vertebrae

UNDER CONSTRUCTION

In the distant future, this page will be devoted to photographs of models and buildings as well as essays on architecture. Due to the infancy of this "division" of eristikös, only these essays will be posted for a while.



banality in architecture

Millions of babies die each year...but I was not one of them. Thousands of people perish from the world as we know it...but I am not yet one of them. I am waiting.

Today, yesterday, the day-before-yesterday: I have been drawing service stations. Someone else designed these service stations twenty years ago. Everyday, in plastic lead, I draft the same precast concrete roof tees, over and over and over...I draft the same concrete columns, over and over and over. We are replacing the concrete floors. I do not want to do this the rest of my life and be forgotten.

There is a burning. I am burning...I am aching, hungry, lost. The slivers of my want shoot through my tired, weak body. Silently, they thrust up through my sickley skin -- jagged, sharp, askew. I stiffle, gritting my teeth, knuckles turning white, bleeding all over the floor. I say nothing. No one understands. And that is alright; my time will come.

My table is in an office on the second floor. I face a window which overlooks a parking lot, some railroad tracks and a flour mill. I love my view. The flour mill -- with its pipes and rails, its sterile metal and blinding white concrete -- remind me of mankind: stark and sad, twisted and mad. It is not television, nor music, nor literature, nor politics, history or economics, which best represents mankind -- those things will not be left behind when we are gone. It is the flour mill...and the other factories and plants and warehouses, and all the products, and all the waste. Ironic that what will remain when we perish is why we will soon be dead.

Today, when I was drafting, a train rolled by and my mind wandered away with it. I thought about what I believe to be great architectural work. But when I drive down the streets of this city in which I live, nothing which lines the streets speaks to me. Tomorrow I may change that.

psychology and architecture

I have always been fascinated with the link between art and psychology.

Recently in my design studio, I had the opportunity of visiting a primary school to conduct a campus planning project. During a brief lecture in one of the classrooms, I noticed an interesting bulletin board of student work by the front door. The students, who were probably second graders, had been asked to complete the following sentence, "In my pocket I have a..." Most of the children completed the sentence by explaining that they had puppies, kittens or bunnies in their pockets. One child, however, had written that he had an American flag in his pocket and that he hoped the troops would come home safely. It was apparent to me that this particular child either watched a great deal of television coverage concerning Operation Desert Storm or else his family, for whatever reason, discussed the war quite often. When children write or draw, their creations blatantly expose their preoccupations.

I had read not too long ago that psychiatrists can detect the possibility incest in children by asking them to draw a picture of their family. Often an element of secrecy and fear shrouds the abuse incidents. It was found that many incested children would inadvertently express this element of secrecy and fear by drawing the family -- or at least themselves and the abusing parent -- with no mouths.

Intentionally or unintentionally, art has always been an outlet for the psyche --always been "a window to the soul." And it is just as much so for adults as for children. As children grow into adulthood, however, they learn to control, to rationalize, to repress, and to deny. Therefore, the information -- the personality, the thoughts, the emotions and the preoccupations -- are not as blatant in the artwork; "the window to the soul" is fogged up.

Architecture is a sort of half breed: not quite art and not quite engineering. As a student of architecture, I understand that architecture involves function, technology and science. But one cannot deny the philosophical and the expressive nature of architecture. Having artistic genes as well as engineering genes, architecture (though in a much more suppressed manner due to the training and to the nature of the medium) architecture still becomes susceptible to "the window to the soul" syndrome. Architecture does outlet the psychology.

And architects -- just as their counterparts, the painters, the poets, the sculptors, the musicians, the philosophers, and so on -- also belie their psychological states of mind in their work...however subtle or unintended it may be. There exists a strong correlation between an architect's psychological profile and the personality of his work.

A folly of my species, my culture, and my parentage, since birth, I have been mistreated, misunderstood or outcast so frequently and for so long that as an adult I am riddled with scars and oft-bleeding open wounds which may never heal. Here I sit, doomed not only to feel my own pain to extremes but endowed with the ability to channel and feel others' pain as well; here I sit, manic and hypersensitive, feeling the good and bad of life with incomprehensible intensity.

I am tired of trying to change myself and tired of trying to deny my feelings. I no longer believe I owe an explanation. I hurt no one and do not ever wish to do so. I simply am, and I do what I believe in.

So with this explanation, I embark on my architectural work. I hope that it overtly marks my psychological profile and records for posterity my existence. I hope that it stands as an example of why not to be cruel to others -- particulary weak impressionable children. I hope that it serves as a catharsis to those of my kind and to those who are fortunate enough to feel pain only occasionally.

precedence in architecture

In the realm of the designer, precedence is dangerous.

If one does not understand the precedent, portions of the work will be artificially borrowed and superficially re-applied. The information loses its true purpose, its true meaning and often its true and fullest effect. The new work will be a poor duplication of the old work.

If one understands the precedent, the work and the ideas behind it can sink into the subconscious and can be referenced more intuitively. The information can be reformulated and restructured; it can mingle naturally with the intellect, the emotions and the psyche of the individual; and it can resurface through the fingers, beyond the wielded pen and into new work with a freshness.

One is only justified in studying precedence if one does it to enrich his subconscious and if one does it with ample distance from his own design work.

One is only justified in making reference to precedence if, firstly, one already has an objective, an attitude, a philosophy, or an intention in mind and secondly, if one seeks assistance in defining or in achieving his objective more fully. And, I might add, it is not always necessary to seek precedence to define or achieve an objective.

chaos and order in architecture

In architecture, there is no true chaos. This is simply because by definition, chaos implies complete dysfunction, and if the architecture serves the functional needs of its occupants -- or if it merely keeps out the rain, for that matter -- then the architecture is not completely dysfunctional. Hence, in architecture, chaos must be redefined to encompass those works whose system of order eludes us upon initial -- or several -- inspections.

I have -- through personal experience and great mental deliberation -- come up with two school of thought on how to achieve architectural chaos. In my view, it can only be achieved in two ways: destruction (positive to negative) or extrusion (negative to positive).

The destructive method of chaos requires the designer to begin with order or to predestinate a system of order. Then, the whole is destroyed. Systematically, elements are subtracted, manipulated or added. Elements whose loss will be significant but can be afforded -- that is, the system will seem imbalanced but can remain functionally and structurally sound without them -- those elements are randomly removed. Likewise, other elements, whose function and structural value are minimal or non-existent, are randomly manipulated into unconventional or even unnatural positions. Finally, new elements will be added in a disorderly fashion. And like in cooking, it's done to taste.

The extrusive method of chaos is a little more taxing. The designer must begin by conceiving a mess. Then, order is extruded. Systematically, elements within the disarray are assigned functional and structural integrity. Gradually, the meaningless is assigned meaning; the dysfunctional is adjusted to accommodate; the defiance of gravity, wind and rain is reinforced and stabilized logically. Layers emerge. As lines in the condition of transparency, the layers are indecipherable, but as materials constructed three-dimentionally, the layers create architecture.

Knowing this, I still have a great deal of trouble creating chaos. If I start destructively, I often find it looks contrived (not disorderly enough), or worse, I find I've destroyed too much and now it is no longer functional or structural. If I start extrusively, I discover a very human flaw: I rarely conceive a good mess and even when I can, I am unable to assign order because I can see nothing clearly. It is much more difficult to create chaos than order in architecture.


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