the book of towers

Page 1


EDITED by Cristian Valenzuela Pinto COLLABORATORS Viviane Huelsmeier Alex Ritsema Hugh McEwen

Printed in mi impresora

Many thanks to Viviane, Alex and Hugh for their enthusiast participation and inmediate response.

THE PRIMEVAL TOWER And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. And it came to pass, as they journeyed from the east, that they found a plain in the land of Shinar; and they dwelt there. And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them thoroughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for morter. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of men builded. And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city. Therefore is the name of it called Babel; because the Lord did there confound the language of all the earth: and from thence did the Lord scatter them abroad upon the face of all the earth .

(Genesis 11:1-9)

Athanasius Kircher, Turris Babel 1675

La torre, desde su concepción biblíca, es la encarnación luciferina de la arrogancia humana, En Babel se intento construir una con el fin de poder tocar el cielo, demostrar el alcance de la empresa humana poniendola entre las nubes. Sin embargo y por designio divino, la confusión reinó, se perdió el lenguaje único,y la construcción se detuvo; no fue posible tomar el cielo por asalto. The tower, from its biblical conception, is the embodiment of human prowess and arrogance. In Babel there was a tower that wanted touch to heaven, aligning human endevour with the sacred. Nevertheless and by divine design, confusion reigned, the original language was fractured and the construction of the tower halted; it was not possible to take heaven by storm.

THE WHITE PEOPLE by Arthur Machen

“Sorcery and sanctity,” said Ambrose, “these are the only realities. Each is an ecstasy, a withdrawal from the common life.” Cotgrave listened, interested. He had been brought by a friend to this mouldering house in a northern suburb, through an old garden to the room where Ambrose the recluse dozed and dreamed over his books. “Yes,” he went on, “magic is justified of her children. I There are many, I think, who eat dry crusts and drink water, with a joy infinitely sharper than anything within the experience of the ‘practical’ epicure.” “You are speaking of the saints?” “Yes, and of the sinners, too. I think you are falling into the very general error of confining the spiritual world to the supremely good; but the supremely wicked, necessarily, have their portion in it. The merely carnal, sensual man can no more be a great sinner than he can be a great saint. Most of us are just indifferent, mixed-up creatures; we muddle through the world without realizing the meaning and the inner sense of things, and, consequently, our wickedness and our goodness are alike second-rate, unimportant.” “And you think the great sinner, then, will be an ascetic, as well as the great saint?” “Great people of all kinds forsake the imperfect copies and go to the perfect originals. I have no doubt but that many of the very highest among the saints have never done a ‘good action’ (using the words in their ordinary sense). And, on the other hand, there have been those who have sounded the very depths of sin, who all their lives have never done an ‘ill deed.’” He went out of the room for a moment, and Cotgrave, in high delight, turned to his friend and thanked him for the introduction. “He’s grand,” he said. “I never saw that kind of lunatic before.” Ambrose returned with more whisky and helped the two men in a liberal manner. He abused the teetotal sect with ferocity, as he handed the seltzer, and pouring out a glass of water for himself, was about to resume his monologue, when Cotgrave broke in- “I can’t stand it, you know,” he said, “your paradoxes are too monstrous. A man may be a great sinner and yet never do anything sinful! Come!” “You’re quite wrong,” said Ambrose. “I never make paradoxes; I wish I could. I merely said that a man may have an exquisite taste in Romanée Conti, and yet never have even smelt foul ale. That’s all, and it’s more like a truism than a paradox, isn’t it? Your surprise at my remark is due to the fact that you haven’t realized what sin is. Oh, yes, there is a sort of connexion between Sin with the capital letter, and actions which are commonly called sinful: with murder, theft, adultery, and so forth. Much the same connexion that there is between the A, B, C and fine literature. But I believe that the misconception--it is all but universal--arises in great measure from our looking at the matter through social spectacles. We think that a man who does evil to us and to his neighbours must be very evil. So he is, from a social standpoint; but can’t you realize that Evil in its essence is a lonely thing, a

passion of a sinner in the true sense of the word. He is simply a wild beast that we have to get rid of to save our own necks from his knife. I should class him rather with tigers than with sinners.” “It seems a little strange.” “I think not. The murderer murders not from positive qualities, but from negative ones; he lacks something which non-murderers possess. Evil, of course, is wholly positive--only it is on the wrong side. You may believe me that sin in its proper sense is very rare; it is probable that there have been far fewer sinners than saints. Yes, your standpoint is all very well for practical, social purposes; we are naturally inclined to think that a person who is very disagreeable to us must be a very great sinner! It is very disagreeable to have one’s pocket picked, and we pronounce the thief to be a very great sinner. In truth, he is merely an undeveloped man. He cannot be a saint, of course; but he may be, and often is, an infinitely better creature than thousands who have never broken a single commandment. He is a great nuisance to us, I admit, and we very properly lock him up if we catch him; but between his troublesome and unsocial action and evil--Oh, the connexion is of the weakest.” It was getting very late. The man who had brought Cotgrave had probably heard all this before, since he assisted with a bland and judicious smile, but Cotgrave began to think that his “lunatic” was turning into a sage. “Do you know,” he said, “you interest me immensely? You think, then, that we do not understand the real nature of evil?” “No, I don’t think we do. We over-estimate it and we under-estimate it. We take the very numerous infractions of our social ‘bye-laws’--the very necessary and very proper regulations which keep the human company together--and we get frightened at the prevalence of ‘sin’ and ‘evil.’ But this is really nonsense. Take theft, for example. Have you any horror at the thought of Robin Hood, of the Highland caterans of the seventeenth century, of the moss-troopers, of the company promoters of our day? “Then, on the other hand, we underrate evil. We attach such an enormous importance to the ‘sin’ of meddling with our pockets (and our wives) that we have quite forgotten the awfulness of real sin.” “And what is sin?” said Cotgrave. “I think I must reply to your question by another. What would your feelings be, seriously, if your cat or your dog began to talk to you, and to dispute with you in human accents? You would be overwhelmed with horror. I am sure of it. And if the roses in your garden sang a weird song, you would go mad. And suppose the stones in the road began to swell and grow before your eyes, and if the pebble that you noticed at night had shot out stony blossoms in the morning? “Well, these examples may give you some notion of what sin really is.” “Look here,” said the third man, hitherto placid, “you two seem pretty well wound up. But I’m going home. I’ve missed my tram, and I shall have to walk.” Ambrose and Cotgrave seemed to settle down more profoundly when the other had gone out into the early misty morning and the pale light of the lamps. “You astonish me,” said Cotgrave. “I had never thought of that. If that is r eally so, one must turn everything upside down. Then the essence of sin really is----”

“In the taking of heaven by storm, it seems to me,” said Ambrose. “It appears to me that it is simply an attempt to penetrate into another and higher sphere in a forbidden manner. You can understand why it is so rare. There are few, indeed, who wish to penetrate into other spheres, higher or lower, in ways allowed or forbidden. Men, in the mass, are amply content with life as they find it. Therefore there are few saints, and sinners (in the proper sense) are fewer still, and men of genius, who partake sometimes of each character, are rare also. Yes; on the whole, it is, perhaps, harder to be a great sinner than a great saint.” “There is something profoundly unnatural about Sin? Is that what you mean?” “Exactly. Holiness requires as great, or almost as great, an effort; but holiness works on lines that were natural once; it is an effort to recover the ecstasy that was before the Fall. But sin is an effort to gain the ecstasy and the knowledge that pertain alone to angels and in making this effort man becomes a demon. I told you that the mere murderer is not therefore a sinner; that is true, but the sinner is sometimes a murderer... So you see that while the good and the evil are unnatural to man as he now is--to man the social, civilized being--evil is unnatural in a much deeper sense than good. The saint endeavours to recover a gift which he has lost; the sinner tries to obtain something which was never his. In brief, he repeats the Fall.”



PREFACIO E INSTRUCCIONES AL LECTOR La torre es un artefacto que busca revertir la caída. En narrativas contemporáneas, sigue siendo utilizada para revertir acontecimientos; esconder, mostrar, demostrar lo que hay y lo que falta. Un artefacto que puede reinterpretarse y utilizarse de muchas maneras pero que su lógica responde casi siempre a las mismas ambivalencias. Es quizás esa dualidad la que define esta contrucción y no su silueta, materialidad o proporcionalidad geométrica. En las próximas páginas presentaremos una selección de torres, todas ellas elegidas por su capacidad de sugerir algo mas que lo evidente, acompañadas a veces de textos que no tienen relación alguna con las imágenes, mas que intentan reforzar una nueva lectura de esta tipología. A través de distintos ejemplos veremos como la torre es menos uniforme y clara que lo que podriamos pensar. Porque más allá de una forma construida específica, distintos artefactos y contructos tecnológicos han adquirido esta categoría, incluso sin sospecharlo. Este es y con toda pretensión, un catálogo de aquellas torres que han sido olvidadas y que muchas veces, ni siquiera pertenecen a nuestro mundo.

PREFACE INSTRUCTIONS TO THE READER The tower, an artifact that seeks to revert the fall. In contemporary narratives, its still used as a mean to revert events; it hides, it shows. It demonstrate what abounds and what is missing. An artifact that can be used and interpreted in many ways, but that always has an implicit inner logic that responds with ambiguosness. It is maybe this duality of meaning and purpose that defines the tower and not shape, specific material or geometrical proportionality. In the next pages we will present as small selection of towers, all of them chosen by their capacity of suggesting something beyond pure shape and verticality. Sometimes, this towers will be followed by texts that are not neccessarily related with the images, but that nevertheless try to reinforce new readings on the typology. This compilation is not to be taken seriously, least to say as bibliographical reference. This is just an editorial excercise around the image and evocative influence that towers have on our consciousness.

NON MOVING LIVING ENTITIES Old English torr is from Latin turris via Old French tor. The Latin term together with Greek τúρσις was loaned from a pre-Indo-European Mediterranean language, connected with the Illyrian toponym Βου-δοργúς. With the Lydian toponyms Τúρρα, Τúρσα, it has been connected with the ethnonym Τυρρúνιοι as well as with Tusci (from *Turs-ci), the Greek and Latin names for the Etruscans (Kretschmer Glotta 22, 110ff.) It may also be of Sanskrit derivation, from the word Sthavara meaning an unmovable entity.

Ball’s Pyramid, Australia.

Vladimir Tatlin, Tatlin’s Tower 1907

Ivan Fomin, The victims of the revolution monument. 1923

Shukhov radio tower.1922

Capadoccia. Nevsehir. Turkey

PLANS 1. A detailed porposal for doing or achieving something 2. An intention or decision about what one is going to do 3. A map or diagram

Velasca tower, residence and office plan. BBPR. 1950. Milano

TORRE VELASCA-WAYNE Letter to mr. Krier

As you might know, Mr Wayne has very peculiar tastes in decoration and architecture in general. The recent purchase of Velasca tower in old Milan might come to you as no surprise. This little eccentric piece of architecture has fascinated mr. Wayne ever since the first time he came to the city for business. When he heard that the city council was planning the demolition of the tower for a new mixed use highrise/shopping centre mr. W didn’t hesitate to pull some strings and invest on urban studies that ensured the integrity of the tower. Right now I’m in charge of the process of remodeling part of the access hall and the office space. Wayne enterprises wants to put the european headquarters here, as we think Milan we’ll be the new capital of business on the post euro era. Peter (or the people that do the real work there) will be the one contracted for the re modeling of the first eighteen floors; ‘‘Swiss simplicity and craftmanship is desired to contrast on the exterior of the building, which of course will be left untouched’’ were mr W words. My master has a particular fondness for everything ‘picturesque’’, so his resting residence will be on the tower too. Every residential floor is to be redesinged in a penthouse manner by a different studio each. This is were you Mr. Krier come into matter. Mr Wayne has specifically asked for your services for his penthouse appartment, he has various requierments but he’s certain that you are going to deliver a quality work. The first thing you need to know is that mr. Wayne won’t recieve any visits in his penthouse besides the occasional female fashion model comapion (company he seems so much to enjoy). So there is no need for a dispatch or a formal foyer. The master bedroom, has to be on the same axis as the contemplation room, the latter to be equipped with a square cage. Mr Wayne is very concerned on the protection and preservation of endangered animal species, especially bats. This cage is to contain anywhere from 15 to 25 of different bat species. This room too has to be conected directly with the master bathroom, nothing fancy, a steam room, a cold water pool and a sauna, in addition to the defacto utilities. Right next to this room is the training room, it has to have birch wood flooring, the rest is left to your imagination. On the oposite wing, is to be placed a small library. no further instructions were handed. The master bedroom is to be positioned inside a pentagon of alabaster stone; the alabaster is not to touch the roof by 5 cms. Next to the master bedroom is going to be a mahogany door with a hinge in the middle, this door will conect directly to a big kitchen in americana design, this kitchen will conect with my

private quarters and a shared dinning room, painted on mother pearl, the floor be covered in belgian noir marble. The rest of the renovation consist of a 20 cms thick concrete round room that will connect directly with one of the elevator shafts, fitted for the sole use of mr Wayne. The rest of the design, and whatever is not mentioned in this letter, is left to your own architectural judgment.


When Maalthiir took over Hillsfar, he planned to have this tower torn down, because it was built in the elven style by a half-elf. Mordak asked for ownership of it, citing its value as a lookout tower (it’s located onthe western end of town wherever you find suitable), a place for aerial steed to land, and its obvious and hidden magical properties. Since the First Lord did not know at the time that Mordak planned to usurp him, he relented and gave him the tower. Tough Maalthiir now knows of Mordak’s treachery, he lets his apprenctice keep the tower- partly because he doesn’t want to cut the legs out from under his chief city official and partly because he enjoys the irony of keeping a slave (under the effect of a dominate person spell) in a magical tower that shows it inhabitant’s auras. The Tower: The tower is a beautiful sight, with high ceilings, grand arched windows to let in air and light, and intrincate elven carvings on many surfaces. Anyone who has ever seen elven architecture recognizes the work as authentic or at least a well researched homage. All doors in the tower are finely crafted wood, as are window shutters ( kept in storage in the warmer months of the year, but mounted to the windows in the cooler seasons). Unless otherwise noted all ceilings are 15 feet high, and all windows are large for ahuman sized creature to pass through without any reduction of speed. Near the stairwell on each level is a set of eight small bells attached to wires; each bell corresponds to one of the levels of the tower, and pulling on a bell cord causes the appropiate bell to ring, alerting everyone within earshot of the stair well that something is afoot on that floor (for example, pulling on the first bell cord causes the first bell on al eight floors to ring). The tower’s main feature is that any magical effects on a creature (including worn items such as magic armor or a belt of giant strenght) manifest a gentle aura of colored light. The light is the equivalent of a candle, only affects creatures ( but not objects unless they are equipped), and cannot be turned off... the creator of the tower built this effect to alert himself and his guests to what magic those present might have, and to make sure that everyone could find their way in the dark

ground floor

fifth floor

second floor

third floor

fourth floor

sixth floor

seventh floor

eighth floor

Mysteries of the Moonsea.2006. D&D WotC

TOWERS OF SILENCE Zoroastrian tradition considers a dead body—in addition to cut hair and nail-parings—to be nasu, unclean, i.e. potential pollutants. Specifically, the corpse demon (Avestan: nasu.daeva) was believed to rush into the body and contaminate everything it came into contact with, hence the Vendidad (an ecclesiastical code “given against the demons”) has rules for disposing of the dead as “safely” as possible. To preclude the pollution of earth or fire (see Zam and Atar respectively), the bodies of the dead are placed atop a tower—a tower of silence—and so exposed to the sun and to birds of prey. Thus, “putrefaction with all its concomitant evils... is most effectually prevented.” The towers, which are fairly uniform in their construction, have an almost flat roof, with the perimeter being slightly higher than the center. The roof is divided into three concentric rings: The bodies of men are arranged around the outer ring, women in the second circle, and children in the innermost ring. Once the bones have been bleached by the sun and wind, which can take as long as a year, they are collected in an ossuary pit at the center of the tower, where—assisted by lime—they gradually disintegrate and the remaining material—with run-off rainwater—runs through multiple coal and sand filters before being eventually washed out to sea. found at :

Cornelius Brown, ”True Stories of the Reign of Queen Victoria” 1886*

TORRES BLANCAS Who would have thought that this was supposed to be a tree? A grove for whoever knows what kind of creatures! Cris 35 told me that in that time this was like living in a forest, a concrete one; A tree that symbolized the yearnings and fears of an entire era, all encapsulated, hidden within this building. I have to add that this artifact is a very good example indeed, but not the only one. Every art form, every construction that this ancient civilization made was a subtle attempt at conjuring their innermost fears and at the same time an attempt to master them. After they gave a final shape to their constructions, they went inside and lived there. A courageous ritual, almost everyone participated in it. The recordings of John 34, before his replacement, say that most of this ancient humans didn’t actually know anything about the process; the ritual was something that very few were aware of, but that has to be proven with further investigative archeo readings. I don’t want to venture myself with an uniformed opinion. The case of this diagram is interesting because it shows a very particular layout of performative ritual. The plan is nothing like what we have seen before, the shape closely resembling that of the elemental pulsar energy frequency that was discovered only now, thousands of years after the last trace of their civilization banished from the surface of the planet. The irregular stacking of this plan is something that we are studying now, since the rhythmical variation suggested is coming from a very simple structural solution. A solution that might shed some light on what is lying behind the elemental pulsar. That knowledge could be very valuable in the creation of the futures. We have to make the futures happen, otherwise it will prove we were no better than this primitive beings. How ironic are the cycles of life. AKH- 32 Log. AA#Z35

Torres Blancas. Fco. Saenz de Oiza.1969.Madrid

Q&A Name? -Alexander (Ritsema) -Hugh McEwen -Viviane Huelsmeier Shoes or trainers? -Shoes -Brogues – more versatile than both and just as comfy -Shoes

Occupation? -Full time high school student -Part 3 Architectural Assistant -M.arch student at Princeton In what city are you currently living? -The beautiful city of Seattle -London, UK -Princeton, NJ

What’s your mean of transportation through the city? -A big, hulking Ford Explorer. It’s not very practical conIf you had to pick a soundtrack for your city, which sidering I don’t carpool with it, but I’m happy just to have a car. song/track would that be? -Picking Hello Seattle by Owl City feels cheap. Got to -Buses – from the top floor you can see so much more go with the tried and true grunge scene. Smells Like of the city -My feet Teen Spirit by Nirvana -Burial – everything he has made is a sonic representaWhat city you are not likely to visit ? tion of London -Longview, Washington. I have relatives there. Ever since -Boring elevator music the mall was built the whole city has died out. -Never say never In which city would you like to be right know? -Madrid. Unfortunately my trip there this summer has -Magnitogorsk been cancelled. I’ve never been before. If you had to redo a scene of your favorite movie, -London, looking forward to the Olympics were’d you shoot/film it? -Anywhere but this little town in New Jersey -Many of my friends complain about the opening scene that depicts the invention of tools and stuff. Maybe I’d somehow cut that scene down a bit What’s your favorite movie? -I’ll leave film-making to the film-makers -2001: A Space Odyssey is amazing. -At the moment, it’s Drive – so many references and a -At the supermarket great soundtrack -My list of favorite movies is way too long... Place to be during the night? -Alone in my room to recharge after the day. That’s perfection for me. Place to be during the day? -Sitting on a porch as life happens around me. I’ts not a -In bed -My bed... option to me usually, but sounds relaxing. -With the weather we are having at the moment? PeoBreath underwater or flying? ple watching in a park. -This is a tough one. I enjoy scuba diving, but flying just -At the moment it would be my bed seems so much cooler. -Flying – it would make travel so much easier Mountain/ or beach? -Mountain. Washington doesn’t have very nice beaches. -Flying Mount Rainier here is gorgeous. Recommend an artist -Mountain, I like climbing and can’t stand the sand -Andreas Gursky’s photography is really something. -Mountain by the beach -Marjetica Potrc, incredible post-colonial architectural suggestions Recommend a book -Into the Wild. It really will influence your perspective -Pina Bausch on life. Door, stadium or box? -Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges -Door. Who knows where it leads? -A standard: city of glass by Paul Auster -Door – it’s all about the small things that people interact with on a daily basis -Box


Nikki de Saint Phalle, “Hon - a Cathedral”, 1966, (“hon” means “she” in Swedish)


Viviane H端lsmeier If a tower is associated with externalized masculinity, what would be the feminine archetype in architecture? ertical - horizontal phallic - yonic erect - reclined external - internal positive space - negative space public - private overt - covert visible - disguised manifest - obscure definite - ambiguous exposed - concealed bold - shy heroic - vulnerable hard - malleable robust - soft exaggerated - subtle grandiose - unpretentious ignorant - sensitive impassive - responsive physical - emotional rational - irrational etc.

“My principle idea for this city came down to a (somewhat) harmonious society with huge differences in standards of living. Because flat ground is so expensive, only the super-rich can afford to live on top of the pillar, where the climate is nice and sun-hours are plentiful. As one descends into the pit, the hours the houses are exposed to direct sunlight daily decrease, making house prices lower, which is why the poorest groups of society live at the bottom of the pit. However, people are not neccessarily unhappy at the bottom, there are still children playing in the water.”

Jessie Van Dijk Project Indigo


Alex Ritsema When first hearing the idea of a tower as the subject of this project, my mind immediately went to the social hierarchies that are so prominent within our world. What better way to emphasize this than in an image where those in power are physically on top while casting their shadow in the very many proletariat below them? Recalling Jesse Van Dijk’s Project Indigo, the match seemed to be perfect. This day and age, social mobility is becoming a thing of the past. Those born into the lower classes are much more likely to stay in that same class for the rest of their lives, which makes this image all the more pertinent. While we may not be seeing literal hierarchical towers growing out of the ground, Jesse’s Project Indigo takes the very real phenomena of social polarization and frames it into this beautiful image.

TOWERS by Hugh McEwen

It has been stated repeatedly that towers are dead. While this is obviously a complete fallacy, and the symbolic and wealth generating power of towers will continue, it is a position that I am exceptionally interested by. Groundscrapers are nominated to fulfil the role of financial generators. But what is to take the place of the immense symbolic nature of towers? Bridges. As Heidegger most succinctly noted, bridges focus the rest of the world upon themselves. Bridges have also been the site of repeated architectural investigations. It is within this history that this bridge is placed. Extremely simple symbolic architectures are displayed through a conscious anti-aesthetic. These architectures bring together pop references and illustrate how towers might be replaced by a more democratic and representative form of symbolism.