random thoughts on architecture history theory and criticism

without at least an intuitive grasp of the life of the detail in the structure, all love of beauty is no more than empty dreaming

walter benjamin, the origin of german tragic drama, trans. john osborne (london: verso 1977), p. 182


Filed under: ., benjamin,

sci-fi villain’s evil lair?

or, student dormitory. reminiscent of this guy, if you look at the pictures.

[link to google maps]

Filed under: ., evil, rossi,

ps1 x 2

Filed under: .,

decorated shed

shaykh zayn al-din mausoleum

decorated shed

Filed under: ., scott-brown,

opinions on architecture: a dialogue part ii

LC: One must go and see Pompeii, which is moving in its rectitude. They had conquered Greece and, like good barbarians, they found the Corinthian more beautiful than the Doric, because more florid.  Bring on the acanthus capitals, the entablatures decorated without much moderation or taste!  But underneath was something Roman that we’re going to take a look at.  In sum, they built superb chassis but designed dreadful coachwork…[1]

P: …until they conquered Greece, they never built in imitation of the manners or the magnificence of the Greeks.  (That) in the earliest times they were as magnificent as the Egyptians and the Greeks, and, as time passed, more magnificent than any other nation.  (That) in construction they followed their own customs, not the customs of the Greeks. [2]

LC: Let us retain from the Romans the bricks and Roman cement and travertine stone, and let’s sell Roman marble to the millionaires.  The Romans knew nothing about marble.[3]

P: (Piranesi has said that) the Romans adopted the architecture of the Greeks not on its merits but for the splendor of the marbles.  (That) this architecture brought the Romans no benefit or advantage, public or private, since Tuscan architecture had already provided for everything.[4]

LC: Like man, like drama, like architecture.  Not to assert with too much confidence that the masses give rise to their man.  A man is an exceptional phenomenon that repeats at lenghty intervals, perhaps by chance, perhaps according to a cosmographic rhythm yet to be determined. Michelangelo is the man of our last thousand years as Pheidias was the man of the preceding millennium.[5]

P: …very many Romans (that is, of the citizens) were from time to time able architects.  (That) they corrected many of the innumerable defects that they found in the architecture of the Greeks.  (That) they achieved a magnificence equal to that of the Egyptians and Greeks, and thereafter greater than that of any other nations.  What more could the Romans have done to honor the fine arts?[6]

LC: The Renaissance did not make Michelangelo, it made a fine bunch of fellows who had talent. The work of Michelangelo is a creation, not a revival, a creation that towers over stylistic categories.

P: Then you say that the Romans fell into this barbaric and ridiculous manner because they refused to follow the rules that ordained a beautiful and noble simplicity, because they were ashamed to follow in the footsteps of others?  (…) I will not insist on trying to convince you that Correggio, Raphael and Michelangelo were the imitators of a great number of dead artists (and living ones too).[7]

LC: The lesson of Rome is for the wise, for those who know and can appreciate, for those who can resist, who can verify.  Rome is the perdition of those who don’t know much.  To put architecture students in Rome is to wound them for life.  The Prix de Rome and the Villa Medici are the cancer of French architecture.[8]

P: “Poetry is well known to rely on exaggeration and hyperbole.”[9]

[1] Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture, trans. John Goodman (Los Angeles: Dover, 1986). 198

[2] Piranesi, excerpt from Observations on the Letter of Monsieur Mariette, with Opinions on Architecture, and a Preface to a New Treatise on the Introduction and Progress of the Fine Arts in Europe in Ancient Times, trans. Caroline Beamish and David Britt (Los Angeles: Getty Research Institute, 2002). 91

[3] Le Corbusier 200

[4] Piranesi 92

[5] Le Corbusier 205

[6] Piranesi 95

[7] Piranesi 101

[8] Le Corbusier 212

[9] Piranesi 97, quoting the Gazette littéraire d l’Europe, vol. 1

Filed under: ., imaginary conversations, le corbusier, piranesi,

hejduk would have liked this

hejduk would have liked this

Filed under: ., hejduk, ruins,

google earth urbanism

a456’s recent post on samarra reminded me of the perils of urbanism from above.  this is a doubly well-timed post… first, because i’ve recently been looking for several ancient cities through google earth.  some of my favorites: fatehpur sikri [india], balkh [afghanistan], persepolis [iran], and misrian [turkmenistan- just because it was so hard to find]. nearer to my neighborhood, google earth has some nice views of sacsayhuaman, pisac, and the better known machu picchu [all in peru]. bonus: zoom back to see the road to machu picchu- the rectangle between the road and the city is the 5 star hotel built just beside the site.

the second reason enrique’s post was well timed for me is that last weekend i visited the guggenheim’s frank lloyd wright exhibit, ‘from within outward.’ i had been warned by previous reviews that this was a mostly hagiographical show, but i wanted to see for myself the tribute to the architect that most architects love to dismiss: in other words, you know you are well into architecture school when you get your third or fourth frank lloyd wright monograph/coffee table book/puzzle [or nowadays, lego puzzle!].

i was familiar with wright’s broadacre city plans, but not with his plans for baghdad from 1957-58.  i was surprised at the great similarities between wright’s naive, mega-scaled proposals and the realized plans for new delhi [specifically the administrative center designed by edward lutyens and completed in 1931].  compare also with the scale of the infrastructure development surrounding mashad’s imam reza shrine complex, the new capital complex in astana, and more famously, dubai.  wright’s own mile-high skyscraper proposal is a missed opportunity for the exhibition- although it has been noted before, a comparison to the burj dubai would have driven the point home.

in fact, the most sensible commentary in the exhibition was the one i overheard from a woman standing beside me.  “it’s rather like speer, no?” she said, commenting on one of wright’s thankfully unbuilt, megascaled buildings.  it is sad to think that while wright intended his architecture to embody of the united states’ democratic ideals, his ideas on scale, infrastructure and the predominance of one language [his] coincided less with a pluralistic society and more with the dictatorial voice of totalitarianism.  in contrast, previous civilizations denote a higher sensibility towards multiple scales and diverse environments in their city plans.

Filed under: ., cities, google earth, wright,

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