Roman Aizengendler, 356921
...A Case For Innovation
_____________ Architecture as Discourse How to start a journal, I will never know… Ideas about architecture started for me in the heart of Adelaide suburbia. The idea of developing a vacant lot of land into a dream family home, equipped with self-maintained kitchen, power guzzling appliances and poorer quality design and construction than any fast food outlet is no less prominent than in what kids colloquially call the ‘urbs’ of that city. And so growing up in a state that experiences some of the worst heat waves and cold spells of the country once motivated me to think “what is wrong with this house, with this socially acceptable standard of living, with this neighbourhood?” And following a continuum of falling in love with art, design (initially industrial design) and sustainability, the beginning of my academic life, I fell into the lap of Melbourne University’s Bachelor of Environments. More recently my motifs for completing this course have changed, though many of these priming elements remain prominent in the completion of my final subjects. Personally I’m becoming more interested in austere, vernacular architecture with its associated benefit of ultimate sustainability and relationship to surrounding environment. Naturally contemporary design still has a lot to offer architecture as a discipline, with many benefits to social, aesthetic and economic realms…but my interests remain simple design and its associated selfsufficiency. Unfortunately, albeit some personal projects and sketches, my architectural experience is limited to the minimal design work set out during this undergraduate course. Many of the theoretical subjects have been truly interesting, but the requirements for researched and developed design have been lacking in my opinion. Consequently between Year 12 Design, Designing Environments and Architecture Design Studio 2 I feel I have learnt the most basic of terminology, methods and skills to design to a reasonable standard. Nevertheless I try my best to sketch as fluidly (sometimes archaically) as I can, and intend to learn the necessary programs to excel in this digital age.
I do however have a confidence in navigating certain applications. I’ve played around on Google SketchUp to an extent (soon realising its restrictions in exploring design possibilities) and have been an avid user in Photoshop for the past several years. Though I have primarily used the software for photo adjustment and manipulation, I’m intrigued in its capability for rendering, page layout and effective presentation. This year my fear of mastering Illustrator and InDesign are greater than ever with my love for an Adobe program wholly monogamous. But these are hurdles I’m still eager to conquer. My first battle was installing InDesign, followed by hours of searching the Internet for an additional program to change the language from Greek to English. Now my problems lie in enabling shortcuts, allowing layered images to actually fill the page and utilising page guides rather than get frustrated at their stubbornness (or my ignorance). So realistically any evidence of my participating in architectural design relies on an assignment based in the style of Le Corbusier in ADS2. I focussed on several stylistic features prevalent in his work, particularly the use of horizontality to add to his idea of the open façade. Similarly people movement, the filtration of natural light and a geometrically focussed three-dimensional façade were taken into consideration. The project was completed by hand with cardboard and SketchUp models. As far as digital design is concerned, my experience ends there. I feel overwhelmingly lucky that I have had the experience to travel, and study abroad during, and before my university course. My first time experiencing a solo trip overseas, in 2009, broadened my horizons, and exceeded my already grand expectation of art, design and architecture of Central Western and Eastern Europe, particularly the presence of Renaissance, Gothic and quality Modernist styles. Similarly intriguing, design, and the art I only remember from primary school text books was amazing to witness firsthand, to say the least. My second trip in early 2012 was perhaps even more remarkable. Though once again I did spend most of my time in Paris in the Pompidou Centre, and my spectacular experience of Stalin’s Seven Sisters predominantly occurred whilst wandering the streets at night, I was nevertheless amazed at what creativity and perhaps an influence of dictatorship can create within the built realm. University in Stuttgart opened my eyes to the productivity of the modern age, and perhaps what digital and mechanical technology can create too.
Socially, aesthetically and ‘comfortably,’ my favourite no doubt was Portugal, and to an extent Morocco. Islamic architecture does a lot more than I assumed in capturing the intricate mathematics of fractals in both three, and twodimensional design. The austere and history-drenched cities of Porto and Lisbon proved to present more than just a visually relaxing backdrop for a pleasant culture. The way Baroque churches intertwine with the narrow alleyways, the rickety tram that exposes intricate facades of hidden gems and the best modern designs I have seen anywhere in the world on the outskirts of town, perhaps signifying a new modernity, a new then-emerging lifestyle were amazing to consider in a more multi-disciplinary aspect. The buildings were not just pieces of art, they seemed to blend and support the society they housed. There was a distinct dialogue with the built environment and the social, one that goes beyond the physical. It made me realise that perhaps there is just more than size, symmetry and placement of city squares to appreciate. Their value as working social spaces and the effectiveness of their utilization was remarkable, in my opinion much better than most in Australia. Simply speaking, my particular favourites in that country was Viera Siza’s modern houses and one particular museum he designed in Porto. My ventures then lead me to Cambodia to volunteer for a friend from a poor rural village. To consider what I witnessed and how I lived for three weeks so separated from civilisation as I know it, with an architectural discourse point of view, is truly beautiful. Though I have always l oved the austere and vernacular, my stay in timber bungalows hours away from any metropolis or building services once again opened my eyes to the way we can live in different environments. True the architecture there hasn’t changed for centuries but it made me appreciate the value of passive ventilation, materials appropriate to the environment and how the architecture reflects the people and the culture of the area. The dialogue between the timber huts and the surrounding rice fields were perfect.
Alvero Siza Vieira’s 1997 Museum of Contemporary Art “The large doors and partition walls between exhibition rooms can be used to create different routes and separate exhibition spaces”(AlvaroSizaVieira.com, 2012). Not only is this a practical design element within a museum space, perhaps even a standard in most exhibition spaces, it is one feature of Siza Vieira’s modernist typology. Modernism is almost a century old, yet the architect still makes a point of manipulating the built environment to cater to contemporary ideals, uses and standards. As the apses of gothic cathedrals were used to permanently house sacred relics and museum spaces owned by the rich for safekeeping of decorative arts during the renaissance, the paradigm of exhibition space has greatly shifted, and continues to do so in the 20th and 21st centuries. Siza Vieira responds to this transcendence creating spaces of variable size. Like the Tate Modern in London once commissioned a small house within the gallery, and the Pompidou Centre in Paris showcases upcoming, often utterly pretentious large instillations, a gallery in the small town of Porto can now similarly compete on the world stage for showcasing a variety of mediums of modern, and even classical art. At the time of my visit a retrospective exhibition of a prominent graphic and cartoon artist was exhibited in one of the main halls. Though this didn’t particularly appeal to me at the time, the rooms were set up with images and digital media on the walls as well as a zigzag of temporary partition walls. Personally it felt that this added surface area crowded the space a little, but in retrospect the geometry of the zigzag adapted perfectly to the surrounding environment. Not only did it stylistically ‘work’ with the jagged and irregularly angled walls of the permanent structure, but also interacted with the art itself. The artist exhibited used many geometric patterns, shapes and overlays as subtle features in his work, and the ability to re-arrange the room in accordance with the architect’s preconceptions of a ‘new modernity’ meant this was a perfect place to exhibit. Though this is one small element within a big (physically and conceptually) building, for me it signifies the architect’s realism of projecting into the future, understanding how the building responds to the brief now, but also in years to come. Locally, the building perfectly resembles modern planning and beautifully displays art. On a greater scale, it’s nestling within a large almost national park type garden signifies the rise of modernism in the middle class suburbs. It presents a stark contrast between the built environment and the natural. The towering white walls almost seem like a mirage when viewed from the beautiful rose, lily and plant garden (immediate surroundings). It’s a landscape that appeals to the senses and presents a new style of living and architecture that many architects attempt to achieve, but unfortunately fail. (I say this in regards for our ideals of modernity, having clean contemporary houses that resemble what we as individuals and society strive for, whether it be a sense of security, shelter, freedom, display of status etc.)
Similarly, my visit to Porto also lead to Siza Vieira’s first built house, the Boa Nova Tea House. Though physically different to his later museum, the small house presented something interesting to the seaside landscape not far from Porto. Still a stand-alone building, it blends into the rocky landscape, creating a dialogue between the nearby urban environment and Portuguese coastline. Remarkably the building is still designed and constructed in complete modernist style, but a tension that could of existed between white sheets of concrete and white sand has been cleverly dulled. Instead the building stands as an icon for innovative design within a fragile landscape. It was one of the first houses in an up-and-coming outer-suburb and introduced Siza Vieira’s principles of modernity into the region. Now the area resembles a reasonably typical gentrified neighbourhood, but an element of quality and intrigue remains. Rather than tea houses, mid and high rise apartments spot the beach neighbourhood, but in a style I rarely saw in other areas around the country. I can’t help but think that Siza Vieira had some influence in this typology around the area. The legacy still remains, though the teahouse was perfectly secluded amongst the giant rocks. Probably more recently the simple esplanade leading to the building has been developed and adds to the interaction between public, house and beach. And so in terms of the architecture of Siza Vieira, the discourse of the building does go beyonf the immediate site of the physical building. The buildings are important locally, nationally and theoretically.