Thursday, January 19, 2006

Quote Clearhinghouse (1)

Many times during the process of gathering material for a post, DYWSC? transcribes a gem of a quote that just fails to make it onto the blog. These exchanges are worth reading, but not topical enough to justify inclusion on that day’s piece. To remedy the loss, every time and again this blog will feature a ‘Quote Clearinghouse’ post that mashes up many of the recent cut statements. Any parallels or compositional similarities are likely coincidental – like in the example of the following two pieces.

Here is Jacque Herzog speaking about the influence the late Aldo Rossi had on the Herzog and de Muron during their Pritzker Prize acceptance speech. Rossi was a beloved architect, educator, and theorist. Here Mr. Herzog is building an argument for the materiality his firm deploys as being rooted in the intellectual heritage they received under Rossi's tutelage…
[26:30]…And we loved his writing: “Architecture is Architecture,” because it seems so provocatively simple-minded, and pinpoints something that is still vital to us today. Architecture can only survive as Architecture in its physical and central diversity and not as a vehicle for an ideology of some kind.

It is the matter-reality of architecture that paradoxically conveys thoughts and ideas, in other words, its immateriality. That's an old story, but its more relevant today than ever before. Architecture lives and survives because of its beauty, because it seduces, animates, and even inspires people. Because it is matter, and because it can if only sometimes transcends matter.

But this anarchist and poetic side of Rossi (which we loved so much as students) was gradually assimilated into the postmodernist zeitgeist. What remained was an academically rigid ideology of permanence and typology, and the sudden dominance of decorative historical elements of style, a kind of coming-out of the decorative, which had beaten an embarrassed retreat since the rise of modernism.
This second quote is left over from the Jeff Kipnis lecture at Columbia, and occurred during the question-and-answer part of the evening. Mr. Kipnis had presented three interpretations of the Maison Domino diagram, and how those interpretations are still operative today. There are so many striking aspects of the exchange that even having written it, one still needs to go back and re-read it to figure out what’s being said. If he dodges, it is an artful dodge…
Unidentified Student: “I guess I have two questions. (1.)When you have an equivalency between all the planes, what does that do to the political body? And then (2.) is there an implied movement when you have an equivalency between the planes?”

Jeff Kipnis: That’s an important question. The Maison Domino diagram does two things that I think are very important. It makes each plan the same, and it erases the difference between the plan and the ground (lets say in a Corbusian interpretation). What it does however is it produces the collectivity as a priority over the individual, and the change in political thinking from the early part of the 20th Century about democracies to the later part of the 20th Century is about getting away from idealized versions of democracy, and using techniques of disestablishment to remove unwanted authorities. We’ve really shifted from a discourse of democracy to a discourse of freedom, which I think is really important. It’s connected to disestablishment techniques. It turns out that [Maison Domino’s -ed] equal plates are forms of establishment. That’s why all of this work [Jeff’s lecture that night about the Maison Domino as a diagram -ed] came from the fact that you cannot install a politics, but you can remove devices of each field, which arbitrate an unwanted presence of authority.

For example in the Cardiff Opera House I showed [a slide of earlier in the lecture -ed], just the fact that you’re in a lobby, and you have to go through a curtain to get into the theater. When Rem removes that; that’s a disestablishing of a hierarchical relationship. It has nothing to do with saying “I believe in this politics” or “that politics;” it’s a device in architecture in which a cliché of hierarchical relationship was removed. It’s funny about that project – it has this gigantic wall that goes up and down – as soon as a fire martial on a jury saw it that project was gone.


Anonymous Blite said...

It’s so true. The paradox that J H points out is a haunting theme of architecture. I'm speaking about the paradox that the "matter" of architecture is stone, metal, glass: material, and the medium is ideas, emotions, and immateriality. Ruskin, Rossi, Eisenman (Couldn't come up with a 3rd "R"-chitect) have struggled with it.

10:18 AM  
Anonymous frank said...

This is exactly why so much of (academic, capitol "A") Architecture is soooo detached from the rest of the word. Kipnis says something like that and we're supposed to feel like something new is figured out about the profession? The slow process of theorizing over the last 30 years has been a slow process of obfuscation if you asked me. How else can you come to the conclusoin the theorizing gets you closer to architecture than doing architecture?

8:11 AM  
Blogger J said...

Blite and Frank,

Thank you for your comments. I have often considered running a week of posts on that material/immetrial paradox, but haven't landed enough material [words] yet. It is a shame to be always stalling in hopes of making it better and better -- and never executing one's goals.

I have also been avoiding responding to Frank for the same reason. I hear what you're saying, but really liked that post about being closer to design when theorizing about it. You're right, intentionally obfuscating is a damning sin, yet so is demeaning one's arguement to appeal to the lowest common denominator. The points in this quote were potent, and I paused only to figure out how to get more attention to them, not let them be forgotten. I'm sorry to disagree with someone who has been so generous with his comments in this forum. I can share in your frustration though -- surely there was a simpler way of saying these ideas, a way that makes it accessible to more poential clients!

1:00 AM  
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