Architecture in words???

Architecture in words???

Postby ze lemon » Sat Mar 13, 2004 2:43 pm

does anyone have any thoughts about the way architects talk about their design ?
for example what influences the way students speak in a crit??? Is it just because you want give the impression of being an architect as opposed to being an architect????

good education forms the basis of the standard of future designers,the way we speak about architecture & the terms we use to define our architecture will surely influence the way we design & thus influence the quality of the built environment of the future.

I find the lack of "plain english" in the architect vocabulary quite frustrating, especailly the way Nouvel, Libesking try to justify certain deisgn decisions.It appears to me that they are as orweel put it trying to "give an air of solidity to pure wind" but more so the knock on effect it has on the students vocab.

DISCUSS
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Postby Hugh » Sat Mar 13, 2004 3:29 pm

Always best if practising architects - as opposed to academics - refrain from intellectually justifying their own work. Too often they tie themselves up in knots and end up looking like prats. It's bad enough Rem Koolhaas doing this without everyone else having a go.

However, the key text here for serious students of the phenomenon is Adrian Forty's "Words and Buildings: a vocabulary of modern architecture" published by Thames and Hudson.
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Postby ze lemon » Sat Mar 13, 2004 3:32 pm

Yes Im a fan of that text although it relates specifically to the modernist movement.Are you aware of Thomas Marcus "the words between the spaces"???
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Postby garethace » Sat Mar 13, 2004 4:43 pm

The important distinction I think to make is between building and landscape nowadays. A large portion of what architectural students work/study at in college nowadays is directly related to building - its structure and its fabric.

But in practice, out their in the real world, it is more like the whole package.... Libeskind, Nouvel, Tschumi, Ando, Moralles, and many, many more architects nowadays are cropping up in relation to books about just landscape design - either redefining/revisiting landscape design in cities or in the countryside, or suburbia. I.e. The way people intereact and feel most comfortable with various kinds of landscapes and places.

The young student of architecture, armed with a couple of lectures in waterproofing, structural beams and a class about the building regulations .... cannot even hope to even understand any modern architect from the right way. This is where the confusion occurs, where the young student goes down to the college Library, picks up a book about Koolhaas and starts thinking about Koolhaas armed with the limited knowledge gleaned from a class in building construction.

One of the best ways to look at a Tadao Ando book is to visit a few places like St. Stephens green, or the Botanical gardens on your Saturday with nice weather, and just look at how people use these environments..... then relate what you have actually experienced to the photos of the Ando building you see in the book. Be it a Museum in Japan, full of Japaness weekend-day-trippers, or whatever.

The problem arises when you spend you whole Saturday holed up inside armed with a Tadao Ando tomb and spend hours trying to interpret the text. But our Architectural colleges do not encourage people to 'get out' once in a while..... yet so much of 'an understanding' of architecture and space depends upon just that. I assume that is why more and more students nowadays have to resort to various kinds of bullshit.

I really do think that texts like Jellicoe are becoming really relevant all of a sudden again. Examples of 'landscape' scale architecture from the past such as the Irish su-terrains, the ha'penny bridge (Calatravas pumped something new back into bridge design and more have taken up that baton too), the Palladian Irish houses and their landscaped surrounds, canals, old rail lines becoming re-used as urban parks - these things are all becoming much more topical nowadays again.

For a while there, they just evaporated from the architectural scene..... but they are well back. In a way, Tschumi's park de la Vilette in the 1980s fore-saw all of this..... I guess La Vilette was a response to dealing with growing peripheral suburbs, and car-driven infrastructure. Dunno.

Bear in mind, when Le Corbusier photo-ed his beautiful 'object' buildings with a Citroen in front of them..... traffic still had not yet 'eroded' public space to the same degree as it has now.

But for me, it is hard while studying a degree course in Architecture with lots and lots of 'building-centric' learning and study to do...... to perhaps make that 'jump' in terms of recognition of what the big contemporary practioners in architecture..... the Libeskinds of this world are doing today...... which is largely to make public open spaces, and sense of place an integral part of our environment again, after so many years of this being ignored by the profession.

In a way Stirling, Post-Modernism, Rossi, Bacon, Krier, Scarpa even and lots of other '1980s' type people like Tschumi are responsible for putting issues of open public space etc back on the map, in architectural practice. I think 'Charles Jencks' even did a nice park recently up in Edinburgh.

Even in Dublin you can see examples of that shift back to 'urban landscaping' in projects like the Liffey Board walk and the Wolf Tone Park. Just passed Wolf Tone park today and it was being used for 'low-rent' inner city selling stand kind of commerce.... a huge difference from a public space at the heart of Dublin which wasn't even used all through the 1980s/90s.

As I have said, this is a huge shift in terms of emphasis for the architectural profession, having largely ignored open public spaces for years and years - it is now re-discovering the existence of these issues once more.

It is just that architectural college is still too 'building-centric' and the practicioners like the Koolhaas, Libeskind etc, while having a very simple and straightforward job of going around the world and 're-instating' public space in cities today..... are largely mis-understood and mis-interpreted by both the student population out there and the lecturing staff.

Lecturing staff themselves simply have not got the vocabulary or familiarity with 'landscape' sized issues about space and its use by people..... to constructively answer a larger portion of the 'questions' which students are trying to ask.

Or if the lecturing staff DO understand something about open public spatial design.... then they find it damned difficult to get across to a bunch of students.... believe me I have witnessed several attempts.... and the phrase 'that flew over my head' definitely springs to my mind.

A bit like parents and sex education with young kids maybe.... dunno. :) It is hard for today's crop of young students to be informed enough in order to practice 'safe architecture'. :) Years ago it was simpler, you just didn't talk about those things. LOL! And didn't ask too many questions about Po-Mo....



Brian O' Hanlon.
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Postby garethace » Sat Mar 13, 2004 5:18 pm

A major part of my motivation for starting this thread:

http://www.archiseek.com/content/showthread.php?s=&threadid=2744

was to enable with me to deal a little bit, in some small way with this same problem. I.e. Just getting 'comfortable' with talking about these issues.
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Postby Hugh » Sat Mar 13, 2004 8:57 pm

Well, Mr/Ms Lemon - shall we call you "Ze" - this is an extraordinarily fascinating subject.

To what extent are buildings built at least partly from words? They are certainly influenced by words, as the Markus book makes clear.

They are also influenced by the tools at the architect's disposal, be that a 6B pencil or Autocad. Rex Wilkinson of CZWG architects once wrote a fascinating article saying how he could generally detect the architects' drawing implement of choice in the finished building.

But to return to words - a recent memoir of Sir Denys Lasdun by his son James recounted how Lasdun always felt inferior to other architects of his generation because he could not talk the talk. I suspect he may have been thinking of the Smithsons, famous for intellectualising everything.

But who, in the end, was the best architect of that generation? Lasdun or Stirling, who both wrote relatively little and generally mistrusted would-be intellectuals, or the Smithsons, who theorised first and then built, with mixed results?
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Postby ze lemon » Sat Mar 13, 2004 9:08 pm

What got me thinking about this subject was " the striling prize" on c4 a number of years ago where RIBA were keen on having a "layperson" on the judging panel however they eventually dropped the idea beacuse they feared that a layperson may not understand the architects terms. What terms these were i dont know however it got me thinking that if archispeak is so exclusive then is architecture just for architects???
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Postby garethace » Sun Mar 14, 2004 8:41 pm

Well to quote old G.K. Chesterson, who once said it is the simplest things in life which are indeed the most amazing. The best architecture always starts from this starting point.... but that isn't as 'easy' as it sounds.

The natural instinct of the lay person would be just to 'glance over' these ordinary things.... whereas it is the duty of a good aspiring architect/student to rationalise, ordinary but nonetheless very amazing behaviours of most ordinary people.

I compare it to peoples' discomfort experienced with a camera pointing towards them.... they don't like it. Our celebs are proof of this. But that architect doesn't have the luxury of putting his/her hand up against the camera and saying 'go away'.... the architect is him/herself generally behind the camera.

An architect is duty bound to actually see how some very ordinary things which people have been doing since god only knows when. I used the old examples of archaeology, old transit systems being reused, old bridges and that sort of thing.

It is possible with a college course to completely avoid the sense that people will 'use' your architecture, what you draw, or design.... avoiding having to deal with the 'ordinariness' and amazment of everyday activities of people.

Doing 'History of Architecture' or some other 'god awful' subject in college, you may study an old Temple that is now stuck right in the middle of a jungle, or some ruined old village from a by-gone age.... we forget these places were once thriving centres of economies etc.

Hence why I think it is useful to look at some parallels in everyday life today, in that environment that people live and use.
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Postby Hugh » Mon Mar 15, 2004 10:29 am

The lay juror is still there - indeed is enshrined in the whole RIBA awards system, including the Stirling Prize. At last year's Stirling it was pop vixen (and daughter of a quantity surveyor) Justine Frischmann.

Architects are often poor judges of other architects' work because they get stuck on the issue of style. If it's not their chosen style, they won't rate it.
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Postby ze lemon » Mon Mar 15, 2004 11:43 am

No its not, Justine Frishmann is a qualified architect who now presents architeture programmes on BBC3!! A little too qualiifed to be described as a layperson.
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Postby Hugh » Mon Mar 15, 2004 12:58 pm

Don't think she's qualified, but I take the point. Anyhow, also on the jury was the novelist Julian Barnes. Trust me on this one: the lay juror is still a fixture.
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Postby ze lemon » Mon Mar 15, 2004 1:18 pm

Apologies, what do you make of the notion that the architects private professional language limits a discussion on architecture to architects?
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Postby Hugh » Mon Mar 15, 2004 1:39 pm

It's true but perhaps inevitable.

There are two kinds of private architectural language - the language of pragmatism (the professional shorthand architects use when communicating with each other and related professions) and intellectualese, as practised by architects with a manifesto position and, usually, a high opinion of themselves.

The first is understandable - all trades and professions must have their codes and shorthands, and they should not be (and usually are not) addressed to the public.

The second is less excusable in my view: but this is because I tend to take the perhaps simplistic position that real architects should build, and leave the talking, and the interpretation, to academics. Of course many building architects are also academics, so I admit my position is wide open to challenge.

Daniel Libeskind, noted for his high intellectual position, nevertheless is brilliant at conveying his ideas to the general public. Whether you admire his work or not, that is an achievement.

Koolhaas, on the other hand, delights in obfuscation.
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Postby alan d » Mon Mar 15, 2004 2:08 pm

Don't go to the RIAS Conventions any longer........complete waste of time. The higher the architect in the international rankings the more obscure the talk and desperate the performance, has been my experience.

Interestingly enough I've often been told after a talk of mine that it was the most lucid and down right informative and frankly funny lecture anyone has ever attended
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Postby ze lemon » Mon Mar 15, 2004 2:52 pm

How very modest of you Alan, & what was the title of this lecture??
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Postby alan d » Mon Mar 15, 2004 3:00 pm

Happens every time ze............. just one damn lecture after another.

Hey ho.......could be the balloon animals bit though or the wine tasting.
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Postby Hugh » Mon Mar 15, 2004 6:50 pm

Wit in architectural lectures - rare as anything, but you welcome it when you find it like an oasis in the desert. Honesty is even more rare. Went to a good lecture by Alex de Rijke the other night that was both reasonably witty and reasonably honest, about the process of refurbishing a school.

And the only intellectual position I could detect was his list-making methodology: Alex seems to get into the idea of a building through making relatively banal lists of requirements and intentions. This comes back to your words thing, Lemon.

The high-tech veterans tend to fight shy of archispeak, too: you don't find Foster or Grimshaw or Rogers quoting Foucault at you. But I gather this sort of thing happens a lot at the Bartlett and the AA.
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Postby ze lemon » Mon Mar 15, 2004 7:34 pm

I'd agree that some are more guilty than others, some of the most ridicolous hyberbolae ive come across is on Jean Nouvels website, Id agree with Koolhaus also been a culprit.
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Postby alan d » Tue Mar 16, 2004 11:52 am

London Metropolitan University

interesting juxtaposition between Ellis Woodman in this weeks Building Design and Barrie Evans in the AJ.

Both have a question and answer format, Woodman is satirical, however the AJ could not get further up Libeskind's backside if it had a mining lamp and pickaxe.

What a dilema........who to believe and what small feet Libeskind has
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Postby alan d » Tue Mar 16, 2004 12:01 pm

but hold on ........Isabel Allen in the AJ editorial writes "Libeskind is perfectly happy to peddle his partiular brand of shiny , jaggedy corners and deconstructed theory to pretty much any commission he chooses to accept"

Now I'm really confused
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Postby FIN » Tue Mar 16, 2004 12:31 pm

this is a very interesting subject. my question is, ok..the top lads may be allowed to describe their projects in such terms as to boggle the mind of average joe punter but if the small fish start then are we just distanceing ourselves from the public and rein-forcing the view that most builders/tradesmen have of architect's...ie that we are stuck up our own arse. i have found that we are treated with mis-trust straight away but cos i'm very straight talking then i can usually get over that ( i am doing what i can for the image of the profession :-) ). but even clients get sick of the bull-shit and would prefer to have a straight talking architect. now, this isn't exactly what college professors want from a young architect as they seem to want people that talk through their arse...i know they want a large fish to come from their college( raises profile and presumbly funding) but is it practical?
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Postby alan d » Tue Mar 16, 2004 12:52 pm

"straight talking" you?............ get away.

According to the new Lonely Planet Guide, Scotland has forty different words to describe being drunk..........guttered, pished, blootered and so on.

This morning in our office I overheard this converstation

"How'd the weekend go, Chuck"?....... "Can't remember, totally feckin Libeskind'....... woke up seeing jagged walls and sloping ceilings"
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Postby FIN » Tue Mar 16, 2004 12:58 pm

:D
i like that..... only works when talking to other architect's though. i hope he woke up beside some nice girl though to offset the whole washing machine stomach.
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Postby Rory W » Thu Mar 18, 2004 11:20 am

From The Indo's report on the new Facade for the Royal Dublin Hotel:

"The syncopated rhythm of large and small apertures across the facade echoes the shifted juxtaposition of windows seen across party wall lines in Dublin's Georgian streetscapes," Albert Noonan of Ashlin Coleman explains.

Clear and concise wouldn't you say!
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Postby alan d » Thu Mar 18, 2004 11:29 am

yep......could'nt really be any clearer.

Painting a picture in words.

Well done Albert
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