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Six towers as Provocations of Site and Weather Exploring Architecture and Perception

The Project: Writing, Image, Photograph Photograph

Jordan Blagaich Dissertation Supervisor: Dr. Stephen Neille School of the Built Environment. Department of Architecture. Curtin University. This dissertation is to be presented for the Degree of Master of Architecture. November 2013


Declaration

This thesis contains no material which has been accepted for the award of any other degree or diploma in any university. To the best of my knowledge and belief this thesis contains no material previously published by any other person except where due acknowledgment has been made.

Signature/Date: __________________________________

word count: x words Š Copyright. Jordan Blagaich 2013 All rights reserved. No reproduction without permission.


Acknowledgments

I wish to thank all those who have been a part of the last five years. Mum, Dad, Claudia and my friends for their constant support, advice and distractions. The staff of the Department of Architecture at Curtin University. I would in particular like to thank Beth George who has provided critiques, encouragement and fantastic singing for many years and Nic Brunsdon for providing me with countless opportunities, great chats and a passion to do stuff well. Thank you both. The studio: Pru, Brett, John, Pat, Prunella, Mark and Mat. Finally I wish to express my gratitude to Andrew Power and Stephen Neille who have guided me throughout this semester. Thank you Stephen, it has been a privilege to have you as my supervisor.

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Contents

Declaration 

2

Acknowledgments 

3

Contents 

5

A Provocation 

7

An Abstract 

8

An Understanding: Parts of a Whole 

10

A Positioning: The Dissertation and its Background 

12

A Process: Creating a Phylum of Towers 

26

A Reflection: 

30

A Representation: [Un]Built Towers 

32

A Perception 

42

The References 

56

Bibliography 

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5


A Provocation

“I have a skylight in my home, and I would look out and there would be no blue sky. The flowers were coming up rather reluctantly, and there was no spring—and it was looking like there wasn’t going to be a spring. I was getting very hurt about this. I took it very personal, actually, like, “What have I done now?” So I started to write the Weather Diaries. When I would go into the office every day, I would document what was happening with the weather. I got really into it. I would carry a pad around with me. Any little change I would jot down. I started to see the weather in a different way. It became very exciting when there was really bad weather because I would get to write about it. It led to all sorts of things. But my one responsibility to the project was to document the weather every day… I think the weather needs people to pay attention.” (Nick Cave, 2001)

1 Nick Cave interviewed by Jonathan Valania (2001)

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An Abstract

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This dissertation seeks to explore site responsive architecture. The exploration is carried out within a phylum of towers placed along a transect through Perth. Each tower abstracts a particular landscape found along the transect, elaborates the sites distinctiveness and creates a new domestic zone, raised into the atmosphere and used to focus the possibility of occupying an abstracted landscape and experiencing weather. There are four themes which run through the dissertation:

• Weather: the stuff ‘out there’. • Place: the testing system for the dissertation, the where. • Elements of domestic living: the stuff that is ‘in here’. • Body as bridge: the notion that the body is connected to the stuff that is ‘in here and out there’ The dissertation becomes a testing ground for ways of creating , occupying space and perceiving your surroundings.

1 Nick Cave interviewed by Jonathan Valania (2001)

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An Understanding: Parts of a Whole

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The greatest understanding of this dissertation is achieved through a reading of the three documents;

1. Project: Made up of three parts; ‘writings’, ‘image’, ‘model photographs’. A. Lexicon; Positions the background to the dissertation. B. Debris; The methods used to explore and create the project

Each document can be understood in isolation; however, a reading of all the parts allows the reader to bridge together the connections the dissertation seeks to make. A process of taking note and reflection occurs when shifting between the documents. This dissertation does not seek to find a resolution or conclusion. Its interest is in generating an approach to creating architecture that elaborates on a site’s distinctiveness. The reading of the dissertation should be approached in a similar manner. The reader should not seek to find a sequential order to navigate the documents. Instead the action of reading between documents is where the greatest understanding is generated.

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A Positioning: The Dissertation and its Background

Background


Position

Earth, we are somewhere here, bound to the ground and surrounded by atmosphere. Architecture acts as a mediation device between our body and the site outside. This dissertation seeks to explore the

mediation and the changes that result from it; the activated condition that site, both built and other, has on architecture.

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Background

I was introduced to Michael Sorkin’s Local Code: The Constitution of a City at 42 [Degrees] N Latitude 1993) during Urban Studio in 2012. The intent of the studio was to create architecture that was generated as a consequence of investigations into what was defined as the ‘City Proper’. The studio

explored the city through mappings and readings to generate a project that was strangely familiar, a project that through a rigorous understanding of its place was able to tweak what was distinctive about it and elaborate it to generate a new architecture that had ‘anotherness’ rather than an ‘otherness’ qualities.

1. Refer to Local Code : The Constitution of a City at 42 [Degrees] N Latitude


Position

The interests of this dissertation lie in exploring the consequences of architecture explicitly related to site. The dissertation takes right number 1.1 from the Bill of Rights found in Michael Sorokin’s Local Code and uses it as the grounding argument for site responsiveness. The right reads: “The right to a city free to elaborate the basis of its own distinctiveness” My preoccupation for this dissertation was taking my learnings from Urban Studio and applying it to a site located outside the ‘city proper’, a site that didn’t

allow for an urban reading rather a more metropolitan reading. This dissertation locates itself in what is most common, what is most familiar, a series of sites which though the distinctiveness of their own regions define Perth as metropolitan. A rewriting of Michael Sorkin’s right defined the approach to the dissertation more clearly: “The right to a city, field or building free to elaborate the basis of its own distinctiveness, built or otherwise”

1. Sorkin, 1993, 15

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Background

Six Metropolitan Towers is a dissertation that situates itself as research ‘by project’. Within this research type Stephen Neille (2007, 8-9) describes three groups that can be used to describe a range of projects that situate themselves in the study area.1 Type One, Built Idea Models: “Such projects are designed and constructed to demonstrate ideas about architecture though the medium of a building itself ”2

Type Two, Unbuilt Idea Projects and Models: “Architectural projects intended to demonstrate ideas for buildings in a form that is readable as a building to be built”2 Type Three, Perceptual Models;:“Projects designed as a model to generate poetic intelligence rather than offer any particular new architectural project or scheme” 2

1. Refer to Speed_Space, Introduction; Context of Study for greater exploration of the three groups of research ‘by project’ 2. Neille, 2007, 8-9


Position

This dissertation positions itself in the second type, Unbuilt Idea Projects and Models.

-Explore consequences of ‘paying attention’2 to the weather on the body and building.

Unbuilt Idea Projects and Models are “(created) to demonstrate architectural intentions, they are often designed as imaginary schemes made in response to changing conditions in the environment around us”.1 Six Metropolitan Towers places itself in this body of research. The projects, although read as a series of buildings, are not intended for construction; instead they serve a purpose to:

-Explore ways of occupying space, recognising and elaborating on the activated condition that is created through the interaction of weather and architecture. -Generate ways of creating architecture of site. -Explore the relationship that is forever tied between architecture and its representation.

1. Neille, 2007, 9 2. Cave, 2001

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A Consolidation of the Dissertation’s Positions

Using the re-writing of the Michael Sorkin’s right as the intention of the dissertation, a process is required to demonstrate its testing; the testing being the imaginary schemes that respond to a changing site and the implications each site’s distinctiveness has on its architecture. The dissertation is a search; it is not a seeking of a solution or resolution to a

question. To generate a process for the creation of the towers, a series of investigations were conducted positioning this dissertation within a body of research; this is covered under this and the following heading. The final process to generate the towers is described in a later heading.

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Control

Proun 31

Proun 102

Background

El Lissitzky, a Russian artist and architect spent a number of years in the 1920’s creating a series of paintings he named ‘Prouns’. El Lissitzky describes them as a “Project for the affirmation of the new… an interchange station between painting and architecture”3. The ‘interchange’ is evident in his abstractions of suprematism painting styles and introducing architectural representation styles (the introduction of the third dimension and perspective). I read the series

of paintings as an application of an external force to a kit of parts, the paintings seem to test a collection of elements (circles, squares, poles…) and experiment with them by playing with their scale, orientation, composition. Each painting seems to become an experiment, taking learnings of the ‘Prouns’ that precedes it and continually develop an ‘affirmation of the new’.

1. El Lissitzky. Proun 3. [image sourced from; http://www.zakros.com/jhu/apmSu03/discussiontopic_1.html] 2 El Lissitzky, Proun 10. [image sourced from; http://fineartamerica.com/featured/proun-10-el-lissitzky.html] 3. British Museum 2001


Application

Taking the idea of testing a constant set of parts and applying an external variables becomes a way of analysing what the provocations of weather and site have on each tower. The consistent parts for each towers are the elements of domestic living. eat -table

bath -shower -toilet -basin

-kitchen sink -fridge

access -staircase

sleep

-lift x2

-bed -bedside table

Each tower shares the same kit of parts as well as dimensions, 10x10x58m.

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Stacking

Background

Le Corbusier created Five Points of Architecture, a set of principles that he worked to. One of the principles was a roof garden, a principle that the

ground that is built on is replaced on the roof of the building.

1. Refer to Towards a New Architecture, 1946, for further elaboration on the Five Points of Architecture.


Application

In each of the towers the ground is replaced on each floor of the building rather than just the roof;

a principle that allows the body to live in the abstracted ground rather than just in between it.

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Perception

Background

Between 1967 and 1968 Richard Serra compiled a list of verbs that he would apply to materials as a way of generating form.

Richard Serra, “Verb List Compilation: Actions to Relate to Oneself ”

1. Richard Serra, “Verb List Compilation: Actions to Relate to Oneself”[image sourced from http://leahvirsik.com/richard-serra/]


Application

Verbs, a literary abstraction of an existing field, with each verb defining a field’s own distinctiveness to generate a new a field to live in (the floor plate).

-to float | Perth Canyon -to place | Buckland Hill -to encase | Ardross

The verbs that defined each field eventually became:

-to bound | Canning River -to ground | Quarry in the Darling Scarp -to capture | Victoria Reservoir

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A Process: Creating a Phylum of Towers

1. Phylum; Noun. Linguistics . a category consisting of language stocks that, because of cognates in vocabulary, are considered likely to be related by common origin.


The process used to create the towers forms a loop moving through scales and abstractions before returning back on itself. The body situates itself in the middle of the loop; it holds a position that develops its own understanding, not through a sequential movement through the stages of the loop, rather through the connections, absorption, and return to and from

any of the stages. This is the body as a bridge at work, a position that is not all-knowing looking at the towers from a divine position, but rather a taking note, a place of constant development of its own position and understanding, the action of taking note to ‘lead to things’, the suggestion that Nick Cave made so beautifully vague.

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Moving through the process of the creation of the phylum of towers, starting at the largest scale,

A site on earth, we are somewhere here, bound to the ground and surrounded by atmosphere. Architecture is a mediation device between us and the environment outside.

Moving from a place of anywhere, to a series of ‘somewheres’. The transect locates the towers to an area made up distinctly different regions, it’s a way of locating a series of towers. 1. see page 21

An abstraction and gathering of the field that surrounds the tower, creating a floor plate for living that is a compression of its own field, this becomes the abstracted field. The floor plate is made using a series of predefined elements to create a unique architectural formation that reflect the field beyond; it is a new place to position the body.


The multiplication of the abstracted field to generate a tower; a making of an object in a field as an architectural elaboration of the site’s own distinctiveness. The multiplication of the abstracted field to create a tower closes the loop to the largest scale of architecture as the mediating device between us and the site outside, it’s a tower bound to the ground and surrounded by atmosphere. ----------The body’s position in the centre of the loop is understood as bridging a connection between the stuff ‘in here’ and the stuff ‘out there’. The body is the element that shifts between the two scales; it

looks at architecture from ‘out there’, a position that understands place through the activated condition of field and architecture that each tower sets up as markers. The body also takes a position of gazing at site from ‘in here’. ----------The process sets up and the towers are the outcomes of it. The process has allowed me to develop a framework to go through a series of stages to elaborate sites distinctiveness and the creation of the towers allows me to reflect and explore their elaborations.

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A Reflection: Considering Perception

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The following headings gaze back on the project, using the project’s outcomes to reflect on a developed

position generated through the mind and body’s absorption of the project and return.

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A Representation: [Un]Built Towers

A simple reading of the title of Raimund Abraham’s book [UN] BUILT suggests the nature of his works, both built and un built projects. With more consideration, however, I think the bracketing of the ‘un’ is to emphasise the built nature of his works. I believe it suggests that architecture can be built from the markings of pencil on paper as well as constructed from masonry and timber. It has been established that the dissertation exists as an Unbuilt Idea Model. Fundamental to that is

the project will not be constructed by builders and labourers, the project is constructed solely by my own hand and mind. The project’s representation is as built. The structure of the three documents titled ‘The Project:…’, of which this document is one third, highlights the various states that the project can exist. A sub-objective to this dissertation was to test different ways of representation and exploring how they are perceived by the reader.


The initial stages of the dissertation borrowed representation styles from others as a way of testing the effect of their techniques on the reading of my propositions.

Walter Pichler, Copper House

Richard Black: Land Bridge

Lebbeus Woods; Tomb for Einstein

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A Search: Testing the Consequences of Representational Techniques

Painted Abstractions:

The painted abstraction became a way presenting the field’s distinctiveness. The painted field draws attention to the field’s distinctiveness because of the distilling of parts, which can be read when comparing it to an aerial

photograph (over page). The images are read as diagrams, but because of the painted quality they generate an atmosphere which may linger with the reader.


Painted Field 20x20mm Painted at 1:1000 Gouache on watercolour paper

Abstracted Floor Plate 20x20mm Painted at 1:50 Gouache on Plywood

Abstracted Axonometric Floor Plate 20x20mm Painted at 1:20 Gouache on watercolour paper

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‘As Is’ Representations:

I group photographs and two dimensional CAD line drawings together, they both tend to ‘end a conversa-

tion’ rather then provoke further discussion or thought. A conclusion does not need to be feared, however.


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Floor Plate 20x20mm Plotted at 1:50 AutoCAD

Aerial Photograph 20x20mm Plotted at 1:1,00 NearMap Image

Tower in its stages 594x1682mm Scale Varies AutoCAD and Photoshop

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Painterly Representations

A painterly representation is something that I believe begins to fuse the ‘painted abstraction’ and the ‘as is representation’. It moves the image from an atmospheric

diagram towards a more developed ‘conversation’ while maintaining an atmosphere that provokes the interaction of the mind and soul.


Tower in Field 210x420mm Rhino Mode, Photoshop, Site Images, Oil Paintings

Body in Abstracted Field 420x210mm Rhino Mode, Photoshop, Site Images, Oil Paintings

Body in the between grounds and in atmosphere 210x420mm Rhino Mode, Photoshop, Site Images, Oil Paintings

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Model Photographs

The photographs as presented read as an ‘as is’ representation. However, as the model is only constructed at 1:1000, it misses a lot of its detail and allows for the reader to inject their own ideas into the project. Modelling, even in the project’s early stages makes a

project more physical than even a ‘completed’ drawing. Although an argument can be made that architecture can be ‘built’ by pencil on paper, it will always remain as something understood by the reader’s mind rather than hand.


Tower in Field 10x10x70mm Balsa, Ink, Metal Pins

Tower in Field 10x10x60mm Plywood

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A Perception

The Mind’s Understanding

The mind’s perception of the project from a place that has generated its understanding from moving to

and from image and text.


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A Developed Representational Style: Searching for the Immersive

The reading of each towers representation replicates the approach of the body in the tower. -Reading the tower bound to the ground and in the atmosphere. -Developing an understanding of the towers position in the phylum. -Moving through the abstractions and elaborations

of the region and field into the floor plate. -Raising the floor plate into the atmosphere to focus the possibility of occupying an abstracted landscape and experiencing weather -Placing the body in the atmosphere between two abstracted landscapes, inhabiting the new field and connecting it back to the stuff ‘out there’.


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Site Section 1:200

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cutting ground life in negative

Site Plan 1:1,000

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‘to ground’ Darling Scarp

access

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SITE 5 |

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A ‘Somewhere’ Tower in Field.

Abstractions and Tower in region, field elaborations of a field to Stacking the abstractions to inhabit Immersing the viewer in the abstracted field and a zone between and in an abstractand atmosphere. transporting them out into the atmosphere. generate a new domes- ed field filled with atmosphere. tic zone.

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Immersion References were made to artists who were able to pull a reader into an image, in particular to Diego Velázquez’s Las Meninas. Initially it was the intrigue of the mirror that was of interest, is the mirror reflecting the King and Queen or a reflection of the canvas? Shouldn’t we see ourselves in the mirror? The interest in the painting developed into the way your eyes move around the painting, the single point perspective dragging the viewers eyes to the back of the image, having five faces looking into the position the viewer takes. Some of the techniques analysed were used to immerse the viewer into the representations of the six towers. The displeased face of the man who’s apartment you are in. The blue sky reflected on the ceiling and lift wall to the left of the image, dragging your eyes form the out side, to the inside and back out. The perspective that drags your eyes to the centre of the image only to be moved left again to the man.

1. Diego Velázquez. Las Meninas. [Image sourced from, http://www.artchive.com/meninas.htm]


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Immersion

A viewing device was created to continue to explore our perception of architectural images, a device that makes you aware of your eyes moving around the image, a device that removes the viewers peripheral vision as a way of immersing them in the image.

Mark Rothko was once asked how far should you stand away from his paintings, his answer was “right back, oh, about eighteen inches”.1,2 This device seeks to generate those profound immersive qualities that Rothko’s paintings have.

1.Simon Schama, Simon Schama’s Power of Art - Rothko, part 4 of 7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4qUVGVVBRtQ [assessed 15/11/13] 2. The documentary where this quote is found comes as recommended viewing.


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The Phylum

‘to float’ Perth Canyon ‘to place’ Buckland Hill

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‘to place’ Buckland Hill

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Tower Section

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‘to enclose’ Ardross

Feild Section

a solid object in its field boundaries that question what is inside and out

‘to place’ Buckland Hill Feild Plan

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eat 1 2 3 3

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bath Region Plan

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Adross

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‘to bound’ Canning RIver PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT

‘to ground’ Darling Scarp

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Site Section 1:200

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‘to ground’ Darling Scarp

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mean current sea level

cutting ground life in negative

Site Plan 1:1,000

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eat 4

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‘to ground’

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Darling Scarp

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Darling Scarp

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‘to contain’ Victoria Reservoir PRODUCED BY AN AUTODESK EDUCATIONAL PRODUCT

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Nick Cave: The Exhibition 2009.


Nick Cave Weather Diaries: A perception of weather. 55


The References

Raimund Abraham : [Un]Built / with an Introductory Essay by Norbert Miller with Contributions by Carlos Brillembourg...[Et Al.]Edited by Brigitte Groihofer. [Un]Built. edited by Norbert Miller and Brigitte Groihofer New York: Springer Wien, New York, 2011. Nick Cave, 2001. Interview of Nick Cave, interview by Jonathan Valania. Transcript sourced from http:// www.magnetmagazine.com/2001/09/01/nick-cave-let-there-be-light/ [accessed 2/11/2013] Nick Cave: The Exhibition 2009. The Arts Center, Melbourne. Le, Corbusier. Towards a New Architecture. London: London : Architectural Press, 1946. El Lissitzky. Proun 3. [image sourced from; http://www.zakros.com/jhu/apmSu03/discussiontopic_1.html] El Lissitzky, Proun 10. [image sourced from; http://fineartamerica.com/featured/proun-10-el-lissitzky. html] Museum, Trustees of the British. “El Lissitzky, Proun, a Lithograph.” The British Museum. Neille, Stephen. “Speed Space: Architecture, Landscape and Perceptual Horizons.” RMIT, 2007. phylum. Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. http://dictionary.reference. com/browse/phylum (accessed: November 16, 2013). Sorkin, Michael. Local Code : The Constitution of a City at 42 [Degrees] N Latitude / Michael Sorkin. New York, N.Y.: New York, N.Y. : Princeton Architectural Press, 1993. Simon Schama, Simon Schama’s Power of Art - Rothko, part 4 of 7. http://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=4qUVGVVBRtQ [assessed 15/11/13]


Richard Serra, “Verb List Compilation: Actions to Relate to Oneself ”[image sourced from http://leahvirsik.com/richard-serra/] Diego Velázquez. Las Meninas. [Image sourced from, http://www.artchive.com/meninas.htm]

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2013

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