Architecture (in words)

Architecture (in words)

Postby gunter » Wed Oct 29, 2008 1:42 am

The RIAI bring out a monthly journal with the catchy title of 'Architecture, the journal of the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland' and invariably there's stuff in it that really should reach a wider audience.

The president's column, particularly under the hand of current incumbent Sean O'Laoire, is often a happy hunting ground for mischief and this months piece, continuing as it does earlier interwoven themes of recessionary gloom with vineculture, is no exception. There is a suspicion that the column itself may be becomming increasingly fluted, but we leave that aside for the moment to reflect on the substance of the piece.

Essentially, deepening recession and global melt-down are threatening a cull of the architectural profession, of puppy seal proportions, and reflecting this, doom laden biblical references abound throughout the column.

Image

The passages that particularly stand out are these:

[INDENT]''As we watch the demise of hyper capitalism, there's no Messiah on the horizon.

There is now a gaping void left by the dismal sciences that can, and must, be filled by architects and allied thinkers and practitioners. A new landscape''
[/INDENT]

Like all good biblical passages, this is a cryptic message and requires interpretation.

I will interpret it.

'Messiah on the horizon' could be a reference to the closing scene in 'Life of Brian' where the Messiah (with a couple of dozen others) was seen nailed up on the horrizon to wooden crosses, perhaps a reference to timber frame construction, we'll come back to that.

Some will see the reference to 'the dismal sciences' as having to do with the Leaving Cert, but that would be disingenuous, O'Laoire is on a higher level than that.

Third level, if I'm not mistaken. If we see 'the dismal sciences' in this context, O'Laoire's reference starts to make sense as shorthand for the three primary faculties of higher education; cold commerce, the black arts, and, the dismal sciences.

'The gaping void' to be filled (by out of work architects) is nothing less than the whole structure of university education. Hence forth, all university courses are to be taught through the medium of architecture!

Molecular chemists will get to grips with basic building blocks, chartered accountants will calculate in U-values, Philosophy graduates will get a grounding in spacial awareness and mathematicians will finally see things in perspective.

This would indeed be 'a new landscape' but, just in case, and because in all walks of life, not everyone will be able to keep up with the new architecture of education, some low points courses may be taught through the medium of landscape architecture.

From the very depths of a construction industry melt down, O'Laoire has given us a glimpse of a new promised land, you can almost see the toes of the crosses twitching to ''Don't worry be happy, no need to go to Abu Dhabi''

'Messiah on the horrizon', I'm still stuck on that one, who could O'Laoire be thinking of . .
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby keating » Thu Oct 30, 2008 6:09 pm

There is 'no messiah' i.e. there will be no recovery, no bounce, no floor. Hope is the worst eneemy of the damned. Get used to de-growth as he said at PLEA. (The future is descent economics or ecomonics piggybacking oil production graphs, i.e downhill from here). Dubai/bahrain/abudabai will come to a standstill in a few months, nobody is buying the awful apartments they are building. Start learning cantonese.

I like his mention of R+D in architecture, with the exception of UCD ERG, Science in Architecture and Arch Technology is largely absent.
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby parka » Fri Oct 31, 2008 11:27 am

I've never read the President's column
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby gunter » Fri Oct 31, 2008 12:21 pm

See what you're missing!
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby parka » Fri Oct 31, 2008 1:42 pm

gunter wrote:See what you're missing!


€600 plus for my membership each year.
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby gunter » Fri Oct 31, 2008 3:17 pm

parka, you're forgetting that you also get a rubber stamp!
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby parka » Fri Oct 31, 2008 5:35 pm

gunter wrote:parka, you're forgetting that you also get a rubber stamp!


€48 extra sadly (I only used it once this month) :mad:
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby gunter » Mon Nov 17, 2008 2:18 pm

I hadn't realized that 'The Sunday Times' still did an Architecture piece in the Culture section, but since someone kindly abandoned a copy outside Superquin, I now know that they do.

The subject of Shane O'Toole's soft focus was the East Wall Community Centre, by O'Donnell + Tuomey.

Image

As usual, there never seems to be anything critical in a critical analysis, just ever more inventive ways to combine words in shameless hagiolatry.

I'm not saying that O'Toole dodges the hard questions and the issue of the roundy windows is addressed with the acknowledgement that '. . . these playful perforations . . . (have) given rise to an affectionate and irreverent nickname: the SwissCheese.'

Other passages plucked at random:

'The gardens, which heighten the relationship of indoor to outdoor space, are something new in ODT's work.' Suggestions of a bit of a breakthrough here, windows between the inside and the outside, and the gardens cleverly placed on the outside!

''The planting, dense and dark like a forest floor, is such a luxury.'' a gob-smacked quote from Tuomey himself.

'Unlike most contemporary architects . . . . ODT's architectural desire is for a sort of everyday ordinariness elevated through the careful marks of its making.' This is where I've been going wrong, I've mastered the everyday ordinariness, but I'd forgotten to mark it's making.

'Poured-in-place concrete reveals the conditions of the construction site in the finished building, in the same way that locally quarried stones connect a medieval tower-house to it's surrounding field pattern.'

I'll read that again:

'Poured-in-place concrete reveals the conditions of the construction site in the finished building, in the same way that locally quarried stones connect a medieval tower-house to it's surrounding field pattern.'

Even if we accept this, somewhat tenuous, comparison, Shane goes on to tell us that: ' . . PJ Hegarty, the builders, spent three weeks cafefully hand-sanding smooth all of the concrete surfaces.' ! ! Surely that will have erased the very 'conditions of the construction site' that the 'poured-in-place concrete revealed', no?

Anyway ''The battle'' as Tuomey is reported as saying, ''is between identity and placelessness, between character and the bleak terrain'', and that's where the article ends, nothing about, why is the concrete tower apparently painted baby blue?
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby shadow » Mon Nov 17, 2008 10:30 pm

Gushy gushy, the most apologetic piece written in a long time and as for the building, a patchwork of ideas, which in their own right mioght be ok, but you could probably find some building where these emerged before. Also the Norman tower house makes its appearance again, is there an axis between ODT and Tom de Paor, the offspring, revolving around a singular icon of occupation. Is this the higher ground, the equivalent of Le Corbusier's, elite of artists and intellectuals at the heart of Cite Contemporaine.

Next time you are travelling along the Contarf sea front have a look at the seating selters in conctret with their curved roofs, "round windows" and pale blue/green paint finish. Remarkable sense of deja vu.....
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby phil » Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:21 pm

I have pretty much stopped reading any architectural journalism. Particularly in this country. I think it is fair to say that what might be loosely termed an 'avant garde' has become the mainstream and the level of acceptable criticism is now limited by the extent to which everyone seems to know everyone else. Practically every piece written now gushes from start to finish, remarking about how the architect has created 'a sense of place' or something to that effect.
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby henno » Tue Nov 18, 2008 12:38 pm

shadow wrote:Gushy gushy, the most apologetic piece written in a long time and as for the building, a patchwork of ideas, which in their own right mioght be ok, but you could probably find some building where these emerged before. Also the Norman tower house makes its appearance again, is there an axis between ODT and Tom de Paor, the offspring, revolving around a singular icon of occupation. Is this the higher ground, the equivalent of Le Corbusier's, elite of artists and intellectuals at the heart of Cite Contemporaine.

Next time you are travelling along the Contarf sea front have a look at the seating selters in conctret with their curved roofs, "round windows" and pale blue/green paint finish. Remarkable sense of deja vu.....


reminds me of bus shelters prevalent in Holland 15 years ago....
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby missarchi » Tue Nov 18, 2008 2:02 pm

I admire fresco stone work its writing on the wall the chefe is novo mais mais
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby Paul Clerkin » Tue Nov 18, 2008 5:28 pm

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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby gunter » Fri Dec 19, 2008 1:19 am

The RIAI Journal's President's Column is too downbeat this month to get much cheer out of it, but in compensation, there's one of those gurgling, gushing, reviews on page 34, this time of 'Alto Vetro'.

Image

The review is by a Professor Hatz, who looks suitably Swedish in her thumbnail photograph.

[INDENT]'Through it's elegantly slender figure it attracts from far and, by effect of contrast, amplifies the effect of the geometrically cut water surface beneath.'[/INDENT]

I think we can see which way this is going.

[INDENT]'The other nice thing about about Alto Vetro tower is that although figuring as an object-like building, thin and tall - it really is a building and not a blown up object'[/INDENT]

That's going to be a relief for anyone who's put down a deposit.

[INDENT]This building plays on a type of clarity, which goes beyond the rational towards the super fine. It's coolness is of a Grace Jones type, a black, singular beauty with a twist - unique and exclusive, sharp and exposed. . . . what it gives back is a fabulous figure in active dialogue with it's site . . '[/INDENT]

[INDENT]'A setting calling out for something strong and consolidating, yet matching and reinforcing the mills and the waters. A well calibrated trumpet blow in the jam session.'[/INDENT]

That's probably fair enough, but if 'Alto Vetro' is 'a well calibrated trumpet blow', I want to bring her back next year to pronounce that 'Monte Vetro' is a fart in the corner.

For all it's inventive use of language, what the review doesn't ask is, why is the ground floor so low and mundane?
and why does the top end with a half hearted set-back?

From what I can see, all the most sucessful tall buildings in history have had a base and a top. The good ones that choose to read as an 'object' without a separately defined top depend even more on being lifted off the ground on a plinth or piloti or somthing to make the presentation of the 'object' deliberate.

Prof. Hatz does redeem herself somewhat at the end by stating boldly that:

[INDENT]'Dublin architects ought to protest vividly against the pulling down of the Mills! Because without them, and with a proliferation of bad, distorted copies of the one-offs, Dublin will become anonymous, diluted and banal'[/INDENT]

I'm assuming that 'the pulling down of the Mills' is a euphemism for the pulling down of anything that contributes to the character of the city.
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby spoil_sport » Fri Dec 19, 2008 2:08 am

"From what I can see, all the most sucessful tall buildings in history have had a base and a top. The good ones that choose to read as an 'object' without a separately defined top depend even more on being lifted off the ground on a plinth or piloti or somthing to make the presentation of the 'object' deliberate."

That's a fair point gunter, but in this case I have to disagree, I think the proportions work, the top and bottom are expressed by being repressed, I think it is a subtle take on that expression; It is too small for the base to be overworked. I particularly enjoy the symmetrical stairs to the roof, which to my mind, bear some reference to a crown, possibly even to P.J.s AT&T, but using the elements of the building to do so, rather than an applied decoration.
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby ctesiphon » Fri Dec 19, 2008 10:50 am

gunter wrote:'Dublin architects ought to protest vividly...


Protest vividly? Like this?

Image

Also, her Grace Jones comparison makes me think of that great scene in L.A. Story where Steve Martin is standing in a gallery giving a stream-of-consciousness analysis of a painting:

I like the relationships. I mean, each character has his own story. The puppy is a bit too much, but you have to over look things like that in these kinds of paintings. The way he's holding her, it's almost... filthy. I mean, he's about to kiss her and she's pulling away. The way the leg's sort of smashed up against her...
Phew... Look how he's painted the blouse sort of translucent. You can just make out her breasts underneath and it's sort of touching him about here. It's really ... pretty torrid, don't you think? Then of course you have the onlookers peeking at them from behind the doorway like they're all shocked. They wish. Yeah, I must admit, when I see a painting like this, I get emotionally ..... erect.


The painting is a red rectangle.
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby missarchi » Fri Dec 19, 2008 11:41 am

gunter wrote:The RIAI Journal's President's Column is too downbeat this month to get much cheer out of it, but in compensation, there's one of those gurgling, gushing, reviews on page 34, this time of 'Alto Vetro'.


Mabye he is taking a siesta and will come back in the new year for a Blitzkrieg.
He needs Santa's little helpers! any way I'm sure its not been an easy time...
But hopefully all the goals of his tenure will be meet, its getting to the time where there is nothing to lose and the whole world to gain. :p I hope he is back in form soon:p
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby gunter » Fri Dec 19, 2008 11:23 pm

spoil_sport wrote:I think the proportions work, the top and bottom are expressed by being repressed, I think it is a subtle take on that expression; It is too small for the base to be overworked. I particularly enjoy the symmetrical stairs to the roof, which to my mind, bear some reference to a crown, possibly even to P.J.s AT&T, but using the elements of the building to do so, rather than an applied decoration.


'Expressed by being repressed' . . . . . oh I'm going to use that phrase!

ImageImage
Altro Vetro in the distance from Ringsend Road . . . . . . . . . . . . . . and from Pearse Street.

On the top, I see where you're coming from, but while I agree that the symmetrical stairs work as a design device in the distant views, In a sense this feature is every bit as contrived as the AT&Ts broken pediment, which at least is honest in displaying it's decorative properties. At Altro Verto the configuration of the roof stairs looks like it's been designed to suggests some kind of fundamental structural hanging system (not unlike Mackintosh did with the superfluous hanging chains in the top floor galleries of the Glasgow school of Art), when in fact they're just duplicate access stairs to the roof.

Either way, I'll give you the top, but I can't agree that the base works. I know it's a small building, but it's got the proportions of a very tall building and I think the proportions of the ground floor need to reflect that, and they don't, they're far too low.

Anyway it's only a small point, but I want an architectural review to probe these aspects too, not just gush on about how great the building is.
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby missarchi » Fri Jan 09, 2009 6:53 am

what does the president have to say for the new year?
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby reddy » Fri Jan 23, 2009 10:06 am

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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby gunter » Fri Jan 23, 2009 10:29 am

OK,
[INDENT]that was a bit weird![/INDENT]

What colour were the deckchairs on the Titanic, does anyone know?
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby Paul Clerkin » Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:47 pm

"Which brings me to female architects. Beards and pipes are not obvious female accessories though I have encountered a bearded lady or two in my time, and indeed some Danish ladies who smoked pipes with some style."
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby PTB » Sat Jan 24, 2009 10:47 am

Charming ramblings of a senile old man
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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby missarchi » Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:13 pm

I think he is in the know and being honest/upbeat...
At least it is interesting to read you take what ever you want out of it...

black and white back in time...
Some previous presidents where ever so formal...
However I was impressed with the Tado inclinations but I still don't feel they have been translated from Japanese to Irish quite well there is still erring...

It's a Calatrava is a great quote there is no underground in venice...
I hope we will get a coolboom one day...
whats happening with the government policy on architecture 3 x 3 = 9 only time will tell

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Re: Architecture (in words)

Postby gunter » Thu Jan 29, 2009 12:27 am

missarchi wrote:what does the president have to say for the new year?


They appear to have cut off my supply, . . . . may have to look for scraps elsewhere!

Ah! here's a decent article by Mark Stephens in Self-Build, Extend & Renovate Ireland http://selfbuild.ie entitled 'Iconic Houses 2: Space and Light'

I haven't got the patience to read the whole article, but have you noticed how often architects take credit for 'Space and Light'?

Were dealing with new houses . . . in the countryside! . . . I think the 'Space and Light' might have been there before they started!

Maybe clients should bring their own 'Articles of Agreement' to the table at the first meeting: First item: I'm giving you a half acre site to work with, please don't screw up my Space and Light.

The article refers back to Mies Van Der Rohe (subject of an earlier article) and the new concept of Space and Light. Mies, who I love, and Corb, who I love even more, did sell the Modern Movement with the tag line 'Space and Light' when all their great buildings are actually about, what architecture has always been about, composition!

Obviously I'm out of my depth here, but pressing on regardless,. . . . not composition in a shallow, two-dimentional, way, but still composition in the conscious invention and arrangement of the elements of a building into a satisfying whole. Everyone knows that the genius of the Modern Movement was in being able to imagine a new aesthetic, free from historical precedents, but the success of every single building still depended on the skill of the individual composition.

Anyway the article goes on about sunken 'eco' houses and grass roofs etc. (when you design a house to commune with nature, what stop nature from communing right back?) and it brings up a very useful analogy that a house is basically part cave and part tent. I can live with that, but if we're going to start developing a new 'eco' architecture that gets back to basics like this, we're going to encounter new aesthetic possibilities, and when we do, we can't afford to forget the principal of composition. You can have the finest ideology in the world, but if your building looks like a glazed skip, are you not failing the composition test?

The difference between architectural composition and musical composition is that in music, time and taste filters out the unsuccessful efforts which are quickly forgotten leaving the great works and the cheerful jingles to undure. In architecture these filters don't work, the bad stuff is every bit as likely to endure as the good stuff and when eventually decisions are take to redevelop, the good stuff is just as likely to end up in the skip as the bad.

Still, there's a lot of good, thought-provoking, stuff out there at the moment, in Leitrim and places like that.
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