Posts Tagged ‘architecture’

The Dream House By Robert Boucheron

In architecture, history, North America, photography, space on February 10, 2013 at 18:02

From: The Dream House By Robert Boucheron, The Montreal Review,

An industry of books and shelter magazines testifies to the popularity of this domestic daydream. Hanley Wood, for example, publishes American Dream Homes, which describes itself as an “annual showcase of our finest designs. . . the year’s most celebrated homes from the most accomplished designers. . . great photography and meticulous descriptions of the exquisite details.”

The photographs rarely include people, and certainly not the celebrity homeowners. That would disrupt the dream, in which the magazine reader is the happy inhabitant. The text reinforces the subliminal message, inviting the reader on a tour, and implying that all this can be yours. The expense is rarely mentioned, partly because it is obvious, but more because the dream does away with practical concerns. You could win the lottery or inherit a fortune. You could move in tomorrow!

There is nothing unclear about the drawings and photographs. The description is realistic, minutely detailed, and loaded with adjectives. The granite countertop is polished, the fireplace mantel is veined marble, the ceramic tile is imported from Italy, and the wood floor is reclaimed oak from a demolished mill. Look closer, and the lighting is too bright, the colors too intense, the glass too clear. The shadows are missing, just as the untidiness of life is missing. Where is the stray shoe, the carpet stain, the magazine left lying on the couch? The photographs, for all their apparent realism, have been carefully arranged, with hidden lights, and then skillfully edited, to remove the fallen leaf from the plants brought in as props.

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Reposted with permission from: The Montreal Review


“Architecture” by Georges Bataille (1929) by The Mass Ornament

In architecture, culture, society, theory on October 21, 2012 at 00:10

From: From the Golden Age of Media Criticism: “Architecture” by Georges Bataille (1929) by The Mass Ornament,

Architecture is the expression of the true nature of societies, as physiognomy is the expression of the nature of individuals. However, this comparison is applicable, above all, to the physiognomy of officials (prelates, magistrates, admirals). In fact, only society’s ideal nature – that of authoritative command and prohibition – expresses itself in actual architectural constructions. Thus great monuments rise up like dams, opposing a logic of majesty and authority to all unquiet elements; it is in the form of cathedrals and palaces that church and state speak to and impose silence upon the crowds. Indeed, monuments obviously inspire good social behaviour and often even genuine fear. The fall of the Bastille is symbolic of this state of things. This mass movement is difficult to explain otherwise than by popular hostility toward monuments, which are their veritable masters.

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Reposted with permission from: The Mass Ornament

The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism by Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros

In aesthetics, architecture, art, civilisation, culture, education, nature, society on October 7, 2012 at 04:01

From: The Tyranny of Artistic Modernism by Mark Anthony Signorelli and Nikos A. Salingaros, New English Review,

We who live in the Western world at the present time continue to suffer under the reign of a great tyranny — the tyranny of artistic modernism. The modernist aesthetic, which dominates our age, takes a variety of forms in the respective arts — in architecture, a lack of scale and ornamentation combined with the overwhelming deployment of materials like glass, steel, and brutalist concrete; in the plastic arts, a rejection of natural forms mixed with an unmistakable tendency towards the repulsive or meretricious; in literature, non-linear narrative, esoteric imagery, and an almost perfect lack of poetic form and diction. Yet common now to the practice of all these arts are certain primal impulses which may be said to form the core of the modernist aesthetic — a hostility and defiance towards all traditional standards of excellence, discovered over millennia of craftsmanship and reflection; a notion of the artist’s freedom as absolute, and entirely divorced from the ends of his art; and, as Roger Scruton has so clearly demonstrated, a refusal to apply the category of beauty to either the creation or the estimation of artwork. Standing behind this aesthetic is an ideology supported by nearly the entire institutional structure of the Western world — the universities, the publishing houses, the galleries, the journals, the prize committees, the zoning boards. Books that evince a fidelity to modernist principles are the ones that get published. Buildings that conform to the brutal codes of modernism and its derivatives are the ones that get built. Whatever creative efforts spring from other sources of inspiration other than modernist aggression are invariably ignored and dismissed as something antiquated or reactionary. This is the great totalitarian system of our times — the dictatorship of modernism.

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Reposted with permission from: New English Review


The Panel: Utopian architecture by Fenella Kernebone with Professor Robert Fishman

In aesthetics, architecture, art, audio, Australia & Oceania, culture, Europe, history, interview, nature, North America, philosophy on October 2, 2012 at 07:07

From: The Panel: Utopian architecture by Fenella Kernebone with Professor Robert Fishman, By Design, ABC Radio National,

Since the end of the 19th century people have struggled to build better cities, free of the slums and smoke that were part and parcel of the industrial revolution. Architects saw that the industrialised world was one of enormous possibilities with room for visionary ideas to escape the problems of the day, be it a shortage of housing, urban decay or pollution. Their utopian Modernist dreams imagined cities in the sky and housing towers set amongst green landscapes.

As part of RN’s theme week about perfect worlds, we’re revisiting several of those dreams for urban utopias as imagined by four visionary architects: Frank Lloyd Wright; Le Corbusier; Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin — the husband–wife team behind Canberra — as well as the town planner Ebenezer Howard, who created the garden city movement.

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Reposted with permission from: ABC Radio National



Featured Essay: Dubai – A City Manufactured by Curiosity by Bilal Khbei

In aesthetics, architecture, Asia, culture, economics, Featured, politics on September 23, 2012 at 07:10

Featured Essay: Dubai – A City Manufactured by Curiosity by Bilal Khbei, e-flux,

Reposted in full with permission from: e-flux (Marianna Silva)

It is hard to distinguish individuals in a crowd. Citizens of the Gulf states appear to the visitor as crowds, with their identities as individuals momentarily suspended. Such a crowd is slightly different from the kind described by Elias Canetti. This is a crowd perceived as such by a visitor conscious of his individuality against the multitude. The crowd exerts no control over this visitor, nor does it repress his personality. Rather, this visitor exerts a form of authority—engaging in an exchange of power with the crowd. For him, the citizen is imprisoned within the crowd, incapable of assuming the authority of an individual.

Visual encounters between citizens and visitors take place primarily in neutral public spaces where the visitor’s behavior is less restricted. By entering a hotel lobby, for instance, the citizen declines the possibility of establishing authority and becomes helpless. The citizen can be neither a soldier nor a noble person, but is also incapable of becoming a barbarian, an indistinguishable part of a great multitude—a grain of sand along the seashore, as Ernest Renan described barbarians. Barbarians for Renan are numberless; they tirelessly procreate despite the numerous deaths they suffer. Furthermore, their deaths complement their procreation, which is why they appear countless to Renan and other nineteenth-century European racialist thinkers.

Burj Al Arab Hotel Dubai Lobby.

But this is not how the visitor perceives the citizen of the United Arab Emirates; this citizen is part of an absent crowd. In public he appears isolated and weak—lonesome in a colonized land. The citizen appears to be performing the role of an individual, summoning a display of mannerisms in the hope of finding a place for the national costume in public space. This “uniform” is a national disposition, or perhaps an assertion of loyalty to an identity in spite of knowing it is restrictive. It is a form of reconciliation between a constructed identity and a possible connection to a formalistic modernity. The modernity experienced in hotels is superficial, and this citizen seems to imply that his costume is but one extra mask in a stage full of masks.

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The Architecture of Evil by Roger Forsgren

In architecture, ethics, Europe, government, history, society, war on September 13, 2012 at 18:43

From: The Architecture of Evil by Roger Forsgren, The New Atlantis,

For the commission to do a great building, I would have sold my soul like Faust. Now I had found my Mephistopheles. He seemed no less engaging than Goethe’s.

—Albert Speer

Someone designed the furnaces of the Nazi death camps. Someone measured the size and weight of a human corpse to determine how many could be stacked and efficiently incinerated within a crematorium. Someone sketched out on a drafting table the decontamination showers, complete with the fake hot-water spigots used to lull and deceive doomed prisoners. Someone, very well educated, designed the rooftop openings and considered their optimum placement for the cyanide pellets to be dropped among the naked, helpless men, women, and children below. This person was an engineer, an architect, or a technician. This person went home at night, perhaps laughed and played with his children, went to church on Sunday, and kissed his wife goodbye each morning.

The technical professions occupy a unique place in modern society. Engineers and architects possess skills most others lack — skills that allow them to transform dreams of design into reality. Engineers can convert a dry, infertile valley into farmland by constructing a dam to provide irrigation; they have made man fly; and architects have constructed buildings that reach thousands of feet into the sky. But these same technical gifts alone, in the absence of a sense of morality and a capacity for critical thought and judgment, can also make reality of nightmares. Ferdinand Porsche, the engineer who designed the Volkswagen — an automobile that revolutionized personal travel for the common man — also designed a terrifying battle tank that helped kill millions of Russians on the Eastern Front. Wernher von Braun, who would later design the Saturn V rocket that brought American astronauts to the Moon, designed the V-2 rockets with which the Nazis terrorized Antwerp and London in the waning months of the Second World War.

Few men better exemplify this danger than Albert Speer, Adolf Hitler’s chief architect. From bold, looming edifices, to giant swastika banners, to the intimidating searchlights of the “cathedral of light” piercing the night sky around one of the Nazi Party rallies at Nuremberg, Speer’s designs became icons of Nazi megalomania. He shared with the dictator a vision of a redesigned Berlin that, when the Third Reich conquered the world, would be a lasting monument to its power for ages to come. “Your husband is going to erect buildings for me such as have not been created for four thousand years,” Hitler told Speer’s wife, reflecting both the scale of their shared ambition and the shared admiration and peculiar friendship that developed between the two men over the course of the war.

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Reposted with permission from: The New Atlantis


Toward a Dissident Architecture?

In architecture, civilisation, philosophy, politics on June 8, 2012 at 21:02


Toward a Dissident Architecture? by Thomas de Monchaux, n + 1,

In the kind of rapid development we see in China, architecture as understood by architects can be seen as a nicety, not a necessity. It may be that, in such a context, Wang’s most instrumental building to date is his least precious: the Vertical Courtyard Apartments in Hangzhou, produced between 2002 and 2007. With an articulated plane that folds up and across the building’s façade and section, and slight alternating rotations to every other floor plate through that section, the building reads more like a stack of house-sized objects than a seamless monolith. In a recent interview with the Architect’s Newspaper, Wang recalled, “I wanted even those people living 30 meters high to still feel like they were living in a small house where they could live around a small courtyard and plant their own trees. From below they can tell people on the ground that ‘those are my trees and that’s my house.’ It provides an identity for people to feel like it’s their own house. It’s more than just blank windows in apartment buildings that can’t separate neighborhoods. It’s a basic right for people.”

What is the relationship between architecture and people’s basic rights? By the standards of human rights held to be universal by those who believe in them, much of what prevails in China falls short. What are the possibilities and responsibilities of design in such a context? We can see, perhaps latently, one possible answer in the language the Pritzker citation uses to describe Wang’s work: “frank,” “collaborative,” “message-sending,” “unpredictable,” “careful,” “spontaneous,” “responsible”—these are all qualities that one would want in, say, the lively and free citizenry of a functional democratic republic.

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