random thoughts on architecture history theory and criticism

thresholds 41: REVOLUTION!

t41 image

i just edited thresholds, the journal of the MIT department of architecture. thresholds 41: REVOLUTION! is available for download here.

What actions are prompted by revolution in the space of the city? Which publics take part in this struggle, and who are the agents that mobilize it? And after a revolution has subsided, how is it remembered, represented and memorialized? thresholds 41: REVOLUTION! turns to the history, design, and cultural production of the public realm as a site of dissensus. Rather than focusing on a specific revolutionary time and place, we have strived to include different periods and regions, organizing contributions in terms of the relations they establish between sites, actors, and contexts. In the essays and designs featured in these pages, political struggle often shifts established roles—agitators create new types of public space, designers become activists and fundraisers, individual figures fade in favor of collectives or groups, and actions are best remembered through misrepresentation. How do we write revolution, who writes it and for whom? And, in turn, how does urban conflict inform writing, design, and cultural production at large? Our authors, designers, and artists open up revolution as subject, as event, and as historiographical problem—a problem complicated by discrete actions, multiple publics, critical practices, and the politics of display and remembrance. [keep reading on issuu]


Filed under: ., cities, cv, jarzombek, kant, koolhaas, le corbusier, memory, participation, politics, ruins

institutional critique [of sorts]

i stumbled upon the very interesting joseph gandy reading up on notions of the picturesque and its relationship to modernism, and although his own architectural designs are much more interesting, i suddenly realized he’s the gandy that did this painting of the bank of england as a ruin in 1830:

Joseph Gandy, cut away perspective drawing of the Bank of England as a ruin, 1830, John Soane Museum, (official site) London.

looking at it, i was struck by how similar it is to ed ruscha’s los angeles county museum on fire:

 Ed Ruscha, Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, 1968
 oil on canvas
 53 1/2 H x 133 1/2 W (inches)

in both cases the building looks more like a model than an actual building—isolated, with an awkward perspective and an artificial sheen to it. the degree of violence on the buildings is different, almost like watching a before—with ruscha, the fire has just started and the building is still pristine—and an after—gandy doesn’t tell us what happened, we only see the ruins that conveniently reveal the guts of the building, the inside spaces of the bank. furthermore, in ruscha’s image the glossy surface reflections suggest the fake water of a bad model. but this flood has caused no damage—it just makes the building into an island, and emphasizes the museum as a fictitious object.

it is fitting that gandy (an architect) is more interested in displaying the spaces of the building while ruscha (an artist), who is more interested in subtle pop references through the use of color. but because of the artificiality of the construction, the images are innocuous—the destruction too friendly and harmless in ruscha’s case, too decorated and precious in gandy’s. although the bank is in ruins, they seem too convenient in their reading of interior spaces. despite their similarities, both images remain anchored in their own eras: in an age obsessed with archeological digs “abroad,” (read: empire) gandy creates a ruin in london. likewise, ruscha turns the museum into the scene of a comic book or an advertisement, and fittingly, the fire can’t burn the blase coolness of this object.

in fact, both paintings are so successful in turning the buildings into fiction, that—having never seen either of them—it is surprising to see the bank and the museum are still there. the deliberate artificiality of the paintings is more successful than the violence they depict in casting doubt on the reality of these institutions.

ps. institutional critique

Filed under: ., gandy, ruins, ruscha,

zapotec ball court

ball court in monte alban

zapotec ball court at monte alban, oaxaca, mexico. 450-500 ce

3d laser scan action:


Filed under: ., ruins, stadiums,

lalibela solid void

…courtesy of mark “indiana jones” jarzombek. these churches are cut. into. the f’ing rock. i mean they are all one solid piece of rockness. and that is just the beginning, there is a crazy water tables story involved. the whole thing is insane. you can read about it here.

ps. people that would have enjoyed this way too much [other than me]: colin rowe, rudolf arnheim. which is odd, if you think of this [sorry—jstor link, login required—link goes to mmj’s article on wolfflin in assemblage 23].

also, reminds me of giambattista nolli. speaking of which, check out the interactive nolli map of rome from the university of oregon.

Filed under: ., jarzombek, maps, rocks, ruins,

trees growing on architecture. a reminder that we don’t need to plant them on top of buildings, they sometimes make their way there anyway. they look like they’re slowly climbing up to the top, no? for more info on el mirador, you can start here.

ps. this is also pretty cool. makes you want to go be indiana jones.

pps. a more official site here.

Filed under: ., ruins,

mapping caracol & new york city

using laser to map ancient civilization, in a matter of dayswith flyovers, a solar map of new york

both articles from the nytimes have been up for a few days, but its nice to look at them side by side. also mapping nyc, van alen fellows han and mihalyo.

also, as long as we’re on the map subject, eric fischer’s maps out of geotagged pics are pretty awesome [via ja]

ps. some cool images from national geographic

Filed under: ., cities, maps, ruins,

inca stones

inca stonework around cusco and ollantaytambo. engineers and bricoleurs.

Filed under: ., incas, ruins,

buritaca, colombia, ix – xvi ce.

copyright john macdonald

more info on wikipedia and unesco. also, making a map on precolumbian cities.

Filed under: ., cities, ruins,

hejduk would have liked this

hejduk would have liked this

Filed under: ., hejduk, ruins,

i like these walls

ark of bukhara, bukhara, uzbekistan.

i like these walls

Filed under: ., ruins,

i tweet here

i flickr here