PARALLEL

September 24, 2010
germania laser
Model of the Volkshalle (People’s Hall), Albert Speer (source)

 

Robert Harris’ Fatherland describes a parallel time-line in which Nazi Germany has won the Second World War, asserting its political influence across Europe. The capital of this super-nation is a reinvented Berlin, dubbed the Welthaupstadt (World Capital), its provincial architecture replaced by the fantastical visions of Albert Speer: a 400 foot tall triumphal arch, a great hall capable of hosting Nazi celebrations of over 160,000, and a grand avenue flanked on either side by the spoils of modern warfare. While a fictional thriller, Harris’ reinvented Berlin is not imagined, but based on actual plans developed by Albert Speer for the Fuhrer in anticipation of victory in the Second World War. Land was amassed, sites were cleared, soil was tested, and construction was initiated.

 

Thankfully, contrary to Harris’ version of history, the Germans did not win the war. Speer, implicated in war crimes, would spend the next twenty years of his life behind bars, his visions (the fictional variety as well as the architectural drawings that document his work) relegated to paper.

 

Laser Dress, Hussein Chalayan, 2008 (source)

 

Architects and fashion designers share materials, techniques and methods of construction. With both groups arguably investigating enclosure however, these studies happen at different scales. Scale is possibly the critical difference between the disciplines and the root from which all other differences emerge. While fashion is typically tailored to the singular body, architecture is usually occupied by multiple people.

 

Though a fashion designer such as Hussein Chalayan caters to an enclosure for the singular body, his work is still able to influence architects as a result of his application of spatial thinking to the smallest scale of bodily enclosure. His Fall 2000 collection offers the classic example from his oeuvre, with dresses that transform through expansion and retraction into furniture, thereby examining how one can take their possessions with them. In his Spring 2008 collection, lasers project from a dress to expand the volume of the garment in a dynamic manner. Spring 2009’s collection creates the atmosphere of speed by generating effects that rely heavily on 3D technology… more

 

E. Sean Bailey

Erandi de Silva

 

1 comment » | Editorial

IMPORTANCE

September 23, 2010
international artemis
The International Space Station, NASA, 2006 (source)

 

Temple of Artemis, Photo by Author, Ephesus (near modern Selçuk, Turkey), 2010

 

“When I was young, I thought that money was the most important thing in life; now that I am old, I know it is”

 

-Oscar Wilde

 

 

There is nothing on our fair Earth more important than money. Even love takes second place to hard cash, its most sacred institute, marriage, appraised yearly in dollar amounts: paper for one year, tin for ten and gold, not until fifty years of married bliss—a lifetime if one considers that most modern brides do not marry until they are in their thirties.

 

If we apply this rule of importance to architecture, that it is bound to cost, it is possible to compile a definitive list of the world’s most important architectural achievements. An abbreviated list in ascending order of cost to construct:

 

-Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, 2007, $950 million
-The Bank of China Tower, Hong Kong, 1990, $1.0 billion
-World Financial Center, Shanghai, 2008, $1.2 billion
-Burj Khalifa, Dubai, 2010, $1.5 billion
-(New) Yankee Stadium, New York, 2009, $1.5 billion
-Wembley Stadium, London, 2006, $1.5 billion
-Bellagio Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, 1998, $1.6 billion
-Taipei 101, Taiwan, 2004, $1.8 billion
-Antilia Residence, Mumbai, 2010, $2.0 billion
-Wynn Las Vegas, Las Vegas, 2005, $2.6 billion

 

These earthly examples pale in comparison to the International Space Station which is estimated to have cost, to date, $157 billion. Now, if only someone could pony up the cash to build a casino in space, we might finally enter the next great age of architecture.

 

“I have set eyes on the wall of lofty Babylon on which is a road for chariots, and the statue of Zeus by the Alpheus, and the hanging gardens, and the Colossus of the Sun, and the huge labor of the high pyramids, and the vast tomb of Mausolus; but when I saw the house of Artemis that mounted to the clouds, those other marvels lost their brilliancy, and I said, ‘Lo, apart from Olympus, the Sun never looked on aught so grand.’”

 

-Antipater of Sidon, Greek Anthology (IX.58)

 

 

“We [architects] should take everything very seriously, but then somehow regard it as being not important.”

 

-David Chipperfield (El Croquis N.150)

 

 

The archaic Temple of Artemis (or Artemision) at Ephesus, was completed c. 550 BC. Designed by the architects Chersiphron of Knossos, his son Metagenes, and Theodoros of Samos, it was the first monumental structure built of marble, and for nearly two hundred years was renowned as the largest building in the Greek world. On July 21st, 356 BC a man named Herostratus burned it to the ground in a deranged but admittedly successful bid for eternal fame. It took nearly one hundred years to rebuild, but by 250 BC the Artemision had surpassed its former glory. Five hundred years later, the Artemision was burned again (this time by invading Goths), rebuilt, and then definitively destroyed in 401 AD by a Christian mob led by St. John Chrysostom.

 

If you ever find yourself near Selçuk look for the sign just outside town for the Artemision… more

 

E. Sean Bailey

 

 

Jacob Reidel

 

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GANGS

September 20, 2010
escape loos
Still from West Side Story, 1961 (source)

 

West Side Story, a musical rendition of New York City turf wars, obfuscates a history of violence, presenting 1950s urban warfare as a quaint phenomenon entirely unrelated to the racial tensions which motivate many of today’s gangs. The play’s chorus lines and musical numbers differentiate a historical tension from its contemporary incarnation. Twenty-first century gang members do not dance, do not sing their woes, do not fall in love, not the way Tony does, anyway.

 

The film version of West Side Story, released in 1961, was accompanied by an iconic image — the silhouette of fire escapes on a red background. Those fire escapes, typical of the West Side buildings of the story’s setting, reveal an era and a place, symbolize a Manhattan before. What was a site of urban blight and disrepair, a stage for violence and tension, is now sanitized. It is a place which is more connected to musical theater than to the history which inspired it.

 

But West Side Story’s images reveal, despite themselves, those spatial continuities which link the embittered across time and musical note. Staged on reconstructed underpasses covered with graffiti-by-design, the most benign of theatrical productions features the visual tropes of our angry youth.

 

If the iconic image of the fire escape, in red and black, stands for young adulthoods past… more

 

Portrait of Adolf Loos (source)

 

The identity of a gang is contingent on the definition of its territory through the acts of protection and expansion. These efforts to guard and gain territory often result in disputes when their established borders are breached.

 

On the HBO show The Wire, drug gangs like the Barksdale Crew defend their turf from rival Marlo Stanfield’s crew, but find themselves also having to deal with lone rogues like stick-up man Omar Little, who operates outside the rules of ‘the game’ and routinely interrupts the continuity of their work, stealing money and drugs while acting as an informant for the local police.

 

Within the architectural discourse, stylistic movements also find themselves protecting their terrain from those playing outside the rules, without allegiance to a particular group. In the case of the Viennese Secessionists, they defended their intellectual terrain from the attacks of miscreants like Adolf Loos who argued for craftsmanship over what he perceived as the Secessionist’s gratuitous use of ornament. Like Omar, Loos occupies no collective territory, gangless, he walks alone.

 

Transgressions disrupt boundaries and destabilize territorial integrity. Omar undermines the Barksdale Crew by introducing a contrarian element within their space. In a similar struggle, Loos brings down the Wiener Werkstätte by revealing the Secessionists as less than modern.

 

Rachel Engler

Erandi de Silva

 

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RULES

September 17, 2010
jeu zeus
Still from Jean Renoir’s La Règle du Jeu, 1939 (source)

 

‘If a builder builds a house for someone, and does not construct it properly, and the house which he built falls in and kills its owner, then the builder shall be put to death.’

 

—The Code of Hammurabi

 

 

In Judeo-Christian tradition, not since the Old Testament have rules been so codified, eye-for-eye, or really Hammurabi-like. If, after Job, the rise of humanism and man’s self-reflection brought with it hypocrisy and moral loopholes, so too came mercy. Or, to put it more comfortably: the socially accepted subjective interpretation of rules. Rules, however, are not meant to be disregarded altogether – bourgeois society depends on certain rules for delineating murkier areas of ambiguity or, to be sure, having fun. Jean Renoir’s La Règle du Jeu classically trades rule-breaking of one kind (the aviator Jurieux crosses the Atlantic in a mere twenty-three hours) for another (Jurieux loves Christine, a married woman). Life’s a game, and rules are applied or gotten around easily so long as the superstructure remains undisturbed (Jurieux, the bachelor, dies at the end of the film). Of course…more

 

Olympieion, Athens, Greece, 2AD (source)

 

Architects spend significant creative energy designing around rules. To simply follow the rules doesn’t produce good architecture. Rules are bent or broken, selectively ignored, self-imposed, or capitalized upon. They are deformed, repurposed, manipulated, and transformed. Rules ask to be transcended. In architecture school, the adage that ‘cheaters never prosper’ sounds fallacious, as cleverly skirting the regulations can inspire respect as often as condemnation. A professor once told me that it is acceptable to cheat and lie so long as what I make is beautiful and smart.

 

Rules secure continuity and ensure that a work of architecture is always contingent. As one of architecture’s materials, they create connections or formless relationships between part to part, building to building, building to context, or work to time. An architect’s self-imposed rules across his or her works are a means to design the character of their oeuvre. Urban regulations are designed to ensure that buildings relate to their neighbors and occupants. Architecture’s great rulebooks, such as the Ten Books by Vitruvius, have carried and established meanings of architecture throughout its history. Architects, in short, rather than play by the rules, have to play with the rules.

 

Kari Rittenbach

Henry Ng

 

1 comment » | Guest Contributors

DATE

September 15, 2010
Old West End Gym clover
Old West End Gym Dance Classroom, West End, NC (source)

 

I have an unhealthy obsession with dating shows _ I mean the trashy reality kind. This obsession inevitably led me to apply to appear on dating television. I was contestant #3 on ‘U8TV the Lofters’ first gay themed dating episode. Luckily for me, it only ever appeared online. In the show I was pitted against a stout boy from Scarborough and my ex-boyfriend (a strange coincidence) in a battle for the heart of a cowboy from Calgary. When the Calgarian made his appearance and was nearly twice my age, I threw the game. My ex did the same, so that the Scarberian was deemed victor, with an awkward date as his prize.

 

I sometimes wonder what happened on this date. Not just the how, but also the where. My fascination with dating shows has as much to do with the infrastructure of dates as the drama that takes place within this infrastructure. The dating show presents us with an almost unending menu of date activities that take place across the urban landscape, from center to fringes, in community gyms, bowling alleys, equestrian facilities, restaurants, and a plethora of other places that exist mainly to satisfy the date. Did the noise of the bowling alley or chill of the equestrian facility distract enough to make the older Calgarian attractive in the eyes of the younger Scarberian? Did the Calgarian imagine his date to have a slighter more elegant frame in the dim lighting at the French Bistro? Were they at any point inebriated enough to make these first two points moot… more

 

End Credits fromCloverfield, 2008 (source)

 

There are dates based on across from and there are those based on next to. Intimacy takes different spatial forms in public. When eating dinner, one leans over the table, but at the movies, one lover sits beside the other. The theater is a place intended for the crowd, but it has, as subtext, a more exclusive set. While it is a public space, one intended for masses, its velvet rows do not indicate a democratic condition but rather may provide the forum for a necessarily exclusive romantic situation. There are spaces left between couples. Those seats left empty make a pattern of gaps, places where no face glows with screen light.

 

The moviegoer, as in Walker Percy, goes alone, goes to the cinema in an act of solitary obsession, addicted to that particular spectacle. While he sits in the theater’s front and submits himself to solitude, expecting the screen to provide some lonely consolation, moviegoers go in pairs, step over other pairs, line the dark back rows as they grope and kiss.

 

What is, indeed, the public structure for intimacy? What is a romantic seating arrangement? Why are some crowds made up of ones, while others consist of twos? Is it the ancient velour or is it the predictability of the entertainment? Stadiums and concert halls do not engender romance. A forgiving darkness and gigantic figures, attractive and moving slowly across the screen, distract from the grubby reality of adolescent romance.

 

E. Sean Bailey

Rachel Engler

 

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CLICHÉ

September 12, 2010
Mies siouxsie
Seagram Building, Mies Van der Rohe, 1969 (source)

 

We deride the term cliché because it substantiates our insecurities. The cliché informs us that no designer is an island, that we all lack originality, that we are all hacks. In practice, the cliché is a means of organizing a messy abstract body of work into clean boxes _ merely another term for ‘style’.

 

The International Exhibition of Modern Architecture, held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in 1932, is credited with being the birthplace of the modern ‘style’, not because it documented a novel practice, but because it was able to demonstrate a lack of originality in the work of contemporary practitioners across the globe. Aalto in Finland, Le Corbusier in France, and Mies and Gropius in Germany. Imported to America, this sameness reproduced a thousand times over revealed the ‘cliché’ for what it was: the ubiquitous office tower that relied on the Miesian ‘less is more’ in order to erect buildings utilizing “less” materials and labor while reaping ‘more’ profits. Once the trend was detected, the style fell out of favor.

 

On to the next ‘cliché’.

 

E. Sean Bailey

 

Siouxsie Sioux and Friend, c. 1980 (source)

 

When preparing to leave for my first job after finishing architecture school, I decided to pack items that were predominantly black with a smattering of white and grey, heavily omitting color. This, in spite of the fact that in the preceding years I had mostly worn a combination of primary colors (although due to a lack of funds, by the end of school my wardrobe basically consisted of two t-shirts and one pair of jeans, which in any arrangement produced no particular color scheme). I can’t say that I have always avoided clichés but in this instance I embraced one: the architect in black. Everything would be so easy to match, an uncomplicated wardrobe of doom and gloom, where every piece coordinates perfectly with the next in a seamless series of combinations. Recalling everything from beatniks to goths, this pan-artsy gear provided the perfect funerary attire for easing myself into my new profession. Although a familiar archetype of dress in a Western context, transposed onto my ‘ethnic’ self, an element of confusion was added to this well worn cliché. Considering all of this, in addition to fashion’s front rows also echoing this dark sentiment, I figured black garb isn’t necessarily limited to a legacy as the uniform for architects and could potentially conjure other associations.

 

Erandi de Silva

 

3 comments » | Editorial

STRESS

September 7, 2010
fracture leap
Metatarsal Stress Fracture (source)

 

Fault lines and genetics indicate that one can, indeed, be predestined for disaster. There are tremendous plates in the earth. There are places where landmasses rub and collide, where one should not live, if one is sensible. As there are breaks in the earth’s surface, sites of dislocation and rupture and fracture, there are orifices in our bodies, nostrils and wet mouths and ears, sites of entry and exit, which disrupt the otherwise tight binding of our skin.

 

And then, schisms, holes, arise even in those places not predisposed to them. Car accidents and gunshots, violence and noise, disrupt our holy bodily unity. As one single disruption can devastate, so can repetition, aggravation, stress. A stress fracture does not arise from explicit violence, but rather, from quiet rubbing and overdoing. Bones break in silence and spidery lines run through calcified masses. To run too far, to brush your hair one thousand times. Ambition, some desperate need to be more of anything, devastates that unity which once was obvious. It seems that pressure and integrity are at odds.

 

The Architect’s Leap, Carnegie Mellon University (source)

 

If you’re feeling like a jerk,

‘Cause your project just won’t work.

Go ahead and take the leap,

Then you’ll finally get some sleep.

 

 

Poking fun at the state of mind that architects sometimes find themselves in, a stairwell in Wean Hall at Carnegie Mellon University was christened The Architect’s Leap. Named for its location near the former site of the school’s architecture studios, The Leap is inscribed with the above poem, which may be read as one descends the staircase. The verses imply that jumping several stories down an empty shaft is perhaps the only way to find relief from the pressure felt by those who are unfortunate enough to have chosen to work in architecture.

 

While overloading is an enduring theme in the discipline, architects are careful not to burden their buildings, however, the stress of practice is not as easily avoided.

 

Rachel Engler

Erandi de Silva

 

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TASTE

September 3, 2010
charles peas
Prince Charles, Andy Warhol, 1980 (source)

 

In the current economic crisis potentially expensive experimental proposals may be overlooked in favor of buildable, cost-effective ones, as tested methodologies are safer bets. But why would a member of a commissioning body resist supporting a project if cost is not a concern?

 

Prince Charles was recently involved in halting Richard Rogers’ scheme for Chelsea Barracks by directly contacting the Qatari royal family (the owners of the site) to lobby for an alternate Classical proposal by Quinlan Terry. Prince Charles’ architectural taste appears to privilege how well the style of the proposal relates to the style of the surrounding area, ignoring all other factors which determine how the scheme relates strategically to its site such as connectivity, massing, program etc. Here, taste has entered the design debate because the origins of an architectural form do not appear to be complacent within its setting. The style of the proposal does not reflect the style of its surroundings, and the proposal is deemed to be out of place, undermining what the Prince has determined… more

 

 

Still from Peas, Wolfgang Tillmans, 2003 (source)

 

For Immanuel Kant, taste is both personal and beyond reasoning. Perhaps this explains Kant’s culinary desires which include peas, turnips, cod, caviar and Göttingen sausages. Through the careful assemblage of ingredients, an individual is able to satisfy their unique palette.

 

Cooking, much like architecture finds its form through building. Both professions draw upon a plethora of raw materials to assemble their basic elements into entities that evolve and endure in the form of memorable temperatures, textures and tastes.

 

Given the similarities between architecture and the culinary arts, could taste be the next frontier to be explored by architects? Beyond appealing to a consumer’s visual sensibilities, companies such as Comme des Garçons are branding their Dover Street Market, retail space through the creation of an eponymous scent as a means of cementing their identity, perhaps taste is next in line as a novel purveyor of atmospheric potential.

 

Fionnuala Heidenreich

Erandi de Silva

 

3 comments » | Editorial, Guest Contributors

 

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