Friday, February 10, 2006

Introduction to Architecture [Arch 101a]

John Hill's blog, A Daily Dose of Architecture, points today to Michael Meredith's new book, Notes for Those Beginning the Discipline of Architecture. In our Introduction to Architecture classes ten years ago, it was Steen Rasmuseen's book Experiencing Architecture that familiarized uninitiated students with an appreciation for rhythm, color and balance in architectural work. (The photo on page 127, starting Chapter VI - Rhythm, remains a shockingly profound pedagogical use of architectural photography.) If his publishers are to be believed, today's youngsters are getting the straight dope from the start with Mr. Meredith's book. To see how much innocence architectural education has lost, read the following contrasting segments. The first is the preface from Mr. Rasmussen's 1962 book, and what follows is a description from Mr. Meredith's publisher's website. First Mr. Rasmussen...
"In writing this volume I naturally hope that my architect colleagues will read it and that they will find something of interest in the thoughts and ideas that I have gathered during my many years. But the book has a further aim. I believe that it is important to tell people outside the profession what it is that we are engaged in. In olden days, then entire community took part in forming the dwellings and implements they used. The individual was in fruitful contact with these things; the anonymous houses were built with a natural feeling for place, materials, and use and the result was a naturally suitable comeliness. Today in our highly civilized society, the houses in which ordinary people are doomed to live in and gaze upon are on the whole without quality. We cannot however, got back to the old method of personally supervised handicrafts. We must strive to advance by arousing interest in and understanding of the work the architect does."

"Architecture is a discipline plagued by its own insecurities, a curious mixture of optimism and pessimism, momentary successes and, more commonly, deep frustrations. In this new publication, Michael Meredith, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, tackles the problems facing the discipline head-on, interrogating its internal dynamics and searching for a mode of practice that can survive amid the confusing, conflicting demands of contemporary culture. Nominally addressed to students entering the field, "Notes for those beginning the discipline of architecture" is a scathing take on the profession from one of its emerging young practitioners, outlining its pitfalls, its excruciating failures, and – in spite of it all – its undeniable potentials. The accompanying DVD, Alternate Ending 1: The Glimmering Noise, is a hilarious and sobering mock debate (inspired by a morbid fascination with William Buckley, Jr.'s Firing Line) that dissects the curious position of the architect amid the fickle, shifting forces of the 21st century market economy. An insider's unflinching look at the problems facing current architectural practice, Meredith's work is of interest to anyone who cares about the potentials of design today."


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