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Month June 2010

Monsieur Qui + Mezzoforte, Paris

From unurth

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Ethos, Paris

From unurth

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Schizophrenic / Autonomous Architecture

One should ask not whether architecture is autonomous, or whether it can willfully be made so, but rather how it can be that the question arises in the first place, what kind of situation allows for architecture to worry about itself to this degree.

And so Eisenman’s effort to push architecture into this new era is driven by a felt historical imperative: to represent the inner logic of the object in the object itself is necessary not because of some subjective decision to exclude other considerations but because of a historical evolution crucial, if not unique, to the discipline of architecture, which delegitimizes older meanings, demands that the cultural content of an older functionalism migrate into an autonomous architecture, and concludes that the true revolutionary artist of our time is not Karel Teige or Hannes Meyer but the seemingly apolitical logothete of an “atemporal, decompositional mode.”

The contemporary struggle of architecture to return to itself through autonomous formal operations alerts us not to architecture’s success, but to its coming to grief against a historical moment, one that shuts down certain social functions that architecture had previously performed.

K. Michael Hays, The Oppositions of Autonomy and History, Oppositions reader introduction, xi, x, xiii

Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library

Via ArchDaily, by Adelyn Perez:

Architect: Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill
Location: New Haven, Connecticut
Client: Yale University
Project Area: 125,262 square feet
Project Year: Completed in 1963
Photographs: Courtesy of Ezra Stoller of Esto Photographics
References: Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill

Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is the largest building in the world dedicated to the containment and preservation of rare books, manuscripts, and documents. It was designed by Gordon Bunshaft of Skidmore, Owings, & Merrill and is located in New Haven, Connecticut. Prior to the completion of this project, Yale University placed its rare books on special shelving in Dwight Hall, which was the Old Library in the late 19th century. In 1930 these special books were relocated to Rare Book Room collection in the Sterling Memorial Library. The Beinecke library was a gift from the Beinecke family, and since 1963 has accomodated six major collections in its rare and marvelous structure that coincides with the literary gems it stores, including those from the Rare Book Room. The major collections are the General Collection, which are divided into the General Collection of Early Books and Manuscripts and the General Collection of Modern Books and Manuscripts, the Collection of American Literature, the Collection of German Literature, the Collection of Western Americana, and the Osborn Collection of British Literary and Historical Manuscripts

The main concern that both SOM and Yale University considered in the design of the library was the preservation of the documents within it. The challenge was to provide ample lighting in the interior for people to study and read and to make it a pleasantly habitable space while limiting the amount of light that affects the stored volumes. The response became a beautiful choice of classic materials gleaming amongst the neo-Classical and neo-Gothic buildings surrounding the library in the Hewitt University Quadrangle on the campus.

Made of Vermont marble and granite, bronze and glass, the exterior gives the illusion that the building is completely solid when viewed from the outside. It’s “windows,” blocked in a consistent linear rythmn along the exterior, consist of white, gray-veined marble panes that are one and one-quarter inches thick and are framed by shaped light gray Vermont Woodbury granite. The sleak marble allows for enough light to filter into the interior spaces without damaging the collections. The structure that frames these rectangular blocks consists of of Vierendeel trusses, high, and 88′ and 131′ long, which transfer their loads to four massive corner columns. The trusses are made out of of prefabricated, tapered steel crosses which are covered with grey granite on the outside and with precast granite aggregate concrete on the inside.

The beauty of the library is enhanced by the large open plaza in which it is located. Visitors enter from the ground level into a glass-enclosed lobby that reveals the grand exhibition hall that holds the books. Beneath this level are two stories which contain the mechanical equiptmnt and large book stack space on the lower level, and another stack space, catalog and reference room, reading room and staff offices arranged around a sunken court designed by Isamu Noguchi on the upper level.

When visitors first enter the building they are faced by two large marble staircases that ascend up to the mezzanine level and a large glass tower that is the central core of the building. The mezzanine level allows for people to rotate around the glass tower which holds 180,000 volumes, centralizing the main purpose of the library. In total the library presently holds 500,000 volumes and several million manuscripts, and SOM’s design serves to preserve and glorify the billions of words inscribed inside each rare book.

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Licence to Spill

Veiled protesters tar and feather the entrance to a BP sponsored event at the Tate, in London.

On the evening of the 28th of June at approx 7:15pm, Liberate Tate in protest over BP’s sponsorship of the arts performed a “Solemn” oil like spill at the Tate’s Summer party.

Dressed in black and veiled the performers carrying black buckets with BP logos spewed molasses over the entrance way as onlookers watched in amazement as the Portland stone floor was consumed by the black oil like mess.

Feathers were scattered and filled the air and in the same manner of approach the artists gracefully paced their escape.

“Apart from catastrophic spills like the Deepwater Horizon, there are a whole host of adverse impacts that are associated with the production of oil. On the local level, it often involves extreme forms of pollution for local communities, while regionally oil is frequently associated with greater militarization and conflict. Globally, carbon emissions, oil companies, and our collective dependence on the product they push, are taking us ever closer to the edge of climate catastrophe.”

Red//Green

Music of Shep & Me; video by Hazed Nostalgia.

Le Parcours du Tour 2010 en 3D

Eastway

By James Brown; from general pattern.

Science Historian Cracks the Plato Code

Via PhysOrg:

A science historian at The University of Manchester has cracked “The Plato Code” – the long disputed secret messages hidden in the great philosopher’s writings.

Plato was the Einstein of Greece’s Golden Age and his work founded Western culture and science. Dr Jay Kennedy’s findings are set to revolutionize the history of the origins of Western thought.

Dr Kennedy, whose findings are published in the leading US journal Apeiron, reveals that Plato used a regular pattern of symbols, inherited from the ancient followers of Pythagoras, to give his books a musical structure. A century earlier, Pythagoras had declared that the planets and stars made an inaudible music, a ‘harmony of the spheres’. Plato imitated this hidden music in his books.

The hidden codes show that Plato anticipated the Scientific Revolution 2,000 years before Isaac Newton, discovering its most important idea – the book of nature is written in the language of mathematics. The decoded messages also open up a surprising way to unite science and religion. The awe and beauty we feel in nature, Plato says, shows that it is divine; discovering the scientific order of nature is getting closer to God. This could transform today’s culture wars between science and religion.

“Plato’s books played a major role in founding Western culture but they are mysterious and end in riddles,” Dr Kennedy, at Manchester’s Faculty of Life Sciences explains.

“In antiquity, many of his followers said the books contained hidden layers of meaning and secret codes, but this was rejected by modern scholars.

“It is a long and exciting story, but basically I cracked the code. I have shown rigorously that the books do contain codes and symbols and that unraveling them reveals the hidden philosophy of Plato.

“This is a true discovery, not simply reinterpretation.”

This will transform the early history of Western thought, and especially the histories of ancient science, mathematics, music, and philosophy.

Dr Kennedy spent five years studying Plato’s writing and found that in his best-known work the Republic he placed clusters of words related to music after each twelfth of the text – at one-twelfth, two-twelfths, etc. This regular pattern represented the twelve notes of a Greek musical scale. Some notes were harmonic, others dissonant. At the locations of the harmonic notes he described sounds associated with love or laughter, while the locations of dissonant notes were marked with screeching sounds or war or death. This musical code was key to cracking Plato’s entire symbolic system.

Dr Kennedy, a researcher in the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, says: “As we read his books, our emotions follow the ups and downs of a musical scale. Plato plays his readers like musical instruments.”

However Plato did not design his secret patterns purely for pleasure – it was for his own safety. Plato’s ideas were a dangerous threat to Greek religion. He said that mathematical laws and not the gods controlled the universe. Plato’s own teacher had been executed for heresy. Secrecy was normal in ancient times, especially for esoteric and religious knowledge, but for Plato it was a matter of life and death. Encoding his ideas in secret patterns was the only way to be safe.

Plato led a dramatic and fascinating life. Born four centuries before Christ, when Sparta defeated plague-ravaged Athens, he wrote 30 books and founded the world’s first university, called the Academy. He was a feminist, allowing women to study at the Academy, the first great defender of romantic love (as opposed to marriages arranged for political or financial reasons) and defended homosexuality in his books. In addition, he was captured by pirates and sold into slavery before being ransomed by friends.

Dr Kennedy explains: “Plato’s importance cannot be overstated. He shifted humanity from a warrior society to a wisdom society. Today our heroes are Einstein and Shakespeare – and not knights in shining armor – because of him.”

Over the years Dr Kennedy carefully peeled back layer after symbolic layer, sharing each step in lectures in Manchester and with experts in the UK and US.

He recalls: “There was no Rosetta Stone. To announce a result like this I needed rigorous, independent proofs based on crystal-clear evidence.

“The result was amazing – it was like opening a tomb and finding new set of gospels written by Jesus Christ himself.

“Plato is smiling. He sent us a time capsule.”

Dr Kennedy’s findings are not only surprising and important; they overthrow conventional wisdom on Plato. Modern historians have always denied that there were codes; now Dr Kennedy has proved otherwise.

He adds: “This is the beginning of something big. It will take a generation to work out the implications. All 2,000 pages contain undetected symbols.”

Plato quoted:

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

“If women are expected to do the same work as men, we must teach them the same things.”

“Ignorance: the root of all evil.”

“Only the dead have seen the end of war.”

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something.”

The Sphere and the Labyrinth

Contrary to those who pose the theme of architectural writing—the term “language” should, it seems to us, be adopted only as a metaphor—we shall present the theme of critical writing: is it not the function of criticism to constitute the historical (and thus the real) specificity of artistic writings? Does not historical work posses a language that, entering perpetually into conflict with the multiple techniques of environmental formation, can function like litmus paper to verify the correctness of discourses on architecture?

Manfredo Tafuri, The Sphere and the Labyrinth, 1-2