Archive for March, 2010

wk12 assignment

March 31, 2010

wk12 reading response

March 31, 2010

On Scarpa/Scope of Tectonic: Kenneth Frampton

Scarpa’s adoration for the joint has much to do with detailing of a space and an acute attention to the parts.  Further, there is importance placed on the interaction and interplay of these parts, rather than the focus placed on the whole.  For Scarpa, this all relates back to the experience of the place.  For me, this has much more to do with how small changes in the details affect much larger processes of the whole (not unlike Lorenzo’s butterfly).

This relates back to ethics insofar as we must “work with the recollections of traditions, with the traces of the past, with the expectations of meaning for the future, since there can no longer be absolute rational deductions”.  If the joint (or details, for that matter) are treated as a kind of tectonic consideration, the meaning of the whole can be found in the reality of the part.  This notion of a new way of seeing architecture can become a great generator for design.  Not unlike Corbusier’s plan as generator, Scarpa’s joint provides the impetus for creation and creation of meaning, based in the reality of experience.

Architecture is born out of a definite past, exists within the present, and will have a future.  Using the joint as a springboard for an evolution of the design doesn’t quite seem sufficient.  I hope, rather, to consider not only the evolution of design, but also the evolution of the built work.  I think the real potential of architecture lies within it becoming a framework for its users to then appropriate the spaces as they see fit, naturally evolving the space over time.  It is here, that the details are critical.  The details must carry forward from history the same language that the whole of the architecture is speaking.  This consistency resonates within the users of the place, promoting feelings of belonging, and subsequently liveliness of the place.  This is the potential I see in Scarpa’s joint.

wk12 notes

March 31, 2010

wk12-Frampton-On Scarpa-Adoration of joint

wk11 reading response

March 29, 2010

Art and Craft of the Machine: Frank Lloyd Wright
On Technology, Form and Industrialization: Mies Van der Rohe

These several related readings present somewhat dated, but nevertheless relevant issues on technology and architecture.  If they can be looked at not within the confines of the early 20th century, but rather across time, we might find valuable lessons from the great masters.  One thing holds true now as much as it did for Mies and Wright in the early part of the 20th century- that is that technology has a great deal of potential for architecture, including the democratization of societies, and we cannot afford to simply dismiss it.  Yet we must always be critical as to how and why we are using technology so that it is not us who get used by the technology itself.

It is interesting to ponder what would have been the trajectory of architecture if the technology of steel had not been accepted in the profession.  Mies Van der Rohe is famous for his critical use of technology (particularly steel) in the creation of form.  Yet, it is clear in his writings that he didn’t lose sight of what was important.  In regards to architectural expression, he said something to the effect of ‘life is the decisive factor, not form for forms sake’.   This speaks to his whole take on technology in architecture.  In order to create successful architecture which assumingly responds to its inhabitants, we must use technology as a means to an end.  Technology is only a small part of the equation.  As humans, we must define technology’s relevance and meaning.

“Wherever technology reaches its real fulfillment, it transcends into architecture.  It is true that architecture depends on facts, but its real field of activity is in the realm of significance.”- Mies Van der Rohe

Frank Lloyd Wright suggests that it is ridiculous to use technology to copy the handicraft of our past, when in fact the present circumstances require from us something completely different from that of the past.  Put another way, he is suggesting that the influence of the machine cannot be overlooked, but that also we must be critical of how we are using this newfound technology to create the cultural milieu of the day in order to make honest expressions of architecture.  He advocates for simplicity, which he defines as “a synthetic, positive quality, in which we may see evidence of mind, breadth of scheme, wealth of detail, and withal a sense of completeness found in a tree or a flower”.  The way Wright saw us achieving this ideal of simplicity is through realizing the potentials of the present and not getting stuck in the nostalgia of the past.  It goes without saying that in order to allow for progress, we must not only study the past, but also incorporate the complexity of the present (of which technology is only a small part).  Only by synthesizing all of this information, in my opinion, are we truly able to be holistic in our approach and therefore honest in our expression of architecture.

What is infinitely interesting is that these ideals do not simply apply to the “soft” sciences such as the arts, architecture, sociology, and the like.  They apply to the whole of our world.  Take our economy, just as a for-instance.  We are seeing the same issues arise today with energy production as Mies and Wright witnessed with the architectural profession’s resistance to new technology of the 20th century.  Coal-fired power plants and oil production companies are living on borrowed time.  The decision makers in these industries must seek a clear path to more viable futures because (ignoring the many other factors within these systems) when coal and oil run dry, the relevance of these companies becomes nil.  They must choose to incorporate technology that will propel them into a better situation ensuring a competitive future.

wk11 notes

March 29, 2010

3.17.2010 class notes

wk11-FLW-art and craft of machine

wk11-Siry-On FLW art and craft of machine

wk11-Mies_-Industrialized buildings

wk11-Mies-On form

wk11-Mies-Technology and architecture

wk10 assignment

March 17, 2010

wk10 reading response

March 17, 2010

Total Architecture: Walter Gropius

“If we establish a common basis for the understanding of design- a denominator reached through objective findings rather than personal interpretation- it should apply to any type of design; for the process of designing a great building or a simple chair differs only in degree, not in principle.” – Walter Gropius

“Total Architecture” has been one of the most interesting reads I’ve ever come to in several ways.  First, Gropius prefaces his thoughts by dispelling any notion that he purports a singular “style”.  After he discusses democracy and diversity, and how they may relate to creativity, he goes on to talk about universal or basic notions of a visual language.  To me, these two thoughts, in relation to each other, provide the basis for everything that is architecture and design, and delineates a clear path for understanding design.  That is to say, for me, there are two main facets that validate all of the design process: each individual having the capacity to synthesize complexity and in turn think creatively as well as there being universally common benchmarks for a visual/spatial language.  Therefore, creativity and architecture representative of a particular time or circumstance is generated through a common set of basic human rules that span across all cultures and all time.

Gropius discusses these issues in relation to the development of the architect, architectural academia, and architectural practice.  He does this not only from the perspective of the Bauhaus, which he notes has been the cause of many labels put on him, but also from the perspective of being the Dean of Harvard GSD.  There are several overarching characteristics that can be interpolated from Gropius’s discussion that assumingly will benefit every person, regardless of whether or not they are an architect, designer, thinker, etc.  Some of these characteristics are the importance of equipoise and balance, contrast/diversity, emphasis on collaborative/cooperative action in concert with individual efforts, an importance of being able to free the mind in order to think creatively (which has much to do with education and exposure to creativity when young), and the importance of learning a visual language that transcends time in order to give visual expression to creative capacity.

Agreeing with Gropius, I do not think architecture has anything to do with “styles”.  It simply is not sufficient to reuse an aesthetic from a different time, much like we would not walk around in period clothes.  Rather, architecture is a process that is grounded in the ability to redefine problems and think creatively through a holistic perspective, not getting caught in the specificity, although being able to jump across scales when need be, in addition to maintaining a critical understanding of visual language.  “Good architecture should be a projection of life itself and that implies and intimate knowledge of biological, social, technical, and artistic problems”.  It is increasingly important to understand architecture (and design) in this way due to the increasingly complexity and dynamism of our environments.  Things are constantly in flux.  It is not sufficient to know “facts and tricks” and use them to reimage styles from another time,

“because they leave the student helpless if he is faced with a new and unexpected situation.  If he has not been trained to get an insight into organic development no skillful addition of modern motives, however elaborate, will enable him to do creative work.”

Rather, we can know the science behind design through training and education.  Certain principles such as balance, repetition, scale, contrast and tension, optical illusion, shape, color, etc. can be taught.  This is the common denominator of design.  Additionally, we can gain comfort in thinking creatively only through practice.  Practice is a very personal experience that defines the way an individual will think, in addition to solidifying and making personally relevant all of the knowledge they otherwise have learned in books.  This is the individual perspective of the creator or artist (based in experience) that, when communicated well allows others to see things in a slightly different way.  In essence, this is total architecture: science and art, holistic knowledge and creative ability, education and practice.

wk10 notes

March 17, 2010

wk10- Walter Gropius- Scope of Total Architecture

wk8 assignment

March 3, 2010

Indiana has its roots in a very technologically-oriented history, being a big player in the early history of automobile production.  Additionally, the midwest has been a prime agriculture base for the US and the world.  Factories have since closed, and Ball Jars Corporation has fled Easter-Central Indiana.  Looking forward (as Le Corbusier would insist) towards modernity and a better future, this montage explores what EC Indiana could become, given its cultural roots and existing urban fabric of old factories and train tracks.

Modernity in our contemporary world is less about the technological artifact and more about the transfer of information and technology.  Hence, there is a strong potential for becoming a testbed to explore technologies and methods associated with urban farming…

wk8 reading response

March 3, 2010

Toward An Architecture: Le Corbusier

In Toward An Architecture, several issues and positions reveal themselves through Le Corbusier’s dialogue with the reader.  The overarching issue of urgency in addressing a new “modern life” takes the forefront through several different arguments Corbu puts forth.  But all arguments relate back to Corbusier’s adoration for the work of the engineer, of which he says is “like a great art”.  This position seems to penetrate the other issues throughout the book.  He speaks of the work of engineers as having some kind of greater truth, in that they follow generative principles and rules that are in accordance with the natural laws of the universe.  Using the analogy of the automobile, he says several times that he is more interested in the “chassis” of the building than the “coachwork”.

Corbu likens the architecture he is seeking to that of oceanliners, airplanes, and automobiles.  He grasps onto the idea of those artifacts, which must address definite mechanical principles, as being “honest expressions” and in accordance with natural, mathematical laws, and therefore harmonious to the human figure.  Corbu delineated his mathematical design process through positions such as the plan as a generator, as well as using regulating lines as a means for guarding against arbitrariness.  What is apparent and ironic about his position is that he refers to the dwelling as a “machine for living in”, and not a poem culminating its owner’s life.  Looking at this statement, one could assume there is hardly anything harmonious or humane about the architecture that comes from it.

But we, of course, are looking at this in retrospect.  It is easy to make judgments about his ideals.  Corbusier was most definitely reacting to an architecture of his time that was static, stuck in [thoughtless] decoration and ornament.  I wonder if Corbu had any conversations with Adolf Loos?  He was looking for something more, something thoughtful, harmonious, and something that would stir/resonate with the inner human core.  He found this in the technology that was coming into being during the early 20th century.  This technology was innately magnificent because, as the “lesson of the airplane” says, there is certain logic that governs the statement of the problem and its realization.  This technology responded to the definite problems that natural forces posed.  The oceanliner had to contend with the issues associated with long journeys across large bodies of water, the airplane had to address not only mechanics but aerodynamics, and the automobile dealt with evolution and mass-production.  He did not believe that architects of his day were asking the right questions, or posing thoughtful problems.  We could assume that Corbu saw a way of using technology that truly and deeply addressed human needs and desires.  Unfortunately, as the century played out, this was not the case.  The complexity of the human condition required much more from technology that it could provide.

Vers Une Architecture starts out by noting that architecture is “the masterful, correct, and magnificent play of volumes brought together in light”.  Given the last half-century of exploration into new modes of technology, biology, and anthropology, it can be said that architecture is truly much more than simply correct geometry and form that resonates with the human condition.  Rather it is a dynamic, diverse response to an ever-changing complex context.  I think Charles-Edouard Jeanneret knew this, though a language for it may not have existed when this book was published.