||Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna, Japanese Grand Prix, 1990 (source)
The corporation DAP unmercifully executed the inside corner around the end of World War II, and the butt joint suffered a slower death shortly thereafter. Sure, resins, putty and other schmear were used before that time–but all of a sudden this goo that could fix all problems was mass-produced and easily dispensed in tubes. Architects eventually started to make drawings indicating every linear inch where this frosting should be used. They called them wireframe diagrams, but their real function was to specify the locations of caulk at the intersection of any two planes. It did not matter how big the gap – just caulk to fill. Towards the end of World War II, Dow Corning jumped into the silicone market and made an array of goo so powerful that mechanical fasteners, welding, frames and other conventional tectonics were no longer necessary. In 1978, in order to test their new silicone caulk, Carlo Scarpa was sealed into his casket with a perfect quarter-inch bead of clear indoor/outdoor. So DAP killed the corner, Dow killed the connection. In the late 90s, the Institute for the Promotion of Blobs formed due to the communal hatred of the corner and called for a careful mimicry of this high-tech goo. Eventually they will accomplish their goal of creating a cast caulk structure so we will never have to worry about weathering, shrinking, cracking, expansion, peeling, or leaking. At least for fifteen years.
In his recent documentary Senna (2010), director Asif Kapadia brings to our attention the importance one corner can have on the course of a single Formula 1 race, a season, and a career. Framing the rivalry between cold, rational Frenchman Alain Prost and passionate, tempestuous Brazilian Ayrton Senna, Kapadia identifies its crescendo at the start of the 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, where Senna unflinchingly attempted to overtake Prost at its first corner. Responding to Senna’s aggression, Prost followed an infamously ‘dirty’ line, entering the corner early enough that Senna’s McLaren Honda impacted the rear of his Fiat Ferrari, resulting in the disablement of both vehicles and, ironically, sealing a World Championship for Senna.
Prost’s paradoxical action was a critique, a means of calling attention to behavior he saw as unbecoming a driver in Senna’s position. It also calls attention to the difference between the static corner and the art (and science) of cornering, the means by which a vehicle fluidly traverses a track. Within a single manifold of possibilities, each driver constructs his or her own racing line, and the differences between said lines determine the winner.
Racing lines are concerned with quickness, not the shortest distance between two points but the fastest, that which maintains the most consistent velocity. Cornering therefore implies both a vector (velocity and direction) and a tactical intent.
Similarly, architectural corners can call attention to the manifold and mutable nature of interior space. When ceilings become walls and walls become floors without a change in material, a certain visual movement is implied. This approach typified the Baroque, and returned in a more contemporary form with the question of folding. Folding is a literal example of how lines and corners construct space, but what might constitute an architectural ‘dirty line’?