Lss Angeles F RUM
ARCHITECTURE AND URBAN DESIGN 835 NORTH I!:INGS ROA D W EST HO LL YWOOD C A 900 69
NEWSLETTER September 1992 IN THIS ISSUE: Experimental Architecture in Los Angeles introductIOn by Fr ank Gehry essays by Aaron Betskv. John Chase . Leon Whi te sOfl IRlllOIl. Los Angeles Forum lor ArCfl'lecwre and Urba n DesIgn: New Yor k, Los Angeles. 1992 ) Reviewed
UPCOMING EVENTS : ALTERNAT IVE DISDRDERS A series of discussions rega rding new community initiatives for inner-city LA Dates TSA
WHOSE BEACH PARTY IS THIS ANYWAY?JOHN CHASE
LETTER FROM VIENNA TEREN CE RILE Y Curator. Deparrmenr of ArC;Jltecture and Design The Museum of Modern An
ARCHITECTURE AND ITS AUDIENCE
suspl~ctthatl was asked 10 review ExperrmentaJArctll/ecture Los Angeles and ilS essays by Aaron Belsky. John Chase. and leon
Whi le I In
In the Los Angeles of the 19905. a lim ited view of the architect's role , and a lim ited vIew of Ihe region's architec tural and urban context. have dangerously narrowed both the public and critical unde rstanding of archit ecture's nature as a social art. Southern California is seen as lacking botn in recogn izable bUilding types and clearly defined urban form . As a result, mUCh Importance is placed on the indi Vidual artifact, wh ile far less atten tion is devoted to the relat ionship between the artifact and urban forms surround ing It As Ste fanos Polyzo ldes has pOinted out. "Increasingly bUildings here are a kind of selfish scream for attention . Everything has to be a th ing in Itself . The attitude about oneness has spawned such an Interest in fashion," Wh ile It IS true that Los Angeles IS lightly perce ived to be a place that IS open to new Ideas. personal expreSSion, and expenmentatlon. the current architectu ral avant-garde seems less Interested In re laung the ir work 10 th iS tradit ion of innovallon In a meaningful way than In uSing th iS tradit ion as a licence to make the Kind of photogeniC objec ts thaI get good press , ThiS essay IS a ca ll fo r cfl\ica l atten tion to the broad I_b Ing types that. In l os Angeles, sprawl from the mall to carow sh and I at , r,e-a villua_b l~ candidates fo r evaluation and
Wh,teson in order to provide an "East Coas t " POin t of view. these commen tS are being written dUring a brief stay In Vienna. The change Ifl venue Isn' t altoge ther Inappropriate: perhaos more than New York. Vienna represents the counterpoint to Schindler and Neutra's city of Ihe fu ture . In thiS and other trips here I have found that most diSCUSSions aboul Viennese architectur e are necessarily ellipticalIhal ls. the bwader Question of Vienna's cul tural structure cannot be long Ignored. Ref lections on the architecture of los Angeles would seem to have the same Imperative-that IS. Ihe three essays m Expeflmema l Archllec/ure are. fo r the most pa rI. more cul tural analySIS than StriCt architec tural CritiCism The essays represent. on one hand. the refinemen t of certam accepled OOSlllons on the cultura l flux of Southern California. I'm th inking o j Betst<;y's "Adam-as-surfer I man-machine satyr" duality In th iS mstance . Similarly . Wh,teson's borrowmg of the term "flrst growt h" from the language of forestry. is particularly useful In understandin g l os Angeles ' overlappmg patterns of growth-decayreju ve nation Other elements of the essays go beyond histOrically developed analyses and prov,de a preSCient contemporaneous view conrinu ed on page 3
F co nrZ'n e2...!!.!.! p age 6
Jane k B!e l sk l The Desert Pr OJ ect Sec tion
LL=Ilâ€˘ : -~~ O-IN-~ 7 ~ :O LE~S-S-E-R--â€˘
M .A rr. 1 studem. UCLA
t5J."11 ,L A-RelY IT ECT U REI N LOS ANGELES
What ma kes arChit ect ure "e xpe rimental]"
According to this publicat ion, it appears to be popula rity. fas hion, and li nkage to Frank Geh ry and the Morphosis crowd . This defin ition is useful in that it provides important insigh t into the values of the cur rertt architecture " scene," but it is not a def init ion that shoul d be accepted wit hout critical comment or theore tical elaboration. Whi le the boo k's
essays imply ihat architec ture is more than bea utiful deta ils and formal man ipu lat ion and attempt to address the influences of technology, con text and vernaculars on archi tecture, the connect ion to the w ork in the pu blicatio n is strained The lay-out. which surgically iso lates text f ro m image. further strain s the relationshi p and keeps the book
fro m ack nowledg ing open ly its role as a fu rtherer of young careers and a catalog of architectural fashions In the end . Experimental Architecture not only perpetu-ates the "scene's" values but also precludes t he possibility of developing a more considered definition of what might constitu te experimental architecture, con tinue d on p age 2
PRESIDENT'S STATEMENT CHRI STIA N HUBERT
O ... er the pa st yea r, th e Forum has changed In a number 01 Significant ways We have active ly sought to w iden th e spectrum of cu ltura l representa ti on 0 11 our board and In our committees, and we are InCleaslngl..,. engaged In addreSSing the sOCial Issues thaI face Los Angeles today The pnnClpalnem sel on the agenda for Qur April board m ee tin g w as to propose act'\I,ues that would enilble .,the Forum to m ake mOl e direct and Substa ntive connections to the city as a w hole. As 1\ turn ed Qut. our m eeting took place JUS t alter the anno uncem ent of the Rod ney King ver diCt. and the course 01 events most em phatically underscored the need for broader commitment W hile much of thiS work IS stili In the organizational stage, there 15 already much to repOrt. In June, we held a diSCUSSion as to w hat w e, as architects, can contllbute to the Ire)bulld lng of LA We m ade up a IISI of the Indivi duals w ho attended the m eeting and have m ade that list available to other organizations needing pro bono or red uced fee ar chuecturat wo rk. We Will have a fo llow路up event In Septem ber, w hich IS being orga nized by John Kalisk i and Roland W iley, a new board member and pas\ preSi dent of the National Organization of M InOfily Arch ite cts. A number of community leaders and actIVists Will participate In the diSCUSSion The Forum has become a participating organization In the DeSi gn Profess,ona ls Coalition. Rasa Bauza is our representative and IS on the Coalition stee ling comm'ttee , We have proposed to the coalition to deSign (and pOSSibly bUild) som e te m porary market structures In several burned-out locatlons Once a fram ew ork lor thiS prolect IS est ablished, we hope to be able to count on the energies of our m em bers to carry the prOJect thro ugh . The Forum IS also a spOnsormg organization of the Taylol Yard Planning and Urban DeSig n Committee. KrlS M iller IS one of ItS coord inators and Deborah Murphy IS one of Its project managers fOI the AlA. The commillee has scheduled two planning and desig n workshop s fo r the 250 acr e Southern Pa Cif iC Ra ilroad land Within the Cypress Park I Glassell Park neighborhood . Th ese wo rksh ops are sch eduled lor September t 1 ~13 and Octo ber 23 ~25 . More information is available from Kr is M iller at 213-A87-3394 . Many of these ch anges fo llow dlfec\lons promoted by Michele Saee dUling his ten ure as Forum PreSident We were sorry to accept hiS resignation from our board. bu t as the new President I look forward to continuing hiS efforts. M ichele has re locate d hiS studio to Atwa ter Village where he has al so opened a coffee shop/alternative space. We hope to hold some Forum events there in the future . He IS also working With Shelley 6erger at the House of Ruth, a tranSl\lonal house lor homeless or abused children in Boyle Heights. Michele has been teaching draWing cl asses at the House of Ruth and has deSigned a c hlld-care center lor them wh ich IS In the process 01 being built. Natalie Shivers has deCided to no longer serve as Newsletter editor and we wo uld like to thank her for all her efforts. w hich have been greatly appreciated. ThiS IS the 1,lst Issue of the Newsletter to be edited by SylVia laVin, w ho, as part 01 the Forum's general effort to Widen ItS hOfl zons. hopes to broaden the scope of the Newslett er beyond Los Angeles, both In ItS authors and readership. Comments, lettels to the editor. or anyone Wishing to contfl bute to the New sletter either by w riting. dOing edltoHal wo rk or helpmg With producllOn, are welcom e and should contact SylVia al the Forum number 1213-852路71 4 5) . AD M I N I S T R I V I A : Copies of E,.;peflmenta l Arc h,tecture In Los Angeles, Doug SU lsm an's LA Boulevard, and Douglas Macleod's Archlnl o are available fr om th e Forum .
continued from page 1
Frank Gehry IS pre sented by th e essaYists and h,mself as the " godl ather" 01 " e,.;pe fl mental" archi tectur e Gehry IS an undeniably Import ant Ilg ure In contemporary archit ectur e, yet the nature of hiS Import ance and Influence bears e,.;ammallon HIS lame reStS on indiVidualistiC w ork wh iCh he claims dellve s e)tclusl ve ly f rom emotio nal response and ae sthetiC instinct An or ganiZing prem ise for Expeflmemal Archlfec rure IS that the deSigners In thiS book are ~ G ehry-u e s, ~ fo llow ers 01 Gehry Were th ey "true disciples," they wo uld be lollowm g him by follOWing thelf own emOlional responses and ae sthetiC Instmc ts. Instead. they attem pt to reproduce the mlmltable . the InSlincts and mtultlons 01 another psych e, In this case Gehry's . They have responded to what Gehry does and not what he says, wh ich IS not surp nSlng gIve n that he doesn't say much. HIS essay use s both false modesty to disclaim responSibility for the Gehry School and fal se Immodesty to re lish the success of hiS Infl uence W hile he m ay hope that hiS archly colloqUial styl e deflecl s allentlon away from these Issues, It actu ally serves to underscore unconSidered contrad ictions m hiS poSition John Chase' s essay reveals that Gehry's wOlk actually belongs 10 a local trad ition of vI sionary archl tectul e-one-ol-a-km d gestures- that co-e)tls ts With the tr adition 01 h,stollcat conte)ttualism These two tr aditions-one rooted In the pa st and engaging the public realm, the other anticipating the luture and te ndmg to occu py the pll vate realm-form an IroniC alliance In Experrmemal ArCfll tec ture m Los Angeles While the deSi gners almost alway s select the fut ure as the ll pellod of chO ice, the Idea that one can simply choo se a histoflcal period In w hich to bUild IS a l undam entally historicist notion . If young ar chitect s are to aVOid fmdmg themselve s caught be tw een m aking w ork they leells c o nte ~ tua l but that IS read by others as Gehry has-they WIt! need to deve loo a th eoretlcall V coherent connecllng the t w o tradit ions
SChweI tzer 8 1M. Th e Monumem
The Gehry School, haVing alread y slled MorphOSIS, Fred Fisher and others, is now In ItS second generati on Aa ron Bet sky, wh ose essay sta nds out m th iS publlcallon, claims that th e followers of Gehry have long since Deen 01 two ty pe s-the "Gehry-schule. ~ those directly aSSOCiated With th e m aster. and th e "man/machine satyr. ~ dominated by MorphOSIS Betsky aVOids assigning the new " e )tpe l1men ta l~ archi tec ts to either the theoretical VOid 01 th e former category 01 the defenSive formal and Ideological SOphiS tiCation of the laller Instead, he attem pt s 10 connect th ell w ork \0 ImpOrtant Oltlcal thought He argues, lollowm g BenJamin, that techn ology has replaced nature In Los Angeles that. In lact. te chnology has be com e natu re ano that th e lorm al e)tpresslon of these deSigners IS msplred bv the artiliclain v 01 natura l phenomena . By the ve ry aCI of formulating th iS conceptual framework. Belsky re veals hiS deslfe to transform th e formalism of Southern Califo rn ia by gl vm g II a Slgnil ica nt theo retl路 ca l compone nt But w hen Bet sky refers to the w ork of the new generation as " te ntat ive assem olage s," he also reveals that th ere remains a large space between th eory and practice. Schools of architecture are traditio nally e)tDected \0 bndge th iS gap, bUI w hile mo st of the arc hitects Included III EX~flm emaJ Architecture ale curr ently InStructors at SCI-Arc and UC LA, Wi th tne e)tcep tl on of Nelj Denali. I ney are primarily concerned with the aesthetics of form and arrangement of program. Because they get publiC e)tposure , notably m places like Expefim emaJ Arch rrecrure in Los Angeles, they are eagerly sought alter by Sludents and administrations. But the Impression they m ake on students is much like the impressi on m ade by the ir work in th is glossy book-the illitial e)tcitement and .)tpectation are soon replaced by diSilluSionment and lingering d,sappomtm ent th at there rea lly was n't any I here, there . The book as a w hole succeeds In fu rt hellng the """'' ''"''','''''' by celebrating thei! e)tperlm ents, but falls to
r i ley of the cultural framework of Southern California. Given the recen t unrest In los Angeles, Whlteson's Citalion of gang activity. rac e, and economiC Imbalance and Betsky's references to the dark Side of technology frame a picture of Los Angeles that IS more turbu lent tha n Esther McCoy or Reyner Banham may have ever been able to foresee. Despite the East Coast-West Coast COmpe1l110n Implied in the essays, It certainly gives no satls/acllon to recognize los Ange les' recent agonies. If Edward Ruscha's Burnmg Gas Station takes on new meanmgs 11"1 light of the fiOtS. from my pomt of view these meanmgs are more universa l than speCif iC to Los Ang eles. Betsky's optimistic assertion that, despite the dark clouds on the horizon. a culturally relevant architecture can be "found. projected and constructed" is reminisc ent. perhaps mtentlonally. of Henry-Russell Hltchcock's triumphant postSCript to The International Sryle: " We have an architecture stili. " Betsky may we ll be correct but the essaYists' reliance on analySIS and description is. at times. at the expense of speCific criticism. In this regard Whiteson's closing comments wherein he seemingly defends Southern California's
continued 'rom page 1
In hiS essay. Cha se pursues themes that are more explJclt ly architectural. In hiS opening remarks he reminds the reader that Ihe " avant-garde " of Southern California has always been supported by a mmOrlty of clients: li ke Europe of the 1930s. the most mtereslmg of the bUilt prOjects in Expenmental Architecture are private houses or other small scale commiSSions. These prOlects do. indeed, bear out the essaYists' enthUSIasms for the architectural climate of Southern California . For example, both the fo rmal mnovatlon and the lyrical quality of Vic tOri a Casasco's newer work seems far removed from that of the offices With which she was formerly assocIated. Similarly, th e work of the Central Office for Architecture, with the ir solid California credentials, convincingly supports the book's premise on a variety of scales and Issues th e " second growth" house, the automotive environment and a persuasive Vision (regrettably one of the few) of los Angeles as a metropolis. SlteWorks, Unfortunately, there are fewer illustrations of th iS urban project than of most houses in the book, despite the fact that it was chosen as the cover illustration. Similarly, the format slights Guthrie + Buresh's
Lelr Central Office of Arch,tecrure Museum Square Corrected Right Neil M. Denari. Pool Regenerator "fertlle confusions. engagmg shallowness. bland barbarities and shameless self路love路路 are remar kably disengaged, Betsky raises the Issue of a cmical stance by mSlstlng that architecture have a "polltlcal"' )read "moral"'-you can't get around it even m a post-rationalist world) POSition Yet. even here he hedges about makmg "value Judgements" since they have "pockmarked our Cities With well-mtentloned disasters." Never mind for the moment that Betsky and the other essaYists devote much of their eltort to poruaymg Los Angeles as preCisely that-a well-Inten\loned )th ough well-loved) disaster, More to the pomt. It IS hard to thmk of Los Angeles' great cultural monuments Without thinking of the uniquely Southern California "value Judgements" which they represen t the Case Study Houses. Neutra's lovell Health House and RUSh Clly proposals. GIIJ"S courtyard apartments. Wngh(s Doheny Ranch development. etc Bets~y's heSitations about "value Judgements" ultimately gJve way to hIS conVIction that the problems of Los A""ge'es Will not be solved by SImply \lnkeflng With the statu s quo: "the role of the architect IS to create compell"g VISions of transformation tnat can be erected agamst t ~e purely destructive forces Jnherent In the economic ane ~OC1" Sllucture of the cily" At a time when "vISlon" IS SilO ~ confused With the cybernetiC bungeY-lumpmg 0' v' '"al re ality. Betsky's call to arms IS mdeed welcome
tlon IS an anachronism? Certainly O'Herlihy + Warner's house In Malibu IS rel ated, in lIS Simple planning and its emphaSIS on space rather than material commodity, to the work of J. J, P. Oud. Yet even he confessed that he wou ld have liked to have received more substantial commi SSions even as hiS beautIful ly deSigned SOCial hOUSing prOjects In Rotterdam brought him an mternatlonal reputat ion. Without diminishing Ihe accomplishments of Ihose working With Ihe most meager of budgets, I suspect that many of the architects working with cheap matenals wou ldn't mind the chance to do otherwise. jl , for the moment. the projects illustrated were seen as a commen tary on the essays, there are several denials of Betsky's assertion that the work in Experimental Architecture IS "resolu tely modern." RAW Architecture's Platinum Tnangle Collagen Medical Group Offices may have a program (if it is what I think It is) thaI is unique to the late twe ntieth century, though! th ink the designers are more influenced by the postmodern pop imagery of Charles Moore than any source that might be called Hmodern." Similarly, Barham Shlfdel and Andrew
REGENERATOR SportCenter and Wagner + Webb's Santa M onica Stone Garden, both of whIch appear to deserve more scrutiny Michael Burch's McMahon ReSidence Add,tion IS another Intelligent commentary on the Idea of "tear-down" construC\lon, If the result could be as articulate as the model It IS a Pity that It IS only presented as a prOlected work In contrast to the exuberance which charactenles much of the work In Experimental Architecture, the Office of Charles and Elizabeth Lee's UCLA Chlldcare Center "screams" res traint ThiS piece of high modernism presen tS a level of technocratic polish that IS not frequently assOCiated With Southern Califorma, the mfluence of thelf stmt In the office of Norman Foster IS apparent I. M. Pel's Creative Art ists Agency In Beverly Hills has a Similar altitude, though the ephemeral qualities of the Chlldca re Center seem more approprrate than Per's monumentally opaque structure If the lees' Chlldcare Center JS restrained, It IS also not the" cheap construct,on" frequently alluded to by the essays In fact, the ,ncluslon of Casasco's Alnar ReSidence, Ron McCoy's Grossman ReSidence, and M ichele Saee's and Hubert I ZelnlO'S varrous prOlects, which all display a more precise at titude towards the architectonic POSSibilities of finely wrough t details, raises some questions Is "cheap const ruction" a value ,n Itself? Are the architects who work in sheet-lock and plywood arguing, a la Groplus, tha t f inely crafted construc-
Zago's projects should not be subsumed under the same rubriC that descnbes Nell Denarl's. The latter does mdeed express a "faith in the abili ty 10 construct an alterna\lve phySical environment." bu tlhe Importance of AKS Runo's work IS ItS challenge to the technocrallc obleC\lvl!y at the heart of Denarr's work. Chase also descllbes AKS Runo's OlympIC West prOlect in POSitiViSt lerms, Clling lIS attempt to "create a more clearly defined sense of place" It seems to me to be the oPPosite. If any of the deSigners In Expenmental Arc/mecture have made a seriOUS attempt to grapple With the Implications of post路 structuralist philosophy, It IS Shlrdel and Zago. It may well be that as prOjects such as thiS transfer from the hothouse of philosophical debate to realization they may be seen, by the general public at least, as more "modern" than anything else. Nevertheless, AKS Runo's work deserves the ideological debate that It aspires to provoke Certain omISSIons, such as the work of Fred Fisher and Angelil + Graham, are not wholly explicable given the overall bread th of the book. Even so, Expenmental Architecture IS a sellous and comprehenSive attempt to portray a new generation of Los Angeles architects. Given the history of the arch itectural avantgarde It IS II"Ilerestlng to speculate whether In, say, ten years time It Will be pOSSIble to put the same archnects In a SIngle volume. The success of the book may, ulllmate ly, be achIeved when It becomes ou tdated
AVANT-GARDE (AESTHETICA) CALIFORNIA LOS ANGELES HISTORY 20TH CE NTU RY ' EX PER IMENTAL AR CHITECT U RE IN LOS ANGELES . CODIFIED JOE DAY GEHRY FACTOR
CAIT CR IBBING
(influence of the
master, 1 to 10)
A. Reliance on Theory
9 (12, on a
4 (2, on a
Oh so many facets to
Mad Max tours "Brazil"
LOCAL COLORS (signatures, motifs, fetishes)
THE PLAYERS (so to speak):
"The Blob" vs "T2"
Apocalypse by auler-pllot
Blake + Au
"Me bamboo. You steel"
Architectural Record cover shots, 1985-8
Corporate bulk, pastel panache
So many ways to hide from the sun
Central Office of Architecture
Sant'Elia after "Repo Man"
Neil M. Denari
"Pan-Asiatic Cyberporn Bikers meet Post-Fordis! T echno-cult Doom!"
Pantone views from the laser turret
"Pale Blue Thunder," th e dayli ght sequel
Articulate suriaces, but does all Light come from above ?
"The Shinin (Bodies): The Health pa Sequel"
Corb's "Bone" columns traded for Gehry's "Log Bunch" columns
"To Live and Die: Eat in L.A."
Cornering bJ Green and reen
"Scenes from the Class Strutgle in Santa Monica and urrounding Hilltowns"
Next time, let's see the diaper pattern in crushed velvet
" Honey, I Blew Up the Kids"
Guess who got all the coolest toys from Frank's mode! shop?
Offices of Charles and Elizabeth Lee
, (maybe early Gehry)
Films of Charles and Ray Eames
Pacific Rim Modular
Does historicism still count?
Norman M illar
The Domestic Sector of Lang 's " MetrOPOlis"
O'Herlihy + Warner
If Henry M iller and Kate Hepburn were going to shack up in the hills."
"Vincent and Theo " in black and white
Gamblers Award for combining Escher, Corb, Turrell in one drawing
So much feeling, so little t ime
3 (very early Gehry)
" Bri~ht Lights,
Courageous late champions of PoMo
" Honey, I Shrunk the Kids"
Aa!to? Man, he ain't no real sensualist.
+ B uresh
Big M ichele Saee
More bays than the Bay Area
Spagetti Western a la Almodovar
Bam Bam's Bungalow, Inc.
Wagner + Webb
AI! the places that 007 got lucky
Sharper than Sharper Image
1 Lib<l'Y of Congrns hsun g ' 2 for EJp"riment.' A, eni, e,Iure in Los Ang, ' es , ,ntroduct,on by Fr.nk Gehry: nuys by A.ron Be l sky , Jonn Cnue. Leon Wh il non (Rizzoli. Los Ang,'es Forum lor Arch itec\Ure . nd Ur b.n O... ,gn : Ne w Yor k, Los An geln, 1992).
NOMADIC THOUGHTS': LA
Downtown LA In the distance. Building and highway, remotely pro~lmate . What to do With leftovers-with outdated VISions of endurmg urban form) Cfllen3 used to evaluale Cilies. urban va lues, are predica ted on the spallal Structure of traditiona l urban form : cities bUilt of prO)(lmltles. Old cities were concentrations . DenSl flcatlon occurred through time In confined and bounded situations: movements across great distances were rare: settlements were located on stable ground . The spatial structure of the new city IS different. New cit ies e)(pand according to other logiCS. They grow In space, IgnOring time Ye t distances are effectively cancelled out by fle)(lble cap ita l and advanced technologies that reduce the need for manifest physical adjacencies. As the new city eschews old urban visions, we are left With leftovers. In fa lling to admit the persistence of physical form and the duration of lived time, recent urban theories that strive to account for the spatial effects of technology and offer new ways to conceptua lize the city pose a double challenge . On the one hand, wh ile information now travels at the speed of light and sound, physica l infrastructure still remains relative ly static. Thus, despite the speed of ch ange prompted by techno-space, we must still account for the perseverance of urban form, the slow duration of the growth and decay of built environments. We must account for the leftovers. On the other hand, we must admit the observation that space/time compress ion radical ly alters our expe rience of the city, rendering our system of old city values inapplicable as measures of new urban forms. We must begin to COn front the new city's capacity for infinite expansion . To loosen the grip of urban ideals predicated on proximities and stable ground, an alternative urban vision is needed : imagine urban ground as mobile ground, as territory in flux, as pOSltionings in the face of constant repositionings.
Travelling west. outSide RIVerSide, destination LA Heading east. commu te rs In arrested motion. Why IS It ca lled rush hour) Rush hour IS ti me spent trave rSin g the new Clty~traverSlng mobile ground. Travel, marked by pOin ts left behind, is a crossing of continual space, motion reasserting distance th rough time. But rush hour, f, ghllng distances, does not belong to !lavel time. The space of commuta tion IS, Instead, contlnU' ous Commuting differs from travel in that it entails an exchange without remainder. In math, the property of commutation states nothing IS left over or behind. During rush hour, the CB. radio , ce llula r phone, and fax insure that the commu te r's exchange of place for place occurs In an unbro ke n sp ace where inbetween is never detached from here or there. In new Cities, the commuter expends effort in motion between different places that are remotely proximate in one expansive space . Commu tations span an urban te rritory that spins outward across space. This is because unlike old cities, where one place could accommodate diverse co-presen t space, new Cities are made of multip le spaces that cannot occupy the same place . In rush hour, measurable distances are crossed by phySical bodies in persistent time: an enduring account of mobile ground. Neither here nor the re. this ground IS a locus of tranSition and challenge, of movement and ch ange: an overloaded gap. It IS a space of progression, of slippage, and constant re-valuatlon rather than an ob ject or place defined by arriva l, settlement. or commod ifi cation. Rush hour is the reminder that even Cit ies In motion remain cities in time. The ri ddle of the arrested speed of rush hour IS solved by recognizing that simultaneous movements cancel each other out When moving bodies c ross mobile ground, distance can no longer be measured according to stable points . Travers ing the new city, motion and stasis become, paradoxica lly, one and the same. Rush hour: time when motion stabilizes space .
No m ad Project IS
prov,soon l l toU " o f a body of work about
a rC~ It.Clur ..
It IS prompted by. u bi qUitouS cond lt,on -I ne mOll,l ,ty of mOd Et, n hIe. es pec Ia lly
Ame nca ... hi e. In pan.
denOtes a <:01111<:1100 of sh de s of overloo ked So les luns'ght ly
SIlUllaken from C.'S. p llnes . trl"' S. Ne n ne r , .. lid nO ' Sll ttOnlly. the l)roieci
f.twcallon of obse,vl llons occas,oned by mOveml(1I and ded ,cated to '<eelllng orcrlltectu,a l thOu\lM ,n mOHon . II 's In aCCOunt 01 Hansmcn. 1 ,e rri Tory Imob lle g fouf'ld ). 'O ~H'Ig
con t inued from p age 1 understanding as are high aft artifacts of limited production. A work. 01 architecture may begin as a pnvate statement 01 taste. but all works of architecture inevitably become to some degree public artifacts that Bre part of everyone' s dally hfe. A perusal of the pages of Expeflmenlal Architecture In Los Angeles does not reveal that thiS city has a distinct context. hiStOry, and typology of vernacular architecture that IS both all I\S own as well as part and parcel of Amencan urbanism as iii whole. Local avantgarde architects tend to behave as IhOtigh these phenomena that unify urbanism In Southern California Simply do not eXIst. As a result, reinforcing degrees 01 agreement between bUildings or districts has generally been a low priority with much recent arChitecture, JUS t as the Idea of taking cues from a neighborhood or regional repertOire of bUilding type s IS seen here as a limitation on creallVlty, David Gebhard has pointed out that even the malor architectural innovations of pioneer modernists, such as Frank lloyd Wright, Irving Gill and Rudolf Schindler, had little urbanlstlC Impact. and Leon Whlteson notes that Los Angeles cont inues 10 be a place where small firms , howe\ler InnO\lall\le they may be In the context of the ir small COmmiSSiOnS, stili have nO real effect on the city as a whole , Glyen the mutual incompatibility of the agendas of high art architecture as they Inform many indiVidual bUildings and the agendas of popular taste as they Inform the common landscape, II IS difficult 10 undersland how thiS could be otherwise. Experimental A rchi tecture does litt le to help overcome this incom patibility bu t does a lot to help one segment of architectural producers-"boutiQue" formalist olfices-domlnale the professional and public perception of architecture. ThiS kind of domination is fTl()(e acute In Los Angeles than perhaps anywhere else in the U.S. While Southern California may still be relatively isolated from East Coast publications, it has Increasingly become mandatory for the established media 10 trac k ac tivity here and to focus their eyer more myopic eye on the most glamorous and the least SOCially relevant categories of bUilding production. Each new wave of commodified alchltects IS offered up as more daring, IconoclaShC, and orr glnal than the last. "Los Angeles, where trends come from" proclaimed a 1989 Issue of Metro Home magazine devoted to architecture and deSign In the city. As the speed of commodification Increases, so does the speed of the star·maklng process. The Metro Home Issue, which typifies recent coverage of architecture In Los Angeles. featured a group of avant-garde archl\ects With pnmarlly sculptural or Ylsual concerns. But the wav these architects were presented seemed modelled alter the media packaging of Inlerlor decorators, fashion deSigners, and most of all, mOYie stars. It would
seem perfectly logical to view Experrmental Architecture as part of thiS phenomenon that seeks to invent celebrr· ties rather than provoke cllllcal diSCUSSIOn Motlvallng the beach-comblng to uncover the next meola star hes the assumption that formal invention is the most Important aspect of architecture. In other words, the more a bUilding differs from the pubhc's understanding of wha t building IS, the more "information," and therefore the biggest poSSible media event, It generates. The more an avant-garde firm. such as Coop Hlmmelblau, treats thelf work as pure formal abstraction, the more prestige they have - not With the public but With the ir peers, The more the media treats "avan t-garde " architects as they do artists, the more avant-garde architects are encouraged to treat their buildings as though they are walk·in sculpture. In the artificial land of the press, "movie star" architects often ignore the experiential character of their work, let alone the SOCial and real world forces that are part of architecture. Without the burden of having to communicate w ith the public. these architects can exploit their fictitious freedom to gratify indiyidual whim and pursue a course of sel!aggrandizement. Younger architects today seem to be disconnected from even the most recent architectural history of Los Angeles. In decades I'IOt very long paSt there was a local tradition of modernist architecture that often carried With It a moral imperative based on ambl' tious definitions of how much social change could actually be implemented by architects . Irving Gill was concerned wi th providing decent wor ker housing and in simplifying the amount of work that houseWives had to do. Charles Eames explored the Idea of uSing ready-made elements
Top: Hubert/Zelnio, Wal/a/Sussman Apartment BOf!om : Victoria Casasco, Aznar Resrdence
like a kit of parts, and even Wallace Neff experimented With Simple concrete houses. ThiS modernist Imperative was exemplified by the Case Study Houses program which was operated by the now legendary Arts and Archsrecrure magazine between 1946 and 1966. John Entenza, the pubhsher of the magazine, commiSSioned architects such as Pierre Koen ig and Craig Ellwood to deSign houses which were built as real hfe demonstra· tlons of how modernist deSign could Integrate techno logy, such as the steel frame, Into bUildings that accommodated contemporary hfe styles. Wtllie In many cases thiS modernist morahty was often an excuse to make deSign deCISions that were actually based on formal preferences, It did prOYlde a fram ework for tying bUildings back to their means of production and to the ways people use them. This seems to be the only aspect of the modernist tradition that has SUrviVed, for the operatlye avant-garde Imperative In much current Southern Cahfornia avant-garde alchltecture is largely forma l. Even when the avant-garde IS concerned w ith issues of urban order, this urban order IS often treated as large scale sculpture or the formal resolution of latent sit e geom etry, divorced from the complexity of actual site issues. This kind of divorce has been aided and abelled by the degree to which the art world has reinforced the solipSistic role played by many contemporary architects. It IS not the devotion to or Interest In formal or theoretical Issues borrowed from the an world that is the problem. The problem is that the architect's freedom is often paid for by the loss of a larger consciousness of architecture's SOCial role, some of the consequences of which are already clear. Avant-garde architecture has not been able to comment on or respond to the radical demographIC transformation of Los Angeles Into a substant1ally Immigrant mult1cultural community, nor has It addressed many of the pressing SOCial problems that the city faces As the archn ess and brillieness of postmodern Irony and the anti-social abstraction for abstraction's sake of decon wear thin. we need to explore approaches that rein force likeness and communalities Within the environment rather than fragment It further. I! we are ever to have a segment of building production whose deSign Intent can be clearly understood and appreCia ted by both the pubhc and those Inculcated In architectural cul ture, archi tec tural cognoscenti Will have 10 stop dismiSSing popular cul tural values and find some com mon ground With the public Steoping beyond the cu lt of the archltect-as-artlst/personality, acknowledging and chronIcling the COnt ext and the Yernacular that does eXist In Southern Calrlornla IS a first step In that direction If Yernacular architecture can be Judged and foun d lacking by the standards of lor mal purity assOCiated With high·art architecture, then, perhaps by virtue of that lack and by con stituting a call for archi tecture to communicate wi th a larger constituency, vernacular architecture also functions as a critique of high art archllecture, In thiS sense. it might be said that vernacular architecture performs the cfl\lcal function absent from the contemporary archllec· tural press Books such as Experimental Architecture are not bad because there is anything wrong with the indiYidual designs they present. Rather, what is wrong is the way such books tend to present one category of bUilding production as though it were the sum total or the apogee of aU architectural production. ThiS narrowness of focus and omiSSion of other possibilities denies us all the possibility of asking primary and critical questions. How do those IndiYlduals already inculcated in architectural culture coexist with the world around them that largely ignores the values and rules of high art arChitecture? What IS the re la tlOl'lship of moSt people to the actual built environment? How do the buildings that we see from the freeway. the developer housing, and the blank-faced speculative office bUildings and shopping malls get built and deSigned? How do they effect the Quality 01 our lives? Architec ts and the media alike must become more preoccupied With Ihese Issues, even though they are precisely the issues that never get InYlted 10 architecture's beach party.
Ed,IO"S Note A velS,oo 01 1~1S essay was 10 ~ave been ,ocluded ,0 Expel/melll.' A/chl l l/clU,e m Los AnQele. publish II
A,noll declined 10
I have always felt slightly guilty about admiring James Stirling. The pleasure I tool: in his architecture always seemed somewhat peNerse. How could I explain to a rational person the delight I look in a floor plan, like that of his entry in the Dusseldorf Museum competition. deliberately drawn 50 that Its collage of histOrical citallons and slipped geometries would 'rusua,e any understanding 01 how one woold actually move through the space? How could I admire the glonous reading room 01 the History Faculty Library at Cambndge when It left scholars to fry on the altar of archltecturel And what 01 the si te plan of the Olivetti Training Center. In which the Arcnlgram fragme nts 01 molded plastiC skinS were presented as an airplane crashing In the Derby countryside? I loved It all. even SUCh recent absurdities as the four different facades of the Clore Galleries at the Tate. whose Tudor refer ences seemed as out of place as their planes of differently colOfed brrck seemed like pandering. I loved them because James Stirling taught me to delight In architectu re. From Charles Moore I learned about light and texture and landscape. from Rietveld I learned about the utopian beliels 01 modernism. and Irom the classics I learned about ciarrty and order. but from Big Jim I learned about the delights 01 that partICular discourse 01 bUilding that we call architecture. The pleasure of an Intrrcate plan. the revelatory. but yet measurable beauty of the ~full frontal up view. ~ the almost naive delight In great moments of archit ectural history stolen and hung like dirty pictures on a wall, the outrageousness of those limegreen metal COIOfS, and th e Indulgence In gadgeteerrng all made me feel as II architecture was a complicated language written In real terms As I learned ItS grammar, Its phrases, ItS great texts and Its dialects. new worlds opened up to me Jim Stirling was my gUide and translator. leading me through the purgatory of form and function to a heaven that was no more than an Imaginative recombinat ion of the real world all around m e In a sense. Stirling was the perfec t Postmodern architect. because he knew the ru les 01 collage bener than anyone else In the bUSiness HIS 1976 Image of Rome, composed of plans of all of hiS bUildings pasted together Into an Idealized verSion of that great ossu ary of architecture, was the perfect picture of hiS methodology. Stirling's theSIS prOject was the mOSt seamless combination of Le Corbusler, GroplUS and Mles van der Rohe ever to not come out of the Bauhaus He did not Invent Bru ta lism, but perfected It When the mod young men of the Architectural AsSOCiation start ed sending out their Archlgrams, he responded With experrments In prefabrication and fl eXibility In the Olive tti and St Andrews College prOlects, extending them Into the megastructural VISIOns that culminated In the unbullt
palette In the Leicester Engineering Labofatories. the History Faculty Building and Cueen's College at Oxford, seem almost like an anomaly. Their expanses of clear glass promised to rescue modernist transparency from corporate banality. while their red tiles InStitutionalized a social-democratic version of Construct ivism Alter several decades of ThatchenSI neglect. they appear to us today as the last hurrah of a romantiC , IdealistiC and heroiC modern architecture . They are the e:w::uberant counterparts to Kahn 's Institutional rUins : an architecture that spoke of ma~lng a new world, not a new world order Most of Stirling's work IS darker, more ironiC and filled with self-doubt. but also more fun and recherche tha n these last hurrahs of an architecture of amelioration, II not salvallon. Thumbing ItS nose al rules of good CIVIC conduct while secretly ennchlng the city with picturesque pathways and fragments of a UnifYing monumenl8lity. Stirling's German museum buildings rehabilitated hiS career while allowing him to continue to have fun with the tools of his trade . His Wissenschaftszentrum In Berlin connected his buildings In all the wrong places (and was based on a monastery plan by Kahn ). used bizarre pink and blue colors and cut Its own monumentality off with the sills left oflthe heavy window surrounds. Yel il somehow managed to convey a more authenuc and confident vlscn of that city than all of ROSSI, Hejduk or Klelhues' ponder-
JAMES STIRLING: FULL FRONTAL UP VIEW Siemens Headquarters. In the 1Q70s, he returned to the burned-out schools and came back with Schinkel. Tudor, and Ledou x, only to fragment them further as we unlearned the coherence of such grand texts. Yet Stirling'S architectural thefts were always approprrations and transformations. rather than the petty larceny and face-lilting to which the scamsters of the Jenckslan and Johnsonlan persuasion resorted . There was a sense that hiS architecture liberated the prelormed matenals from their context, projecting out of their very disjunctive supeflmposition a slipped world where everything would nOI only be different, but decomposed to the point tha t you could imagine yourself marching as confidently through the cracks of Inherited authOrity as YOO would through the offices and ga1lerres 01 the Sackler Ga1lery. through the public path snaking its way through the Stuttgart Museum or down the curving ga1leria of the Olivetti HeadQuarters project, In retrospect, the glory days of Stirling'S career. whef'l he developed his own signature style and
ous attempts at authentiCity. If some of the recent buildings to come out of hiS office seemed somewhat facile and Incomplete, hiS last design, a factory in Southern Germany. offered us a bUilt verSion of the Roma Interrota prOlect. a three-dImenSional summation of hiS whole career Neither Stirling nor hiS buildings was evel comfortable, beautiful. or accommodating. HIS very presence and attire gave lie to the whole notion of a service profeSSion. That IS why I felt QUilty lor liking hiS deSigns: it was not work thaI seemingly served the maSSeS. It was an act of self-consciousness carried out In space. In the end. though, that game or deSign process seems to stand up against the bankruptcy of good form With great conviction, It IS what I would call archltecture _ Since the 195Os, the Rebel James has become Big Jim and then Sir Jim, and now he IS the Lale Sir James Stirling. I gladly memorialize, memOflze and monumentalize his massive presence. Long live the Full Frontal Up View!
Published on Apr 2, 2012
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