Monday, July 30, 2012

A Sense of Place

There is a strength that this landscape possesses, that people can possess,
A strength and sensitivity.
It is that strength,
That toughness,
Together with a gentleness,
That is very important to me.

The clarity of light in Australia is phenomenal.
On a bright day, it is very clear light that separates the elements in a landscape.
In the northern hemisphere the light connects the elements;
Here the light separates...

I am interested in this legibility,
This transparency,
This particular kind of shadow,
The particular light we get here.
It informs me how to articulate structure and deal with a building as a response to this place.

by Glenn Murcutt

Aspiration And Inspiration

As a child I was always interested in sketching and drawing and making things.
I was fascinated by model aircraft and construction kits which were called “trix” and “meccano”.

I worry about students who might feel that the power of sophisticated equipment has somehow rendered the humble pencil if not obsolete, then certainly second rate.
I have never been embarrassed to state what might be self-evident,
So it will come as no surprise to suggest that the pencil and computer are,
If left to their own devices, equally dumb and only as good as the person driving them.

by Norman Foster

Architecture and Civilization

Architecture is actually something of no importance.
It is only a psychogram of what people are,
What cities are,
What cultures are.
That is what makes architecture interesting,
Not architecture in itself.
Because all the things that you can discover and analyze in architecture can also be found in other areas of our civilization.

by Herzog and de Meuron

Monday, July 2, 2012

Le Corbusier - Unité d'Habitation

Bréton brut had as a style been established for a short while prior to this buildings inception, but it was its somewhat trend setting architect that gave widespread acceptability and validity to the movement. It captured the imagination of architects reacting against the recoil of New Humanism and restricted by the economics of the time.

The Unité d'Habitation built in Marseille, France in 1952 is absolutely of its time. Every tower block in the immediate vacinity appears to pay homage to the Unité, They are unashamed of their debt, aesthetic or otherwise, and yet even with benefit hindsight do not appear to be 'better buildings', mere pale imitations.

Steel being consumed in the war effort and the lack of skilled labour in France lead to the choice of concrete, with a more honest and rough finish. Banham says it is ever the more successful due to Corbusiers abandonment of the “pre-war fiction that reinforced concrete was a precise, ‘machine-age’ material”. This notion which had been maintained by extravagant and un-necessary means, such as “lavishing on it skilled labour and specialised equipment beyond anything the economics of the building industry normally permitted”. That is equipment that would give rise to the exacting edges and if these were not achieved then the “roughness and inaccuracies” were plastered over to give a more crisp image, hardly accepting the ‘realities of the situation’. The situation was firmly one of a “messy soup” with “dust, grits and slumpy aggregates, mixed and poured under conditions subject to the vagaries of weather and human fallibility”, hardly an image of high-technology.

The war had also changed Corbusiers perspective of technology’s place in architecture, compare for example the machine for living in, the Ville Savoye (Paris, 1929), compared with schemes such as (although later than the Unité) Notre Dame du Haut built at Ronchamp in 1954. The Unité had been described as “the first modern building that has room for cockroaches”, retort to Le Corbusier stating in a letter to Madame Savoye that “‘Home life today is being paralysed by the deplorable notion that we must have furniture” and that “This notion should be rooted out and replaced by that of equipment”. Banham in his book ‘The New Brutalism’ notes the Unité’s “originalities in sectional organisation”, with its rue Intérieure, apartments with double height spaces all of which in section span the entire width of the block. He also suggests “few buildings anywhere in the world had such a hold on the imagination of young architects especially in England”. Corbusier described his rough concrete style as béton brut, words which (rightly or wrongly) would come to be misinterpreted as representing the New Brutalist style as well as that of béton brut. The solidity of the Unité is furthered from mere concrete security by the setting back of “user-scale elements such as windows and doors” into the concrete frame of the building, giving a sense of a secondary boundary further to the superstructure of the building. As Banham describes it, a building where “word and building stand together in the psychological history of post-war architecture” . He attributes further its success to the “hard glare of the Mediterranean sun” . Something which does not quite translate so well in the greyer skies of Britain, something of the disappointment of driving a new car out of a showroom and home, notwithstanding your home being an equally apt setting.

by James Woodward

The Architect in Society

Today an architect is certainly aware of the key elements of construction,
But he or she is not in full dominion of all the technical imperatives.
Nonetheless, the ultimate definition of the role of the architect still centers around the notion that the architect must assume responsibility for what is built.

The study of contemporary formal problems,
The ability to build within a variety of urban mediums,
The knowledge of new programs,
Keen knowledge of technical issues,
And lastly, a deep investment in the world of culture while grasping the pregnancy of a moment.
All of these things are essential in the making of an architect,
And all of these things comprise the reasons why we can still talk about the indispensable role that the architect continues to play in our society.

by Rafael Moneo

Personal Effort

For me and for the people that work for me, in a way what we do is less about the final product and more about achieving the final product, because that’s what we spend all of our time doing. So aside from the fact that we all consider ourselves lucky that we are in a position to work with great clients and great consultants, what matters to us most is the process of doing all of it. Not that many people understand what that’s all about because they never get the chance to see that side of it. Probably the biggest mistake is to make assumptions—in this case to assume that we never think about function or budget, that we just sit around crumpling paper and we let the computer do the rest, that we are just concerned with creating spectacles to get ourselves on magazine covers.

I consider it a personal effort. I don’t think about it in megalomaniac terms of taking over the world. I think maybe what’s been successful about it is that I have been able to keep on a sort of personal course. I have had little forays into somebody else’s thing, but I pull back and have been consciously pushing this personal signature, or whatever you want to call it. I don’t know what its impact is going to be; It has been so personally satisfying, that that has been plenty for me.

by Frank Gehry

Intuitive Craftsmanship

I often refer to what I liked as a child. The configuration of the back door of the house I grew up in—you will find in the front door of my mother’s house, and now that door is all over the world. And it is in the entrance of the Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery. The vivid multicolored terracotta on the exterior of the Philadelphia Museum of the Modern Art which I loved as a child has influenced our museum in Seattle. And so I find I have respected my early intuitions—acknowledged what I liked, and I think artists might go wrong when they fail to monitor their intuitive likes and dislikes and when they think in terms of what they should like, or they adapt an ideology they think they should adapt.
From the beginning, we haven’t ever thought in terms of “we’re going to be leaders, we’re going to be great, we’re going to be original.” As an architect you are a craftsman, and you just try to do your best every day, and if it turns out you become a leader, if you become original and revolutionary or whatever, it is incidental.

by Robert Venturi

How It Began

What happened was that I was working with a contractor, and I spent my time on site, making full sets of drawings, all that sort of thing. But nobody read the drawings. The contractor was more a human resource manager. He did not know anything about building really. I ended up sitting on site from morning to evening. There would be a limit to where the carpenters would interact because then the contractor would say, “You can’t do this… or you cannot do that.” That is when the project would get compromised and fall short. Things don’t work like that. They were not my people, I was not on contract. I was putting in my time and suffering the consequences. None of this added up in the right way. So I said, let us try… what if I take responsibility? If I make a little mistake, let it be my neck that gets cut. I did not have a problem with that, and that is actually how it began.

by Bijoy Jain