Thursday, August 21, 2003
I’ve stepped into the garden to listen once more to the sounds in the chestnut tree. Sounds, that appear at once clandestine, spooky, and strangely inflated. Their reverb ricochets off the tree, and mixes with the humid summer nights that have been sustained for much of August.
The leaves of the chestnut tree are the color of deep tobacco, leaving just a few specks from last spring’s green abundance. This year the chestnut leaves are at their biggest ever. Its huge hands; almost 40 centimeter in diameter; have gone limp. Incapacitated fingers are drooping downwards, slowly crumbling under the influence of draught, disease and seasonal fatigue.
The leaves, it appears, are slowly being eaten alive. The dismantling started in spring with an infestation caused by tiny moths, which put their eggs in the blossom buds of the chestnut; causing the foliage to become tainted with rusty spots as early as June. If occasionally in the evening; I sit reading under the tree’s crumpled and decaying canopy; the wind stifled- and everything quiet- eerie sounds pop from out of the tree.
An aural tapestry is emitted from the leaves overhead, the foliage crackles and rustles. The sounds are tiny, but appear to have been amplified. As I am peeking through the cluster of leaves where the sounds seem to emanate from; I finally spot the well camouflaged, matchstick-shaped wasps, which are deftly cutting away pieces from each infested leaf. It stirs me that a creature so small in size should be the cause of that gnawing and ominous sound. Sounds that would befit a sawmill, or the workplace of an undertaker; as coffins are being prepared for a long hard winter.
TWO CONCEPTIONS OF MOMENTO MORI
“In regard to symbols, you should never start thinking about symbolic meaning until you take the obvious meaning first.”
Auden in a conversation with Stanley Kunitz
In Memory of W.B.Yeats
(5th and 6th stanza of the poem)
“But in the importance and noise of tomorrow
When the brokers are roaring like beasts on the floor of the Bourse,
And the poor have the sufferings to which they are fairly accustomed,
And each in his cell of himself is almost convinced of his freedom;
A few thousand will think of this day
As one thinks of a day when one did something slightly unusual.
O all the instruments agree
The day of his death was a dark cold day.
You were silly like us: your gift survived it all;
The parish of rich women, physical decay,
Yourself; mad Ireland hurt you into poetry.
Now Ireland has her madness and her weather still,
For poetry makes nothing happen: it survives
In the valley of its saying where executives
Would never want to tamper; it flows south
From ranches from isolation and the busy griefs,
Raw towns that we believe and die in; it survives
A way of happening, a mouth.”
“Poetry is language surprised in the act of changing into meaning.”
Kunitz in a conversation with W.H.Auden
Winter, that coils in the thickets now,
Will glide from the fields; the swinging rain
Be knotted with flowers; on every bough
A bird will meditate again.
Lord, in the night if I should die,
Who entertained your thrilling worm,
Corruption wastes more than the eye
Can pick from this imperfect form.
I lie awake, hearing the drip
Upon my sill; thinking, the sun
Has not been promised; we who strip
Summer to seed shall be undone.
Now, while the antler of the eaves
Liquefies, drop by drop, I brood
On a Christian thing: unless the leaves
Perish, the tree is not renewed.
If all our perishable stuff
Be nourished to its rot, we clean
Our trunk of death, and in our tough
And final growth are evergreen.
From: Selected Poems 1928 – 1958 Little, Atlantic-Brown and Co
posted by Walter at 8/21/2003
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
“Architects are like kidnap victims who have to phone home to say that they are all right, even when the gun is being held to their head”
The section proceeding the introduction of S,M,L,XL; the hefty (3kgs) publication that O.M.A., architect Rem Koolhaas, and graphic designer Bruce Mau jointly published in 1995; contains the charts that comprise the facts- and figures of O.M.A. - Office for Metropolitan Architecture - based in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
One of the charts in the book provides an arresting graphical representation of air mileage covered by Rem Koolhaas, from 1980 onwards to 1993. He completed 650.000 km of air travel, interspersed with 550 hotel nights.
The book’s title: “Small, Medium, large, Extra-Large” is divided into chapters that are arranged according to scale. The chapters detail projects, essays and manifestoes by Rem Koolhaas- principal of O.M.A.- the company that he founded with three partners in 1975.
S,M,L,XL combines a multitude of adjectives: it can be viewed as a personal diary, an idea prospectus, a documentary of projects, an offline antropology reader, a bank of photography and design, or simply a statement of a megalomaniacal legend. The book is a 1344 page account of an architectural quest, as much as a canvas for Koolhaas’ personal illuminations.
From the chapter “L” - “Bigness – or the problems of Large” I selected the subchapter “theorems” to indicate Koolhaas' commitment in this rambling brick of a book.
T H E O R E M S
Fuelled initiallly by the thoughtless energy of the purely quantitative, Bigness has been, for nearly a century, a condition almost without thinkers, a revolution without a program.
Delirious New York implied a latent “Theory of Bigness” based on five theorems:
1. Beyond a certain critical mass, a building becomes a Big Building. Such a mass can no longer be controlled by a single architectural gesture, or even by any combination of architectural gestures. This impossibility triggers the autonomy of its parts, but that is not the same as fragmentation: the parts remain committed to the whole:
2. The elevator- with its potential to establish mechanical connections-and its family of related inventions render null and void the classical repertoire of architecture. Issues of composition, scale, proportion, detail are now moot. The “art” of architecture is useless in Bigness.
3. In Bigness, the distance between core and envelope increases to the point where the façade can no longer reveal what happens inside. The humanist expectation of “honesty” is doomed: interior and exterior architectures become separate projects, one dealing with the instability of programmatic and iconographic needs, the other-agent of disinformation-offering the city the apparent stability of an object. Where architecture reveals, Bigness perplexes; Bigness transforms the city from a summation of certainties into an accumulation of mysteries. What you see is no longer what you get.
4. Through size alone, such buildings enter an amoral domain, beyond good or bad. Their impact is independent of their quality.
5. Together, all these breaks-with scale, with architectural composition, with tradition, with transparency, with ethics-imply the final, most radical break: Bigness is no longer part of any urban tissue. It exists; at most, it coexists. Its subtext is fuck context.
Koolhaas is a visionary, who does not eschew bigness himself. An excerpt of an interview in Harvard Magazine evokes Koolhaas in full flight. His reasoning is specked with cross-cultural reference, poetic gusto, and streetwise aplomb. Apparently Rem Koolhaas has inherited his father’s (Anton Koolhaas- writer, and previous director of the Amsterdam Film School) bold, and compassionate rhetorical palette:
"Like a hurricane, globalization is rearranging the features of architecture," declares the oracular Koolhaas. "Architects now work in contexts, climates, and environments they know nothing about." Such clueless designers create what Koolhaas calls "junkspace"—the antithesis of Goethe's frozen music. "Junkspace is what remains after modernization has run its course," Koolhaas says. Shopping malls, department stores, theme parks, golf courses, and even ballrooms are among the offenders. "Junkspace," he writes, "can either be absolutely chaotic or frighteningly aseptic...the product of the encounter between escalator and air conditioning conceived in an incubator of Sheetrock."
Catherine Dupree - Harvard Magazine
Running parallel with the contents of S,M,L,XL - situated in the left margin, is an alphabetic glossary of personal axioms, insights and random noise, accumulated by an indefatigable Koolhaas.
A few selections from this “ABC”:
The most beautiful is not to be
Useless to ask a wandering man advice on the construction of a house.
The work will never come to completion.
The historical city is full of falsifications and manipulations that make it impossible to talk about what is authentic and what is not.
I like thinking big. I always have. To me it’s very simple: if you’re going to be thinking anyway, you might as well think big.
OMA’s recent projects thus constitute bodies rather than objects. Body in the sense of material without linquistic overcoding; neither pure nor fragmented forms, but vague essences: rounded, elongated, oblong… No more constants, no more ideal forms, nor their fragments but instead their deformations.
The thing that everybody finds out about me once they really get to know me is just how terrifically boring I am, and how I aspire to being boring. I’m sure eventually it will turn everybody off of me because my dream in life is to wear sweats and go to a mall.
The microchip is a cathedral
At Weimar I have radically overturned everything… I have talked to the pupils every evening and I have infused the poison of the new spirit everywhere… I have mountains of strength and I know that our notions will be victorious over everyone and everything.
Every construction is a construction only when the unification of the elements in that way can be rationally justified.
In the city as centrifuge, this was the peaceful core, the eye of the hurricane. A great tranguility reigned in the square.
I don’t know if the future is necessarily going to be cyberpunk or cyberprep, but it’s going to be cyber-something. And as soon as they announce that skull implants are available. I’m gonna line up for mine… I’d like to add a few languages, be able to go without sleep, and obviously, I’d like to get a direct neural interface with my computer. That would be great.
Excerpts from: S.M.L.XL. - O.M.A. - Rem Koolhaas and Bruce Mau – 010 Publishers Rotterdam The Netherlands 1995.
Rem Koolhaas has been appointed Professor in Practice of Architecture and Urban Design at the Department of Architecture in Harvard since 2001.
posted by Walter at 8/19/2003
Sunday, August 17, 2003
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posted by Walter at 8/17/2003