Dear Friends from Unit 22.
Whilst reading the news this morning, I decided that rather than depress myself by absorbing myself in the myriad that is Libyan politics, I would instead look at the WordPress Page which I so sorely miss. I also decided after looking at several pieces of work to write down my thoughts from afar, so that perhaps you might benefit from (or indeed disagree about) certain things I learned in my fifth year, and have found to be true post-Bartlett.
1. The first, I will call “Definition” –
In Adrian Forty’s very accurate book “Words and Buildings” (the world-famous Adrian Forty is on the first floor by the way if you want to go and discuss the following with him yourself), he discusses how the turn of the century became very important for architecture and the definition of new words. Terms such as “space” were beginning to be discussed seriously in architecture for the first time in human history. There were other new words that came about, “language” for example and “form”.
It was a great time in architecture when intense debates ensued about the definition of such terms and what their implications would be for architecture.
There is an oft quoted debate in Sigfried Giedion’s “Space, Time and Architecture”, in which Giedion famously presumes that Frank Lloyd Wright doesn’t actually know how to define “organic” in words, and that he often has problems when he gives lectures and tries to put the meaning of organic into intelligible language. On the other hand, Giedion tells us, that Wright’s architecture describes “organic” very well.
I’ve just had a look at Paul’s very interesting interim portfolio for example and saw this wonderful and very powerful statement: “This project introduces a FOOD BANK; a half organic, half industrial architecture”.
Bank, Organic, and Industrial – how interesting and how great it would be to define these words through text, drawing, photography, modelling, collage, montage, frottage through a series of coherent pieces. The interim portfolio begins to do this. We can then begin to define them through form (see below).
2. If we consider that “definition” entails content, then now we can discuss the second half of this statement which deals with “form”, and the desperate and perhaps endless struggle of architects to create a coherent relationship in their work between “form” and “content”.
The second section, I will call “Form”.
My degree tutor once famously told me (in response, I printed her statement on my work in last year’s Bartfest and showed it to her; she agreed) that “architecture is best described through the medium of building” – it’s a Miesian statement.
You are in dangerous territory, in my opinion, when your architecture is best described through the medium of words, photography, installation, furniture or the like. These should become tools to help define the architecture, but they should never be imagined to be the architecture itself.
And so, on the relationship between form and content, I will take Paul’s example again, and his very powerful statement: “This project introduces a FOOD BANK; a half organic, half industrial architecture”.
The time is nigh for this FOOD BANK to speak. Half-organic, half-industrial must be defined through the architecture, through the space, through the materiality, through the approach to the architecture, through the site plan, through the user’s manipulation and appropriation of the physical tangible architecture. The architecture of Hundertwasser, Wright, Niemeyer, Saarinen all speaks organic in its own fundamental way. Likewise Garnier, Kahn (Albert not Louis), Van der Rohe, Eiffel, and Gropius’s buildings all quite clearly define industrial in the architectural sense.
To conclude, we must only look at Philip Johnson’s Chrystal Cathedral in California- the perfect relationship between content and form, between definition and architecture, between an ephemeral ethereality and its physical crystal manifestation. Johnson – you have outdone yourself!
Beware of the Bartlett tendency of scribbled facades, conical shaped rooms and tiddly bits sticking out from everywhere, all in the horribly vain effort to produce a pretty drawing and a shape which looks nice in plan and section!
Instead keep in mind Johnson’s Chrystal Cathedral, and of the words of my mentor from my degree – “Architecture is conceived”.
I wish you all the very best from this cold and cloudy March afternoon in Benghazi.