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In 1960, Belgian artist Rene Magritte painted La Corde Sensible. In the background is a natural landscape, characterised by mountains and by a river. At the front is a champagne glass topped by a cloud. It prompts questions: does the cloud have its own weight? Is the glass mediating between the liquid state of the river and the gaseous state of the cloud? A few years later in 1972, the Viennese group Haus-Rucker-Co depicted a similar provocative scenario in ‘Big Piano’. In place of a champagne glass, a ladder with many steps – each with a different sound – reaches towards a cloud, which is a site of immersion and the loss of orientation.
These two examples, along with other artistic manifestations from the same period, reveal the rise of an aesthetic sensibility, which for the first time, questioned traditional physical and perceptual boundaries seemingly fixed by tradition, pursuing a sort of material evanescence. They illustrate a process of formal and conceptual dematerialisation. Generally, one may say that, from the second half of the twentieth century, the discipline of aesthetics experienced a radical change: shifting away from semantic or hermeneutic interpretations back to its original meaning: aesthetics as aisthesis, the ancient Greek word for perception. This implied a rediscovery of the body, the rehabilitation of the senses, and a renewed interest in phenomenology.
The exhibition ‘Black Spaces Matter’, conceived by architectural historian Pamela Karimi and brought to life through extensive curatorial collaborations, presents a series of vignettes exploring the past, present, and future of New Bedford, Massachusetts, a hotbed of abolitionist activity in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and a haven for freed and escaped slaves at the end of the so-called ‘underground railroad’. Through a mix of media – objects, photographs, videos, and a virtual reality rig – the show presents a compelling picture of a vital, historic, and living African-American community that first thrived prior to the US Civil War, and its continued grassroots struggle to preserve its architectural heritage. The stories and images presented collate an important and overlooked chapter of New England architectural history, suggesting the utility of new media in historical documentation and highlighting the continued need to explore positive examples of communities of colour through the dimensions of space and place.
Over the course of an intensive day-long session, the authors combed the Drawing Matter archives for exemplary plan drawings. Their selections are presented here in pairs, based on visual rhymes or striking contrasts, on cross-historical comparisons or the persistence of plan-making techniques over time.
The architectural plan drawing is a paradoxical sort of object. In principle, an instrument that should be rendered obsolete by the act of construction, it nonetheless remains the most intensive and compact description of an architectural idea.
‘Plan’ is a verb as well as a noun, and implies a path toward a specified outcome. The plan is fundamentally optimistic, countering entropy with order, and this anticipatory quality is embedded in the logic of the plan itself. Architects make drawings for buildings that do not yet exist. An architectural plan is an empty geometric scaffold that awaits both construction and inhabitation.
But the plan also works retrospectively: it was the primary technical means employed in the measuring and recording of ancient architectures that was so fundamental to the education of a classical architect. And these drawings affirm that such reconstructions, far from being rote academic exercises, draw deeply on the architect's creative intelligence. In fact, we would argue that the conceptual power of the plan as a working instrument is precisely its capacity to function simultaneously as an analytical and projective device, poised between past histories and future possibilities.
This collection of images makes a case for the continued relevance of the plan today as evidenced by the diversity, conceptual density and shear visual power of these artefacts.
Luis Barragán (Guadalajara, Mexico, 1902-1988) and José Antonio Coderch (Barcelona, Spain, 1913-1984), despite having different origins, shared a common ground. Their architecture – based on Mediterranean tradition – was adapted to similar mild climate conditions, where shadowed and protected open spaces played a role as transitional spaces between indoors and outdoors. Those spaces were not treated as traditional elements incorporated within the buildings’ repertories, but were spatial proposals with a goal – rooted in their cultural backgrounds – of enriching the relationship between both realms. In this essay, common features arise when comparing two paradigmatic houses built by Barragán (Casa Prieto López, Mexico City, Mexico, 1950) and Coderch (Casa Ugalde, Caldes d’Estrach, Spain, 1951), within subjects such as the role of tradition, the relationship to the place, or the explanation of their architecture as a plastic experience.
Private and public are clearly separated in both architects’ works, generally by a hermetic and neutral facade, behind which indoors and outdoors are interwoven, in such a way that open spaces take part of the interior of their houses and views towards the landscape or the sky break up the limits. Some of the spaces are settled in a kind of ambiguous category: there will be enclosed rooms with no ceiling, or patios and porches with windows in them.
The common Mediterranean heritage appears within plane and plastered abstract walls, where plasticity rises from roughness, colour, light and shadow. The nuances appear in the personal interpretation of the experience of space, as well as in answer to the local conditions, and it is then that a different position in relation to nature emerges; whereas the Mediterranean coast is naturally soft and mild, the Mexican vegetation and geological features introduce a brave contrast between the open and the built.
Workers in Hong Kong made plastic flowers, incense before that, and consumer goods throughout the city's provincial, Imperial, and colonial periods. Kowloon Peninsula's deep harbour and proximity to shipping lanes gave rise to exportoriented industries long before imperialistic conflicts changed their ownership from Chinese to British, and back again. Making things in this context served to define self-motivated enterprise. Hong Kong Chinese people made most of their export goods following a low material investment, labour-intensive model. Workers hand-painted ceramics and toys more often than their employers invested in better plant to replace their work.
One of the most difficult challenges associated with an ageing population will be a significant increase in the number of people living with dementia. In Australia, this number is estimated to triple by 2050; a situation that is reflected globally. This will place increased demands on health and long-term care providers but it should also force an examination of the ability of contemporary cities to facilitate or constrain inclusion. Globally, designers and students of this discipline are contributing their skills to the challenge of dementia but solutions are typically proposed at a product, institutional or suburban scale. This paper will present two propositional projects, created using a speculative design methodology within a design studio at The University of Melbourne, that provoke architects to more seriously interrogate what it means for a city to support social inclusion, independence and choice for those who are ageing in place. These projects illuminate new avenues for critical and necessary research. This paper will begin with a reflection on the limitations of the Hogeweyk Dementia Village (Amsterdam), considered the current gold standard in dementia design, to highlight the value of thinking speculatively within the context of dementia; to disrupt the limitations of contemporary design thinking and ask what role the architect can play in improving the lives of those living with dementia?
The 1980s witnessed a sudden rise of writing and thinking about architectural drawings and their conventions. At about the same time, there also emerged a trend of a new type of presentational drawing in architecture, in which drawings were very complex to the point of undecipherability, graphically sophisticated, and sometimes seemingly created for their own sake rather than to represent a particular architectural project. Upon reviewing the texts on drawings from this period, two important insights are made about the use of presentational drawings in architectural practice and their relation to theory. First, that making of architectural drawings can constitute practice in its own right and such practice, if developed experimentally, leads theory, rather than lagging it and serving to validate it. Second, architectural drawings, over and above communicating information about their subject matter, can also function as a means to create social networks of discursive practice. These insights lead to an unexpected question concerning the distinctiveness of architectural practice itself.
The Glasgow School of Art has a long history of the cultivation of the art of drawing. Many types of drawing have been taught and practiced within the institution since its establishment in 1845. Mackintosh's Glasgow School of Art building, completed between 1897 and 1909, can be seen as one great outcome of that design-through-tradition. The building not only sheltered and thus enabled a further cultivation of the art of drawing, but became itself a model for the practices of that drawing tradition. There is a strong body of work, much of it by teachers and students of the Mackintosh School of Architecture, which has focussed on the building and explored through drawing the architectonic features and significance of the structure. This work has been useful as a teaching and critical aid but also as a contribution to the art and discipline of architecture. In the wake of the first 2014 fire, which destroyed part of the building, this body of work suddenly became of use as a design tool rather than simply an exploratory or critical tool, as the institution sought to reproduce exactly what had been lost. The most recent 2018 fire wreaked a destruction much more comprehensive across the whole building. Accordingly, we are forced to completely review the relationship of that drawing heritage to the building. That is to say, the building largely no longer exists, and the drawings take on a life of their own in a way not previously attached to them. The school may, however, be rebuilt, recreated ‘as was’ at some point in the future, potentially instigating yet another type of relationship between the existing drawing work and a new ‘Mackintosh’ building.
In England, the establishment of art history as a professional discipline was consolidated by the foundation of the Courtauld Institute of Art in 1932, and the Warburg Library's move from Hamburg to London the following year due to the rise of the Nazi régime; a political situation that caused the emigration of German-speaking scholars such as Fritz Saxl, Ernst Gombrich and Rudolf Wittkower. Colin Rowe, an influential member of the second generation of historians of modern architecture, was educated as part of this cultural milieu in the postwar period, studying at the Warburg Institute in London. In the ‘Addendum 1973’ to his first published article ‘The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa’ (1947), Rowe acknowledged the Wölfflinian origins of his analysis – Saxl and Wittkower had studied under Heinrich Wölfflin – and the validity of his inherited German formal methods. This assumption, in the opinion of one of Rowe's students, the architectural historian and critic Anthony Vidler, indicated the ‘still pervasive force of the late nineteenth century German school of architectural history in England in the years after the Second World War’.
In 1956, Independent Group member Eduardo Paolozzi, close friend and collaborator of Alison and Peter Smithson, starred in the film Together, directed by Lorenza Mazzetti, who had met him while a student at the Slade School of Fine Art. Strikingly, the imagery and setting of the film shares much in common with the images used by the Smithsons in their work, particularly those by Nigel Henderson, of children playing in the East End. Together is a 52-minute film screened in 1956, as part of Free Cinema programme. East London, with its narrow streets, riversides, docks, and multiple bomb sites, as well as the manner in which this location was shot, expressed the sense of disharmony – even chaos; a scenery patched together out of the remnants of prewar daily routines; a mix of dwellings, cranes, industry, and children running among the ruins. Looking more closely at Free Cinema's use of image and at the postwar concern with childhood allows us to better understand how and why children figured in the Smithsons’ work and how they came to inspire a new creative consciousness in New Brutalism more generally.
The Fun Palace, a collaborative enterprise initiated by the radical theatre producer Joan Littlewood and architect Cedric Price in early 1960s London articulated a response to the ‘increased leisure’ available to postwar British society. A critical model for cultural production in which civics met pleasure, the Fun Palace project aimed to construct situations for playful exchange conducted through self-directed actions as a way to activate audiences. Pleasure for all – a ‘breakthrough to total enjoyment’, in opposition to what was seen as existing commodified leisure practices – became understood as a critical agenda pitched against the elitist and interventionist Labour government's 1965 White Paper, A Policy for the Arts: The First Steps. Enforcing class-based distinctions between the high arts and popular entertainment, state arts policy failed to address the key role played by the media in the rise of the leisure society. In analysing British communications in the 1960s, the cultural critic Raymond Williams argued that, rather than opposing fine art with popular entertainment, social growth could only be achieved through the circulation of public and independent media, opportunities for which were at the time limited within the corporate structure of British broadcasting and press.
Despite drawing being the first-hand work of the architect, there has not been enough discussion about where architectural drawings and models belong, and the ways in which they move and develop between sites of production, storage, and revision. It is often assumed that the mobility of drawings in the Renaissance period implied the possibility of action at a distance, allowing the architect to be absent from the fabrication site. Earlier Medieval practices of incised stone drawings and plaster drawings traced on floors determined the immobility of drawings, which made them integral parts of the building and assured the presence of the architect. However, an alternate reading is possible, which is that immovable drawings and the presence of models freed the architect, because the tools that guide construction were, in fact, in situ.
Many disciplines have taken an ‘affectual’ turn, from the philosophical lineage of Spinoza, Nietzsche to Deleuze & Guattari where affects constitute bodies according to capacities and processes of becoming, to more recent engagements with ‘new materiality’ that has redirected attention to the expressive properties of materials - matter's relational, interactive and affective capacities. Affect and its indeterminacy as a concept encourage different interpretations. This paper is situated in this complex theoretical landscape. Although numerous studies have examined how affect emerges in- and through- the occupation of architectural spaces, little analytical attention has been paid to the creative process of design and the role that affect plays in the many contingencies that arise in the process. In this context and specifically, this article explores the production and circulation of affect within architectural practices invested in image-making processes. Importantly, it illustrates how affective aspects of image-making in architecture plays a role in the process of design. The study concentrates first on the work of Sara Ahmed who provides a critical engagement with affect as a sticky process, and then extending this to incorporate such things as sticky images. An analysis of the architectural practice of Reiser +Umemoto, RUR Architecture DPC and their project for Kaohsiung Port Terminal is put forward to show how images and image-making can inform and be informed by the design process, and moreover, how they can produce certain affective economies. The article explores the usefulness affect theory in architectural discourse to provide other ways of conceptualising architectural practice beyond being governed by the generations of actual objects and clear processes of production.
This article investigates architecture's ‘expanded field’ – its turn towards culture during the 1980s when the profession expanded its interest to the softer practices of architectural culture. It looks in particular at the emerging enterprises of exhibitions, competitions and awards, publications, and symposia and lectures in the ‘long 1980s’, taken as the Academy years of AD magazine from 1977 – 1992.
This period of AD is synonymous with architectural Post-Modernism, as Academy published much of Charles Jencks’ work on Post-Modernism, including six of the seven ever-larger editions of The Language of Post-Modern Architecture.
However, by analysing the content and context of AD magazine and the wider context of architectural institutions during these years, this article argues that the Post-Modernisation of architecture should be understood not only as a mere style, but equally as the emphasis on a growing architectural culture, discourse, and the ‘ideal’, and the retreat from building and the ‘real’. In other words, this period witnessed the establishment of architectural culture as a new type of practice, and furthermore, AD was instrumental in this cultural turn.