panorama through a window in the same basement. Hefner was indeed a modern Plato in a pornographic cavern.

concept of architecture understood as a mechanical device able to “improve” people has been in our culture since time immemorial: we can think of disciplinary architecture, with the idea that seclusion in a cell will restore a criminal personality. Or even voluntary retreat as a way to achieve religious or spiritual enlightenment through meditation, some examples being Christian monasteries, Hindu áshram and Buddhist vihara. Here, architecture is supposed to act as a

dichotomy to the individual and therefore allowing his mind to focus on himself and, in the case of religious retreat, on spiritual contemplation. However, there are other examples where architecture participates even more actively in the transformation into “superior” individuals. One that is particularly close to the Bachelor Pad is the Downtown Athletic Club in Manhattan, as described by Rem Koolhaas in Delirious New York

7. Beatriz Preciado,Pornotopía. Arquitectura y sexualidad en Playboy durante la guerra fría, Colección Argumentos, Anagrama, 2010, pp. 134

Candela Oliva Varier


The Question of the Artificial | Chapter 4


between them and with the disciplinary / spiritual case is the physical and metaphorical relationship to the exterior world.

intensify desirable forms of human intercourse” [8]. It achieved its goal through the use of a free

all sorts of athletic activities and medical / cosmetic treatments. Once the man’s body achieved

a series of hotel rooms, which the new, perfected metropolitan man could use to spend the night in company if he was lucky enough. It was the realization of a new American way of life, an

users) and become real. Just as the Bachelor Pad.

However, we could speak of the Downtown Athletic Club as an incubator [9] rather than a

of the individual’s attributes and masculinity in order to obtain sex, which is the ultimate goal in the sphere of domesticity,

8. Rem Koolhas, Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, Oxford University Press: New York, 1978, pp. 155 9. Idem, pp. 157-158

Candela Oliva Varier


of the surrealist programmatic promises of this system (above).

The Question of the Artificial | Chapter 4


his hedonistic purposes, the man can come out of the house and temporarily leave his own

be perceived as the “normal” man that he has always been. Just as a married man closes the Playboy magazine. In this sense, the Downtown Athletic Club is a more revolutionary manifesto: its intention is to mass-produce a series of new, improved individuals who combine their top-

they can obtain from them are no longer the main target. In Koolhaas words, “Skyscrapers such as the Club announce the imminent segregation of mankind into two tribes: one of the Metropolitanites – literally self-made- who used the full potential of the apparatus of Modernity to reach unique levels of perfection, the second simply the remainder of the traditional human race”. By “apparatus of Modernity”, he means the combination of grid, congestion and elevator public,

with his old self forever.

But the Downtown Athletic Club does not only act as an incubator for its male visitors. It also has a function regarding the exterior, the Modern City. Here is where the envelope becomes

following the vertical Art Decó style of most of the surrounding skyscrapers. In no way does it

[10]. He points out that the 160-metres-high building looked the total opposite to its interior:

10. Rem Koolhas, Delirious New York: A Retroactive Manifesto for Manhattan, Oxford University Press: New York, 1978, pp. 100

Candela Oliva Varier


Exterior views of the Downtown Athletic Club (right) and the Bachelor Pad (above)

The Question of the Artificial | Chapter 4


sober, homogeneous, silent. In one word, serene. And this serenity is the perfect counterbalance to the wild instability of life in the metropolis, where congestion allows a variety of functions to take place, simultaneously and independently, in every plot. Manhattan becomes a city of monuments hiding the chaos of modernity.

to show. If we look at its façade (see picture), we will notice that more than half of its surface is glazing. We can see the interior quite clearly, so we can easily guess the function of every room

of the Playboy strategy, and the Bachelor Pad, sandwiched between two traditional American houses, was also claiming to be observed. Neighbors and passers-by would perceive the same kind

transformation process that takes place in the domestic realm needs to get rid of the concept of intimacy, and expose itself to the world, while the public / collective process of becoming a Metropolitanite needs to be hidden to avoid urban (sensorial, mental) collapse.

interior and exterior to create a

that will allow them to act as a

. If the most primitive cases of architectural machines acting as “people improvers�, which are penitentiary and spiritual retreats, are the premise, then the Bachelor Pad

case of retreats is merely to separate / isolate hides and shows respectively, being a basic condition for the functioning of the generative

Candela Oliva Varier


Downtown Athletic Club aim to trigger a moral, sexual, domestic and urban revolution. If we

may very well say that this kind of architectural inventions can take some credit for it.

The Question of the Artificial | Chapter 4


Blanca Pérez González

Chapter 1: The Feminine Supremacy Myth Chapter 2: Can Buildings Speak? Chapter 3: Natural Chapter 4: Big Containers


ASSIGNMENT 3 Blanca Pérez González Culture & Theory V September 2011

3

steps for being a woman of the

21st century

Sexy &

single we speak about SEX

how to be a fashion victim at WORK


DKNY ENERGIZING is a perfume made of citric notes for the spring summer season. It is a fragrance for a dynamic, sensual, high-class person, that lives in the city. Adjectives as electric or energetic appears in the commercials with the perfume. It is a fresh fragrance for a summer day in the city. They want to sell us a fragrance for a sexy woman. The perfume is available for the two sexes but in the image the one that has more importance is she. There are two people kissing in the image but we can see only the face of the woman in a very expressive gesture, also this woman is a well known model, Anja Rubik, so the attention goes to her and the man passes unperceived, as a simple object. WOULD IT BE THE SAME IF THE WOMAN IS DRESSED WITH LONG CLOTHES OR PANTS? It would erase the sensual aspect of the commercial, as the season they are living. It would erase the energetic and young aspect of the city.

The Feminine Supremacy Myth | Chapter 1


The attitude that they want make us desire is reflected in the way they are standing in the image. They are in top of a taxi. This could be only a fact but it is not. We all know that being in top of a car is not something normal, it is more an act of rebellion, a way of being free and doing what you really want to do.In the TV commercial (http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=GAfeBt0WrtU) they show you the two people inside the taxi, and when they arrive at a traffic jam, they decide not to wait and they get up on the car and begin kissing. This is a impulsive and passional act that reflects that they are beyond the rules, that they can do whatever they please. That is the spirit that they want you to believe that the fragrance owns.

WOULD IT BE THE SAME IF THEY WERE WITH THE FEET IN THE GROUND? They would be as normal people, as the same size of everyone. And people don’t want to be like others if they could be in top of them.

Blanca Pérez González


While they are in top of the taxi, they are above every car (the people do not even appear in the image). From that point of view they are superior to other people, being above everything, like the highest class there. This sense of superiority is reinforced by the fact that their heads are almost out of the image, and at the same level than the skyscrapers, nothing is higher than New York skyscrapers, except them! New York is known by its skyscrapers, its known by its richness, and be above everything in new york makes the rest of the people believe that you control everything, that you are above everything. It would not be the same if the city changes, New York is a worldwide known city, it is a symbol itself, everyone that will look at that image will identify it with New York, because of the skyscrapers, or the taxis. People will identify with the image and with the fragrance.

WOULD IT BE THE SAME IF THEY HAVE A DIFFERENT ARCHITECTURE IN THE BACKGROUND? They won’t be the same hight as the building so the visual reference will be lost and with it the meaning.

The Feminine Supremacy Myth | Chapter 1


All these adjectives that the image transmits, (from the basic sensuality, to the sense of power and dynamism), they want us to feel them as the fragrance itself. And all these aspects are synthesized in the fragrance’s bottle. The position that the bottles take in the image, in the two sides, framing the image, reinforces the verticality in it, being camouflaged with the whole image, making us take them as a part of the frame, as something at the same size as the man and woman, or the city of New York. The shape of the bottle imitates the shape of the New York buildings, and not any building, but a skyscraper. Even the colors of the perfume are of the same range than the commercial image, for the viewer to take it as part of the spirit of it. With this strategy they sell us with a simple object, as a fragrance bottle, a whole attitude, energy, power and sensuality. THE COMMERCIAL WONT BE IDENTIFIED WITH A DIFFERENT DKNY FRAGRANCE.

Blanca Pérez González


DKNY energizing is a fragrance that evoques feminine supremacy. It is identified with a cosmopolitan woman, that is over everything. Over the man, over other people and over the city. It is the representation of the successful, independent woman. There are other examples in media that represent this kind of powerful woman. She is a person of thirty something years old, that lives in the city. She is free in all senses, and she boasts about this freedom. She Is a woman that plays with men exploiting her sexuality, as a fashion victim she knows how to wear short dresses, high heels and to wear her hair down. And she is a woman with profesional success, because she lives in the very centre of Manhattan, working hard but in the most powerful city. In my opinion the TV show Sex and the City is one of the most representative examples that wants to show this woman. I am going to relate this TV show with the myth that I have found in the first essay. Showing how this kind of commercial sells us a specific attitude in a particular way.

Blanca PĂŠrez GonzĂĄlez


In this example most of the characteristics of the DKNY’s myth conclusions are represented. They are single women, demonstrating that they can live and survive in the city with their own rules. They don’t need men for success, they use them as they want when they need them. They are of a high class status. And they live in Manhattan. Again, the city here brings them some qualities that other cities don’t give. Manhattan is an example of cosmopolitan city. A city that represents urbanity, is the city of cities. In this the example is important that in this case the commercial images they always show the city, in such a way that you can recognize that it is Manhattan. The women always appear in a first plan , but you always can see the city in the background.

400m

From the essay of Donna Karan’s fragrance I have extracted that the most important target of the advertisement were women. This was because the woman is the one that has the most importance in the commercial. She was a well known model, Anja Rubik, with a man in his arms, and with the city at her shoes. In this commercial is very visual the tools they use to sell us this kind of powerfull women. And this women is again represented in Sex and the City. In this TV show we see a group of four women, around forty years old that live in Manhattan.

Background building

Image size

Real size

The Feminine Supremacy Myth | Chapter 1


With this strategy they achieve their point, that the women have all the attention and they are not lost in the picture. In a deeper analysis, women are in foreground, becoming of the same size as the background skyscrapers, letting the viewer have with a first glance a comparison of their equality to the city and the most powerful buildings, they are at the same level as the skyscrapers of Manhattan. Manhattan is a city that transmits professional success. It would not be the same if the images were with Tokyo behind them, representing the technological power; with Las Vegas, a city of leisure; or with Dubai, representing economical power. But they want to sell us a cosmopolitan woman, sensual and with professional success, and Manhattan transmits that. In this way the city is at the service of the TV show, giving them the qualities that they want to reflect in their characters. Another important aspect that they want us to desire, is the sensual side of the woman, the feminine power. In a first level, they have make a sexy woman, dressed with the last tendencies and with expensive clothes. And, in a deeper analysis, they show us the femenine sex above the masculine. Men are no longer the ones that rule the city. Women are over men in every aspect.

Blanca PĂŠrez GonzĂĄlez


An example of it is this commercial of Sex and the City, where there appears a woman in the top of a glass. The woman is set in sensual posture in the top of the glass, letting her back being seen, seducing the viewer and transmitting femininity and sexuality. The woman is not at the bottom of the image sitting next to the glass. Again, she is in top of everything being the highest point of the image, and not only that she is in top of the glass, she is in top of the reflexion of new york in the liquid. She is in top of the city of New York representing her power as women and her success as a women. The glass contains a cocktail, a very specific cocktail, the cosmopolitan. This cocktail, thanks to this TV show, has become an iconic drink.

The Feminine Supremacy Myth | Chapter 1


Cities are a very interesting clue to transmit a personality in media. Because each city has its own identity they are going to influence to the selling object. In this case the city is there to help the women to achieve a high status, a position with power over the rest of the people. By making the actress being in top of something, never standing in the floor, the position of power is reinforced. The sensuality is achieved by the gestures and the clothes of the characters. They always are with dresses showing their backs or shoulders, and in with high heels. They have become an icon of the sexy, independent, high-class woman.

Blanca PĂŠrez GonzĂĄlez


Carrie Bradshaw is an American woman, she lives in New York, she is a fashion victim and she is a journalist that writes about women concerns. She is feminine and sexy, she is the face of the 21st century woman. And now, she is standing in a promotional image of the series Sex and the City.

Sex and the City is a series that appeared for the first time in 1994. Its plot narrates the life of four women, best friends, between thirty-five and forty years old. They live in Manhattan, and they represent the role of the women in the city. They all are single and sexually active, they represent the women of the 21st century. Sex is not a taboo for them, and they are famous because of their glamour. Each of the four women has an apartment in Manhattan and a job in the city. Fashion and glamour are their priorities in life, but they combine them with work and frienship. Their lifestyle could be resumed in one phrase one phrase, spoken by lead character Carrie Bradshaw: “I love to have my money where I can see it, hanging in my wardrobe”-. This image represents a generation, this series has been introduced in the house of thousand women and it has influenced in their way of thinking, and all of this is represented in this image. This picture is important because with only a photo you could receive a lot of implicit information that holds the real meaning of the image.

Blanca Pérez González

The Question of History | Chapter 3


Looking at the image the first that you percive is a woman. Because of the colours of the image she gets all the attention in the first glance. The city is so dark and blurred that if you get the contrast to the maximum, and the brightness to the minimum, the only thing that you could see is her. From the first moment, in a very basic strategy, you know that the series is about women.

But she is not any kind of woman, she is a sexy woman. In the image, she is sitting there naked, with only a laptop as her “clothes”. However, even that she is naked, the image is not obscene, you can not see her entire body. Thanks to the shadows and blurres, the image shows what she wants to show. She seduces with her legs or her chest, but she does not let you see other parts of her body. She has the control of what she wants you to see, she is a modern woman, she has the power.

Blanca Pérez González

hidden brighter

The Feminine Supremacy Myth | Chapter 1


She is a woman that controles her sexuality, and she can speak about it without fear. She boasts about her body, emphazising her curves, contrasting them with the rigid lines of the city. The only thing that can be compare with her curves is the “S” of SEX. Shadows and light emphasize the curves of the typography, it is a sexy typography. It follows the spirit of the protagonist, it is feminine and sexy. Looking to the typography of Playboy, this one is more rough, more direct. It has no shadows or light, is has a simple and neutral colour, it does not transmit dificulties as the one of sex of the city. It is no hidding anything, it shows you everything it has.

VS.

Something important is that the woman is sitting in the word “SEX”. She can sit down in top of the word without problems. She has no fears to talk about sex, even she forces you to see the word “SEX” every time you look at her. If your focus your view point in her face, with the periferical view you will see the word “SEX”, while the rest of the image gets blurred. She belongs to that word, is part of it, she can hide other words (THE) or be slightly part of “CITY”. But she is completly part of “SEX”, hidding a small part of it, just enought to belong to it. Blanca Pérez González

The Question of History| Chapter 3


She demonstrates that being sincere with sex does not mean that she does not have her head in serious things. She is a serious woman, and she can combine her sexuality with her serenity. Her eyes and mouth transmit seriousness, but her hair and eyebrows transmit femininity. She is looking directly to your eyes,with nothing to hide, and her mouth is completly serious. While her eyebrow is slightly lifted up, and her hair is wild and sheded. Also she is so deboted to her work that she let it be part of her naked image. It is one of the only things that belongs to her as much as her body. She is a woman that can not stop working, and she makes her work go together with her life. Another thing that belongs to her as much as her work, is fashion. She could be naked but not without her shoes, fashion is part of her being.

417m

Sex, work and fashion are the pilars of her life, she is a woman of the 21st century. And a woman of this century has to live in the city. She lives in the city and knows how to live in it. She controls the city until the point that she has all the protagonism in it. Not only having the city has her background, (being something secondary), also being greater than it. She knows perfectly the city, eaven at night, and she can deal with the city alone.

Blanca PĂŠrez GonzĂĄlez

1,70m

The Feminine Supremacy Myth | Chapter 1


But she is not living in any city, she lives in THE CITY. They just show you an image of the city and you understand that this city is New York. They do not need to put the name of the city, they name it as THE CITY. New York is such a well known city that by only seen a blurred image at night you can identify it. New York gives to the series particular characteristics, as glamour or social success, that helps the series have a particular identity. The City could be identify as other character, it has the same protagonism as the main character. We could see at the right bottom part of the image the most important parts of this series: sex, women and The City. From my point of view, the success of this series resides in its plot. Every woman that lives in a city nowadays could feel herself identified with the day a day of the characters of Sex and The City. The characters live a “common” life in the series, they do not have nothing that makes it feel as they were in fiction. But in the other side, they represent a whimsical, consumer and frivolous woman. They are selling us a kind of woman that buys a pair of “Manolos” everytime she can. A woman that goes shopping when she is depress, and this kind of woman is not the “common” woman. They sell us a product that is very similar to us but it makes us desire more things, and be more selfish. They wrap up the plot with a sense of humor, embarrassing situations and different personalities, making it be more close to the viewer. They expose us topics that are very present now a days as sex, fashion and glamour and that gives this series a personal identity.

Blanca Pérez González

The Question of History| Chapter 3


Can buildings speak?


Blanca Pérez González


The Basilica di San Lorenzo was built as a mausoleum, between 1422 and 1470, in Florence. It was conceived a building for the Medici family, where they could rest forever and show to the world their richness and power. For different reasons the project was changed, but it maintains its transcendental character. Filippo Brunelleschi was the designer of the building, he intended to show the transit from Earth to Heaven insisting in the verticallity and length of the basilica. The main building is a church with latin cross plan, with a very long corridor from the main door to the altar. The perspective sense in this corridor is emphasized by the use of a module of column, arch and entablature, and its repetition. With this module repetition he enhalces the perspective of the interior, and with the high ceilings the verticallity. With the materials, (dark stone for the structure, and the details in marble and gold), he gives the sensation that light enters and slips slightly in the interior of the chapel. The columns and pilars have very light proportions that produce an ascending feeling that ends in the celestial decoration of the ceiling. The interior of the basilica is a place that you have to experience, where you have to feel this transition from earthly life to Heaven.

Can buildings speak?| Chapter 4


But it is not about the interior that I am going to write. There is one part of the building that aparently does not match with the design of the rest of the building. I am going to talk about the outside façade. In 1518, the Pope Leone X gave Michelangelo the commission to design an exterior façade in white marble for the building. But, because of financial and technical problems, this façade was never finished. Today, it stands as a huge stone wall with some openings. The fact of why this façade is not finished is not the real important aspect. The interesting part of this façade is the questions that it arises. Could an empty façade transmit something? Is this part of the building in communication with the rest of the basilica? It would be the same if it has been finished in time? Contemplating an image of the Basilic, this are the questions that come to my mind. ZOOM OUT!!

When you look at the façade for the first time what you see is a huge stone wall. It makes you ask yourself if this is really part of this building. It gives the feeling that it is not that incredible church from the exterior, but nothing close to reality. Then, if you keep a minute looking to that inmense façade you will notice that it is not a simple stone wall. If you pay attention you will see that there are some details that will change the view that you had of it in the first moment. And you will discover that this façade is much more part of the building than what you thought.

Can buildings speak?| Chapter 4


For instance, look at the line that defines the façade, (the perimeter line). This line could have been of any kind of shape and it would have change completly the meaning of the building. But this line is not random, it is fruit of the building’s function. It has been created from the interior, from the use of the building. The building is a basilica, and the traditional way of of distributing this kind of religious spaces is putting the altar in the middle and the small chapels in both sides. The altar has a double height while the chapels are smaller, and there is a space in between, a gallery or a corridor. So it would have a simple distribution, chapel-corridor-altar-corridor-chapel, always symmetrical.

Temple

Palace

Church

This traditional way of distributing the space is clearly reflected in the façade. The different heights make you sense what is going on inside. This façade is telling you, and making visible for you, the functions that it is hidding behind itself. But this is not a technique that is used in this basilica only. If you pick several churches of this period you will realise that they all have the same perimeter line, they have the same “mold”. The fact that this “mold” exists makes this façade not a white canvas, it has a frame. A frame locates this building not only in a precise time, but also it gives to it a precise function.

chapel-corridor-altar-corridor-chapel

Blanca Pérez González

Iglesia Santa Susana Iglesia de Gesú

Basilica Santa Maria Novella San Giorgio Maggiore


If you continue looking at the façade, you will notice that there are some details that, maybe, you did not give importance to them because they could seem irrelevant. There are three doors, this seems to be obvious, but the façade is so big and the doors are so convetional that at first glance you might not notice them. To begin with something, there are three doors and not two or four. This is immediately realated with the interior fuction with the distribution of the inner space that I was explaining before. And there is one door that is bigger than the rest, this is telling us that is the most important door, the door towards the altar. Again, the façade is telling us what is happening inside. The separation between the doors is telling us where you have a wall and were you have a corridor. The small doors do not take you to the small chapels, they open you an access to the corridors. The façade is showing you in a more detailed way the distribution of the inner space. Also, the doors give you a human propotion. If you look at the façade without the doors you will lose the human reference, and it could seem to be bigger or smaller than it is. The size of the doors speak about the size of the building and our relationship with it. The intention of Brunelleschi’s design was to represent power and superiority with the building. In this façade this characteristics are achieved by leaving a big space between the doors and the upper window. With this “air” there the building seems to be bigger and heavier, thanks to the human scale that the door gives to us.

Can buildings speak?| Chapter 4


A part of this doors, it seems that this façade has no more details. The details and the ornamentation give to the work a personal spirit. So, does this mean that this façade has not have a spirit? I do not think so. Looking to every mark and detail of the façade you could see the ornamentation that it was going to have. For instance, the roofs, if you draw a vertical line from the ending point of every roof there will appear some vertical elements in the façade that could be interpreted as columns. If you take the ending point of the roof and you make an horizontal line you will have the cornices. Doing this you will realise that the doors are exactly in the middle of each sector, that the upper opening is aligned with the main door (so probably you will have other vertical lines there). This façade is telling us things without telling a word. For me this façade is like the grammar of a language, it gives you the rules, then, you will have to make sentences and texts, but this is the basis for your dialogue. As John Summerson says the great achievement of the Renaissence was not the strict imitation of the Roman buildings, it was the reformulation of a classical grammar that will serve as a universal discipline. I think that this façade is the representation of this grammar, you have the background and then you could fill it as you want.

Blanca Pérez González


In the mid-1960s, Robet Venturi, designed the Guild House. A six floor building with apartments for the elderly, it was built in Philadelphia, imitating the materials and structure of the buildings of the sourroundings. It is a brick building with a classical compossition in the façade and a functional plan. And it has a big sign that says “Guild House”. If we stand in front of its main façade, we find, what it is, a façade. A façade where questions do not appear. A façade that, apparently, is solving all the doubts that you might have. Anyone that knows what is a residence could understand this façade, and so, the building. It does not demand any previous knowledge for understanding this façade. This façade is very different to the one of the Basilica di San Lorenzo, and that is why I am interested in establishing a dialogue between them.

Blanca Pérez González


Maybe the easiest way to begin, is to imagine that you are standing in front of this buildng. If you stand in the street looking to this faรงade, what you see is a conventional image. It does not seem to be wierd, because it is an ordinary building. In contrast to the Basilica, that building was strange from the beginning and make you look at it in an intense way. The Guild House not, you can pass in front of it look at it and continue your way without any problem. But if you look with the eyes of trying to understand what the building is telling you, the information that you get is a bit confusing. If you look to the main faรงade, in the first sight you could appreciate that there are three different kind of openings. The upper window, the small windows of each floor, and the balconies. Looking at them, trying to analyze them, you could think that they are telling us things about the building in a very obvious way. So, why they are different? because the inside uses are different?maybe... Maybe the upper level is a more open space and that is why it requires a bigger window. And there is any relationship between the balconies and the small windows?

Can buildings speak?| Chapter 4


Common sense is telling us that it has to be, because they are aligned at the same lavel (more or less), at a not very long distance so they could belong to the same space. But, if you look behind, in the other façades you will notice that there are other three new kind of windows. This windows are different, in size and form, and the distance betweem them is different from the ones of the main façade. This means that the different façades have different number of floors? It seems not to be like this because if you pay attention you will notice that in the back façades there are six windows (six floors), and in the main façade if you count there are four windows, the upper one and the main entrance (six stories). But, why it seems not to be like this? if you look at the entrance there is something strange happening there. The thick white line of the lower part begins at street level and ends at the window edge. This makes you read this space as the height of this floor. But this can not be like this, because if it is like this, the first floor would be really small. So this line is speaking about the building, helping to its reading?, or it is only confusing the reader? If yo look to the façade like this, you will discover that it is not so banal as you think in the first moment, it has a language and a reading. But is this language helping the building or complementing it?, or it is only attached to it as something accessory?

Blanca Pérez González


If you think of the façade of San Lorenzo, you will remember that it was almost blank. But the few details that it had they were going with the design. If you did not have them it will be very hard to you to understand that façade. In fact, you could see that façade as the essence of the real façade, a façade without all the decorations. It was like the skeleton of the façade, and with only that you could continue understanding it. If you take off the accessories of the Guild House façade, could you continue understanding it? I am not quite sure about it, it would be a brick rectangular box. You depend on this accessorizes to understand it, and as we have seen this accessorizes are telling us confusing information. Maybe this façade could seem to belong more to the building that the one of the basilica, because this one is telling you more information. But I do not think that the interior and the exterior of this façade are understanding each other as well as it seems in the first sight. One of the most shiny objects of this façade is the sign of GUILD HOUSE. Its one of the first things that you see. With this sign you get all the information that you need, you do not need even that someone tells you which building is this. The viewer has nothing to do now, he only has to read and that is it, there is nothing to understand. It is a building that does not create a dialogue between himself and the viewer. The diference with the façade of San Lorenzo is that this one shows you an image and you have to understand it, by making some questions to the building. It was like a new word that you have to understand its meaning. While the Guild House, is a word that exists and you know its meaning, this word does not surprise you because its no more than that meaning.

Can buildings speak?| Chapter 4


For me the main difference between this two façades is that when you look at the basilica façade you need to have a previous knowledge to understand it. So you will know which questions to ask, how to think or observe, and this leads you to a richer dialogue. In the other one everything is done, you do not need to have a previous knowledge to understand it. It gives you the work done. Thinking on this, a question cames to my mind, what could have happened if all the things that make this façade “obvious” were erased? For me, it would not be the same, maybe this building needs to be like this, it requires a façade that is quickly understandable. The use of this building maybe requires this façade.

Blanca Pérez González


The language in architecture is the ability that a building has to communicate with its surroundings, not only with people, also with itself and other buildings. Language in architecture is something that is there and makes the building “complete”. When pieces in the work of architecture speak the same language, you feel it, and you understand the work as a whole. As much as pieces speak the same language in a building the higher is going to be that feeling that everything is working together. But it is difficult to establish a language in all the building. Because this language is not fixed, you have to mix different languages to create your own one. I think that each building has its own language, but there are some basis that are previously established. This basis change and depend on many external conditions, as time, use, construction techniques,... For example, in the Basiclica of San Lorenzo, the building has its own language. But, this language cames from the classical way of building, from the fact that it was a mausoleum, and it was a building for the Medici family, it is a complex of different languages.These characteristics made this building speak its own language, but based in preestablished concepts. And, because all of this characteristics match with each other, when you are inside the building you feel that everything works. For me, that feeling is the culmination of the language in architecture. When a building produces a sensation in a person it is that everything is understanding well inside the building. Everything works until the point that it could provoque emotions. If it makes you feel an emotion that you have never feel before in any other place, this building complete.

Blanca Pérez González


When I visited the Iglesia de los Dominicos, of Miguel Fisac. I remember perfectly the emotions that I felt when I was inside this building. It was something that I have never felt before. Everything was harmonic, not only in the building, also the relationship with light, with myself. I felt that the language that the building was speaking was very personal. The way the windows were describing the light making it pass in an expecific direction for me was something unique. This language is very personal, its only of that building, but if you look it closer there is a language common to lots of buildings. This windows have a very personal character, but the way they are built, the shape they have, are very similar to other buildings. I could say that the basic language of architecture has rules and is established, but the way the architect works with it makes it personal and unique. This feeling it does not hapen only in this “mystical” way, it could hapen in every kind of sense, in every detail. When I was in Basel, in front of a building of Herzog & de Meuron, the Apotheke de Kantonsspital, I felt that the building was working. When I look at it from a closer point of view, I noticed that it was nothing special, it was the general language of the building. It was the way every joint, every detail was done, everything was done with the same background. Everything was speaking the same language. I was not feeling a special feeling there, it was just the sense that everything was done because of something answering to specific necesities for making the building have a personal language. The joint between the building and the soil was amazing. It was not just the façade arriving to the soil, it was a bit elevated creating a space of air in that joint. And it was not any kind of space, it was a thin black line that was reinforcing the idea that there was a gap. It was like an small shadow that makes you feel that the building was a bit elevated over the soil. This action is a decision that could seem to be irrelevant, but it was done because of something. It was answering to the building’s language, it was taking part of the language of the building.

Can buildings speak?| Chapter 4


Herzog & de Meuron, the Apotheke de Kantonsspital

There is not only one language in architecture. You have endless languages, and the task of the architect is to have the hability to combine all the languages in such a way that they understand each other. When this happens the work of architecture has its own language. This language is very important, this is going to decide if the user understands or feels the building. The language makes the piece of architecture understandable. This language is in between you and the work. But, it has endless interpretations, such as users. Each person could understand each building as he wants. It depends on the way it dialogues with the building.

Blanca PĂŠrez GonzĂĄlez


NATURAL


Vitruvius, in his Book On Architecture, presents a definition of how a good architect should be. For him, an architect should have two sides: one practical, and the other theoretical. In the equilibrium of these two parts the architect will achive in his architecture beauty and durability. I understand the practical part as the most intuitive part of the person, the instictive acts that the person has, those that he can not learn. The theoretical side, meanwhile, is the one that he learns and experiences. So, is this definition of the two sides of the architect applicable to the architectural work? In order to explore this question I should define a bit better what is practical and what is theoretical in broader terms. In my opinion the practical side is all the things that a person can not make. Those things that are already done and he can not build. They can be understood as ideal things. And is beacause this things exist why the theory appears. Theory is the study of natural things to make them rational. Is the objective way of explaining the natural things. This could be the informed things.

NATURAL | Chapter 3


But the question of nature goes further than these definitions. What I am going to write about is of the relationship of these two terms (nature and theory) in architecture. One might understand that the pure or ideal things are the natural ones, while the the theoretical ones. But if we look closer at the way Vitruvius defines architecture, perhaps our way of thinking could change a little bit.Vitruvius writes about architecture saying that in order to make good architecture you should have some terms very present, for the work to have a meaning in its whole. This concepts are summarized in: order, eurythm, symmetry, proprierty and economy. He defines these concepts making us see that architecture has to answer to some parameters o be understood and to make sense. I see these terms as a theoretical interpretation of the natural perfection. With this, I want to say that Vitruvius makes a translation of natural perfection, allowing us to understand nature and apply it in our work. With this we will achieve works that make sense themselves and with the sourroundings, as nature is. Making this translation the pure forms beacome understandable. This will allow the architect to understand how to make a proportionate and harmonic work.

Vitruvian Man (1487)

Blanca PĂŠrez GonzĂĄlez


Vitruvius insists that works should be proportional not only with the exterior and with themselves, also with the users. Making an architecture that is closer to man and integrate in the environment. Frank Lloyd Wright also speaks of this. He says that in a work of architecture everything should belong to the same language. Everything should take part of the same object to be understandable. The work has to be in harmony, not make in layers one in top of the other with different languages. For Wright, again, architecture should be integrated joining the practical and the theoretical knowledge. In the case of Wright, theory is applied to make the work integrated in nature. He designs very geometrical buildings insisting in the horizontality and symmetry of its shapes. With the Prairie Houses he applies an horizontal and very long window in the faรงades, with the intention of integrating the interior of the house with the exterior nature. These horizontal lines are not taken from nature but they want to imitate the terrain or merge with the horizon. It is a way of integrating the theoretical design in nature by not disturbing it.

Darwing D Martin House, New York (1904)

NATURAL | Chapter 3


If we take these points of view, the two positions talk about the natural form as something ideal to what we have to get closer. In the case of Wright integrating the theoretical forms, and in the case of Vitruvious explaining nature through theory. But at the same time, these afirmations are very contradictory. They try to look like nature because it is perfect, but nature is not perfect. Vitruvius talks about proportions and symmetries translated from nature, but in reality these proportions are not true. It is man who, after studying the nature is able to translate it to something proportionate and symmetrical. Man is deforming the natural to make it be pure. In this way it is not nature what is perfect, but it is what man does because he analyzes nature and bring it to its maximum point of perfection in his theoretical explanations. he does not talk about nature as it is, he tries to understand it and making it pure it is easier to understand the natural proportions and harmonies. This definition will turn around the previous afirmations, where nature was pure, and theory impure. Now nature is something imperfect and anything done by man will be perfect. Because man needs to understand its surroundings, he analyzes nature, and in his theoretical explanations he makes nature more perfect than it is.

Proportions in reality: The square is not perfect if it contains all the body, one arm is larger than the other, the cyrcle does not contains the body...

Blanca PĂŠrez GonzĂĄlez


I am going to analyze two architectural examples in order to illustrate in some clearer way the things that I am trying to explain. On one hand we have The Church of Light, of Tadao Ando and in the other hand we have The House for a Primitive Future, of Sou Fujimoto. The Church of Light is a very geometrical building composed by two perfect concrete cubes that intersect one with the other. In the intersection of the cubes some holes are created that will become the ornamentation of the building. Is a symmetric, proporctionate and pure building. In the other side, The House for a Primitive Future is made of some superimposed layers. These layers are disposed randomly creating some steps in the exterior and inhabitable spaces in the interior. Is a caotic, random and imperfect building. Do these buildings answer to the question of nature? These two buildings seem to not have anything in common, but they both tend in its design to be integrated in nature, each one with its own argument. With the definitions that I have make of the buildings you could say in the first moment that the bulding of Tadao Ando is more pure and theoretical, and the other is informal and practical. But if we analyze the buildings in a deeper way you will see that they have more in common than it seems.

Church of Light, Osaka (1989)

House for a Primitive Future (2008)

NATURAL | Chapter 3


Church of Light, Osaka (1989)

Blanca Pérez González


The church design is based on geometrical and pure forms, with an emphasis in their proportions. Everything is symmetric and perfect, pure geometrical forms, clean materials, clear cuts. This perfection is close to the natural according to the Vitruvian translation of nature. They express throught theory the perfection of nature. The harmony in the building is acheived by the proportions, the relation of the building with its parts and with the reference of man. In this building man is something small that gets wrapped by the force of the building. The dialogue of the parts of the building it is so intense that transmits an impression to man. The beauty of this church resides also in its relationship with external nature. The perfect design of the building its opposite to the fluidity of light, and it is in the meeting point of these two elements where the magic appears. Is in this harmony between everything that is external to the building where the harmony and beauty resides. These two concepts (harmony and beauty) were two of the main characteristics that Vitruvius was searching in architecture and nature. Ando makes a perfect argument of how to achieve them throught this building. He understands nature as something perfect and clean, that transmits an impression and it is understood as an unity with itself and its surroundings.

NATURAL | Chapter 3


House for a Primitive Future (2008)

Blanca PĂŠrez GonzĂĄlez


Looking at Fujimoto’s house, it is the completely opposite definition. It is a house that has the randomness of nature, that gives the sense that it is growing and expanding. It does not follow any rule of symmetry or proportion, apparently. But if you have a closer view you will realise that there are more rules than it seems to be. Is the proportion of man which makes the house dimesions, in base to this scale all the spaces are configurated. Everything works thanks to the study of human’s proportions. So, because of this the house could be understood as a practical way of working with nature. The church of Tadao Ando was a theoretical way of understanding nature, because he takes nature and deforms it to make it perfect. Nature in reality is not perfect but in theory it is. Ando applies this theory in his building making it be natural because of its perfection, meanwhile, Fujimoto is understanding nature in the opposite way. The practical way of understanding nature is working with it as it is, with its real proportions even if they are not perfect. Fujimoto works with this because his building is a constant experience, it is something that forces you to interact with it. In the other hand The Church of Light it was a building to experience from the feelings point of view not in a physical way, since in a theorical way. The House for a Primitive Future takes the human proportion and bring it to its limit, he explodes this scale for creating a living space. But he does not take man as a reference scale so everything could be shaped having this scale in mind, as Ando does. Tadao Ando takes the human reference but for making the building be heavy and impressive from the point of view of this scale, by making it high and thick. Fujimoto does not take the physical human scale, he takes human behaviour as a scale. This is a conceptual scale made by the way man uses things and interact with them, the maximum high of its strides is what shapes the house’s steps, the distance between his legs and the floor when he is sitting is what makes a chair, or the high where his arms are when they are bent they define a table. It is the human way of using things what shapes the building’s exterior and interior.

NATURAL | Chapter 3


In my opinion, the success of these two works is in the understanding of human scale. These buildings are designed for men and they take them as a reference for their work, in one way or another but they have a reference and they explode it. As most of the buildings that architects design are made for men, I think that they must have always in mind human proportion, in a theoretical or practical way but always in mind. They could study the human body and make a building that takes this scale as reference or make a building based on other characteristics of man, as its behaviour. But I think that, as the user is going to be the man, buildings have to have this reference always.

Blanca PĂŠrez GonzĂĄlez


BIG CONTAINERS


“Junkspace is the sum total of our current architecture; we have built as much as all previous history together, but we hardly register on the same scales. We don’t leave pyramids.” Junkspace Rem Koolhaas

Blanca Pérez González


Society has changed. People are not searching for exclusivity and details any more, they are looking for quantity and inmediacy. We do not appreciate the experience, everything goes so fast that we can not stop and feel or think. We live in a consumer society, it is only looking for producing more and more in every moment. And this is reflected in its architecture. We are now developing a kind of architecture which aims to satisfy these consumer needs. Buildings are no longer designed with a precise function. They are now big containers that can host as many functions as possible, without any of them being special. They are spaces designed to contain crowds of people without thinking in the details. They are only four walls and a ceiling that go unnoticed as much as possible. They are only circulation spaces that can be changed in any moment for any kind of activity. They put in disposition of people an space that in itself is nothing. They are just a container. Rem Koolhaas said that these spaces are so impersonal that the air that they contain is the same in every place. This air comes from the air conditioning machines that is the same in every place, giving the same impersonal atmosphere to every building. It does not matter if you enter a casino, a discotheque or an airport; the air is going to be the same. This fact creates a new “artificial� reality inside these spaces. It is a world completely different to the exterior one, but a world that we have accepted as normal and we do not consider to be strange.

BIG CONTAINERS | Chapter 4


Blanca Pérez González


This is, for example, the world of casinos. It is a place where, from the moment you enter, you are in another world. It has a constant temperature, independent from the outside one, with the same artificial light, independent to the exterior sunlight. It is a place that can house different activities completely independent to the building itself. It does not matter how the architecture is that the inner space is going to be the same always, in every part of the world.

BIG CONTAINERS | Chapter 4


Another example could be the shopping center. I am going to take the example of the Plaza Norte 2, in San Sebastián de los Reyes, Madrid. But maybe the main reference of these kind of buildings is la Galleria Vittorio Emanuele in Milano.This place is nothing more than a container. Why this shape and these materials? It does not matter if its shape was a cube or a pyramid that the result would be the same. They are not searching to integrate the building with the surroundings, or the inner function, it is only a box. But is curious that it looks like a traditional church, with the dome and the long corridors. Does this place have something to do with a church? The inner distribution also reminds to the one of a traditional church. With the shops at both sides as if they where the small chapels, or the big central corridor that has to guide you to the altar. But the difference between this building and a church is that this building is only a container it does not interact with the user at any moment. In this case the big central corridor does not guide you to the main part of the building, it does not lead you to any place, it only hosts you. And even it does not tell you how to move inside the center, for that you have the “you are here” maps in every corner. Because you would not be able to orientate yourself there without those maps. The corridor is not telling you anything about the building as the church does. This corridor is big because it has to hold as many people as it can. The bigger it is the better because more people can be accommodated there.

St Louis des Invalides, Paris

Blanca Pérez González

Plaza Norte 2, Madrid


Plaza Norte 2, Madrid

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, Milano

BIG CONTAINERS | Chapter 4


Megapark, San Sebastián de los Reyes, Madrid

Blanca Pérez González


At both sides of the corridor you could find the shops, these could be of any kind, because they only occupy a space in a row. A space that could be placed in any spot of the row, it only has to take more or less space as it needs. It is normal to find in a place like this a shop that is closed with a sign that announces the opening of a new shop there, because it does not matter the brand or speciality any kind of shop could be placed there. The building has been designed to be filled in any kind of way, that is what Rem Koolhaas would call “Junkspaceâ€?. A place for containing as many shops as it can, its only purpose is to be filled. But this does not end here‌ If we zoom out in the surroundings of this shopping center we can see that there are other shopping centers around it. They make a super junkspace, with a big parking in the middle. The parking lot is the extreme representation of this kind of space, it does not require shapes or shiny materials, it is just made and left in the middle. Making it as big as possible to accommodate as many people as possible. Why do we have nowadays this need to designing big spaces? Why we insist in putting lots of people in the same space if they do not look each other? Why do we are designing huge places that are not related to anything of their surroundings or even their inner use?

BIG CONTAINERS | Chapter 4


Gran Vía, Madrid

Blanca Pérez González


In my opinion, this new spaces have been born because of the changes in the way of living of people in the 21st century. The amount of people that live in the city has increased a lot in this century, people has change their way of living from the countryside to the big city. Because of this change in the place of living of people, cities have grown a lot in this century and this growth has affected to the culture and way of thinking of its inhabitants. People are used to live with thousands of people around them everyday, they are used to travelling in metro with lots of people without even look at them, or walk around the main avenues of the cities completly surrounded by people. This sitiation that has been created now because of this, the fact that people is getting used to be surrounded by crowds of people, in my opinion is what generates this kind of junkspaces. The culture has changed, we do not design for individuals, rather we design for crowds. The goal is to introduce people in a space as impersonal as it could be for them not to be unconfortable and do not think in the building. Another point that affects the creation of these spaces is globalization. One main characteristic of the junkspace is that it is completly impersonal, and because of globalization these buildings are repeated all around the world with the exactly same design. Hotels of the same chain are the same no matter where you are, for you to do not feel strange when you are in other country. This is strange to design this spaces the same for you to feel like “at home� in another country, when it is your decision to travel and taste new things. We are losing the variety and richness in design because of this mentality of making containers. The sensitive spaces where the building produces an impression, and the building itself is something and transmits something is starting to desappear if we continue with this way of designing.

BIG CONTAINERS | Chapter 4


Six on Four: IE University Architecture - Culture and Theory V - 2011: Pt. 2  

Six on Four: IE University Architecture - Culture and Theory V - 2011: Pt. 2

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