The storm in Cardiff caused two accidents on night 27/10/2013

20131028_054510 The weather tonight started finally looking like it was described by our tutors and older students. The storm and wind of 80 km/h left its signs on the all city’s streets.

I found the first resemblance of the heavy weather just in front of my house. The vast river of water effectively blocked me from reaching my house, and because the time was 5 am on Saturday I couldn’t let myself wait until the waters will lay off. I grabbed the shelves left by students nearby and made usage of what I’ve learnt in our boat building project.

After reaching the residence my curiosity took control over me and I decided to look how the other houses look like.

Under the bridge on Lowther Road, a big lake was formed and devoured a Opel Astra to the height of the seats. When I arrived the driver has already managed to leave the vehicle and a wrecker was endeavouring pulling the car out.

The policeman who was keeping an eye on the action told me that there was another accident that night, which occurred on the other side of the city.

The next big lake I found that night was at the end of Salisbury Road, just before the entrance to Senghennydd Court. The late walkers who came across reacted surprisingly on the lake. After short assessment of the situation they firmly strode to the waters with boots and socks on feet regardless they were foreign travellers, students coming back from parties, or suffering from insomnia old people.

In order to get rid of the waters the city opened additional hatches which managed very quickly to dry the place, leaving piles of leaves and dirt on the streets.

You can see the effects of one of these hatches on my video.

The last night reminds that autumn is coming to Cardiff with its heavy rains and wild winds. But after all, we should remember that every cloud has also a silver lining.

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Chapter VIII, “Daylight in Architecture”

Johannes_Vermeer_-_The_Geographer_-_Google_Art_ProjectJohannes Vermeer, The Geographer

In Chapter VIII Professor Rasmussen elaborates on the methods of using light in architecture.

At the very beginning the author indicates that the problem doesn’t concern as much the quantity of light let inside, but rather how it’s being distributed.

Throughout the book we come across many examples of both good and bad ways of using light in building.

Light distribution

Pantheon, the magnificent legacy of ancient architecture shows the vast knowledge of his creators in terms of brightening big spaces. Through using oculus, the hole located at the top of the dome, the hall procures concentrated rays of sunlight, which further reflect from the yellowish pavement onto the ceiling and then become effectively diffused. This method prevents coming across any deep shadows inside. The space is clear and pleasant to the eye, and we intuitively feel acoustics and airiness of the place.

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Rasmussen explains some rules on brightening in architecture. He refers to photographing and using flesh light in it. Although it may prevent taking blurred pictures, it inevitably flattens photograph.

Good light is connected with creating good plastic effects, in the rooms. Hence, a good photographer in order to attain satisfying outcome, experiments with positioning his light sources until the greatest scope of plastic effects will be obtained.

Framing the sunlight

Rasmussen leads us through three types of designing light sources.

  • bright open halls (see Pantheon)
  • buildings with skylight
  • rooms with side lightening

He recalls the Copenhagen’s City Hall as an example of a building with skylight, and it shows uneven quality derived from the fact it consist two courts, from which one has a ceiling completely opened, hence too much light goes to that space making it overexposed and lifeless, and the second court, vaulted, so between the plane of the ceiling and the walls’ planes, there are rows of windows, controlling the amount of sunlight entering the space and although it makes this court a little darker, it makes it interesting.

When referring to side-light Rasmussen points out, that he values side lightening over skylight. He claims that it attains more interesting texture effects and allows architects to arrange more interesting compositions.

To prove this statement professor refers to the legacy of the Golden Dutch Age, about which you can read in my post on Vermeer and Whistler. While reading we can get impression of the deep sentiment professor feels towards his native region. In this, he shows similarities to contemporary phenomenologists, like Peter Zumthor, who often nostalgically recalls his native Switzerland.

Insights of the Dutch in terms of interior spaces

As an example of side lightening Rasmussen recalls the gabled houses in Denmark. The origins of their construction the author sees in the fact that most of them were built on the reclaimed land. Due to this hardship, people paid lots of attention to building economy and concluded that building upwards is the most profitable. We can see the analogy in their insight, and the New Yorkers’, the authors of skyscrapers, or the high, stone towers of San Gimgnano’s people. These buildings were very narrow and often shared their thick sidewalls with neighbours, what enabled them to lay all the weight of the building on them, so the other walls, except their own weight, didn’t have to support anything. It enabled their constructors to cover large areas of these “almost curtain walls” with big, planes of glass.

These original innovations turn out to be very practical and although showed high level of refinement, they weren’t translated on many other countries, at time. The answer for this phenomenon may be sought in differences between lifestyles. Within mediterranean culture, due to friendly climate conditions, people didn’t use to spend so much time in home and therefore their interior solarity was of a low value.

It’s hard not to mention that the society of the Golden Dutch Age consisted of people who had penchant for pretty things. But, you can’t enjoy your goods, unless you attain appropriate lightning, and the Dutch loved to build at their ground levels four-meter-high rooms, with big, double glazed windows and shutters from both sides to control the sunlight, all in order to receive light which made them feel good.

Especially artists were keen on experiments with shutters and curtains. Jan Vermeer, the Dutch artist, to whom Rasmussen refers, made so profound studies in this subject, that today, only by looking at his paintings, we are able to calculate the combinations he used.

Light is space

The author depicted a situation, when light created an enclosed space, without support from any walls or other objects. He pictured a group of people, sitting around a campfire, late at night, so it was the only source of light. Then people within the light’s scope could experience how it circumscribed the space around them, bordering them from darkness.

This bred in them a feeling, similar to being inside a common room, and regardless the fact they were using campfire to heat themselves. That’s a separate thing. Even on the stage, actors while declaiming monologues are being brightened by spot light, which creates a mysterious space around them.

Mathematical clarity and artistic expression

At the end of the chapter Steen Eiler Rasmussen referred to the work of Le Corbusier and his horizontal windows going all the length of the rooms. This method enabled the residents to enjoy big amounts of side light, beautifully showing the textures and creating the crystal clarity of Le Corbusier’s space.

Per contra, the author also mentioned Le Corbusier’s Church in Ronchamps, in which lightening was designed quite differently. The project outraged his contemporaries, but simultaneously showed the architect’s profound understanding of the possibilities architecture gives. His use of light in the church is ingenious. At first glance, it seems random and neglectful, but just as Picasso was drafting thousands of sketches, before he came up with the final outcome, Le Corbusier had also very explicit vision, of what he wanted to achieve.

He strived for creating a dimmed space, where our spatial sense will be taken over by light, leading us through walls of colourful windows, and, at the end, directing us straight to the altar – our final destination. Then such an original experience makes us starting to think about the richness of plastical effects, the architect put there, and about the light as the source of all creation.

References:
Steen Eiler Rasmussen, “Experiencing architecture”, First MIT Press paperback edition, 1964

San Gimignano, The Medieval Skyscrapers Town

San Giamgiano picture

It’s famous for its innumerable stone towers, rose in the period of High Medieval Ages, which well-preserved condition enables us nowadays to imagine how it looked like in its days of glory.

The History

The oldest known document mentioning the city comes from 30 August 929, however we know that the land was inhabited before by Etruscan and further also by Roman culture. In 1199 town declared independence and became Free Commune. It flourished thanks to its agriculture concentrated on commercing wool, and producing refined wine like Vernaccia or saffron.

The end of San Gimignano’s prosperous period was marked by the plague’s arrival in 1348, which completely decimated the town. Two thirds of 13.000 people fell victim of the disease at that time and afterwards San Gimignano has never returned to its previous glory. Depopulation and economic decline led to the loss of political autonomy and the town submitted to Florence.

Medieval Skyscrapers

In effect the town seems to be now like frozen in time. No further styles or fashions affected the town’s outlook in future, thus we can enjoy its preserved medieval atmosphere now.

“Manhattan of Medieval” is how San Gimignano is called nowadays, referring to its enormous congestion of towers. These were the well-off families that were responsible for erecting this original outlook of the town. The reason was that a tower equalled power.

The reason why we don’t come across this thinking in other historic cities like Florence, Lucca or Siena remains unclear. We can assume however that it might have something to do with the need of defending spots where they could easily observe what is happening in the town and around it.

Probably, also the fact that the view over the tuscan valleys and hills must have been something worthwhile.

Towers’ specifications

From 72 towers built in San Gimignano only 13 remained to our times. Many of them were cut off or has fallen down. Before the shape of the towers changed influenced by the reference model of tower in Pisa, the typical form of the towers was a high massive prism with a few, tiny openings, which enabled flow of air inside and provided thermal comfort for residents.

Typical thickness of the walls was 2 meters and rooms’ area was 1×2 meters squared. The kitchen was located in the highest levels, so as to secure against fire, which was a common problem at that time.

For learning more I recommend looking at the gameplay from the city in Assassin’s Creed II, in which Ubisoft reconstructed the town quite similarly how it looked in its most splendid state.

References:
http://www.sangimignano.com/en/art-and-culture/town-history.asp [access 27/10/2013]

“Reading Room” project, week 2

Name of the project: Reading room
Date: 4-11/10
Place: Cardiff City Centre, Crossing of Queen Street and Churchill Street

nidsvindvsFor a long time I used to go to bed early. But the things changed when I started my architecture course.

I hope that this brief reference to Marcel Proust call your attention, because in this post I’m going to present the project, which many people asked me about. The project called “Reading Room”.

Studio mayhem

At the beginning our groups were split and from ours, one parson was taken away, and instead two new were added. This made a bit of chaos within teams, as we didn’t know each other yet, but this method was intended to teach us the dynamic character of architect’s jobs and how to adjust to these changes.

In contrast to the first project, “Reading Room” bear more philosophical character. That is, we didn’t know neither how the room suppose to look like, nor what are we going to read.

The Team work

The internationality of our group was ambiguously good and bad. From one side we acquired two new individuals who studied building-connected courses beforehand, what provided us with flux of fresh ideas. On the other hand with more people in group, it breeds a problem to organize ourselves, to direct the flow of discussion on the right track. Fortunately, every member of our team demonstrated some unique, personal skill, what helped us determining the roles of the members. Regardless it was drawing, writing, photography, technical sense or producing architectural projections, every of them turned to be useful at some point of the design process.

For sure, the advantage of team working is its common sense when judging new ideas. As the whole team has to take responsibility for the final product, nobody will invest its trust into some oddity, advertisement pole, shattered into asymmetrically positioned slices from which you can spy on people.

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However, sometimes it invests. Sometimes.

After narrowing the main idea, we brainstormed the technical aspects. We didn’t want to make a gaudy gadget, but only to use technology for the sake of design, therefore we thought up the idea of perforated artificial posters sticked to the surface of the pole. Its mechanism was intended to work like the posters glued to the buses’ windows. We were fascinated in the phenomenon of travelling inside the vehicle, seeing everything around thanks to the dots on the poster, simultaneously being invisible for people outside.

This technology enabled us to simply hide our clients, among society, equip them with mask, by which they could literally learn more about others and about themselves.

The Presentation

Camouflage_01 drawing Camouflage_02 drawing Camouflage_03 drawing Reishin Watabe, Claudia Vesga, Jessica Mackriel, Daniel Krajnik 

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Lizzie New, Natalia Wojtyniak, Smaranda Ciubotaru, Filippos Sito

Jess Gregory model, Reading Room project Jess Gregory, Federico Lippi, Stefanos Dalites, Lari Ala-Pollanen

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Ross Hartland, Karolina Dudek, Caitlin Mullard, Andrzej Bak

The project was summarized by the Crit, which is an assembly of all students, and show your ideas to them. Long-lasting presentations allowed everybody to face the challenge of presenting their ideas before peers and tutors.

Many projects showed various engineering solutions, balancing on the verge of becoming another gadget of Dubai’s architecture of perfume bottles, and Pompidou Centre. Many project demonstrated also opposite approach, more similar to phenomenologists, Zumthorists and “Experiencing Architecture” fans.

Some group decided to engage terrain in the process of design, like Frank Lloyd’s Wright’s students using natural setting to frame a part of natural beauty.

Our design

What we’ve come up with was however, a bit different. New members who transected different parts of the city we could choose our sites from two, very different transects. We decided to place our room on the crossing of the most busy streets in Cardiff, Queen Street and Churchill Street.

Our reading room must have collaborated with this site, so the question was posed what are we going to read? Architecture? – therefore we would narrow the scope of people, who might use our room. We didn’t want to make anything exclusive, but simply erect something, everybody could enjoy. Then somebody said something, what may sound a bit silly now, but just like understanding things, depends on the point of view, then it sound brilliantly. If everybody can read, then everoybody can also be read.

Let’s read people, then. After all, everybody, instinctively, does it, it’s the primitive mechanism of our subconsciousness, which helps keeping our society in the whole. But, what if we could drawn out this mechanism from its dark corner of our minds and put it on the daylight. The room would become something simultaneously for common use, but by demanding self-awareness and interest in everyday live, it would gain something more aristocratic.

We’re the architects, with creative flair

While collecting information and experiences from this project I managed to simplify the set of skills, we made use of in our work:

  • Flexibility in using various medias, computer programmes, hand-made drawings
  • Flexibility to keep up with the changes in the projects, while design process may become really messy
  • Team working, communication skills, time management
  • Creativity

Moreover, every point of this list will be useful also in the future architecture career. I used word flexibility twice, and with this sentence also thrice, because design process is truly a big mess, and while jumping from one idea, to another, collecting you sketches, conducting research one can get loose its sense of time. Therefore proper time management is essential, especially if you residence is located 40 minutes away from the department.

Nowadays, architects are no longer the conductors of their orchestras, but elements in the network of different branches, ranging from acustical engineers to zoological scientists. Now, he cannot just impose his creative project, but needs to get the agreement on its technical, societal, financial and zoological aspects with a bunch of professionals.

Creativity in work of architect is as important as abstract thinking for mathematicians. Architectural creativity is the essence of designing, suspended somewhere between artistic spontaneity and scientific rigor.

We’re the architects with creative flair, and although, in real life, merely 10% of our work is spent over designing, it still remains essential, and moreover is the reason, why we are dealing with so many, different types of projects.

References:

  1. Marcel Proust, In Search Of Lost Time

From art meaningful to art meaningless. Jan Vermeer: “A Girl Reading a Letter by an Open Window” and James Whistler: “Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl”.

Jan_Vermeer_-_Girl_Reading_a_Letter_at_an_Open_WindowWhistler_James_Symphony_in_White_no_1_(The_White_Girl)_1862

The bohemian king of XIX-century Paris, James Abbott McNeill Whistler, with his utter disrespect towards regular society, will be today juxtaposed with the forgotten genius of XVII-century Golden Dutch Age Johanees Vermeer.

I’d like to mention that with publishing this post, I want to pay off, for not living up to the expectations, of all people, who visited my site, so as to find here writings on art. Therefore, I start a new category, which I named in contribution to the word, written long time ago under the name of my blog.

As an architect I am aware that architects search for inspiration for architecture rarely in architecture itself. It may seem strange, considering for example artists, who steal each others’ idea, practically all the time. And I don’t mean that we are in any way bitter, as somebody once assumed on Archinect. It’s just that architecture aesthetics requires a load of imagination to make it vibrating.

Unlike other arts, which, especially nowadays, enjoy utter freedom of expression. The freedom, so vivid in our today’s Parisian gypsy.

The Golden Age

Common theme obviously unites our artists, but presentation of a young girl is, in fact only an excuse for hiding behind canvases strikingly different worldviews.

Jan Veremeer, oil on canvas, from approximately 1658, “Girl reading a Letter at an Open Window”, we, people of modern, or even postmodern times, find ourselves completely enchanted by the distant magic, of seventeenth-century Netherlands.

First thing, which comes to my mind thinking of this period are frames from “Girl with a Pearl Earring” and its timber-made stands, and a crowd of customers wearing leather, dark hats, pointing a pile of fish, lively bargaining lower prices.

The reasonable distance from other, Christian lands of Europe, and the paradigms of the contemporary humanists, led Dutch people to developing their own, revolutionary set of customs.

The societal revolution amazed the travelers from the whole Europe, especially its marital relationships, when husband could publicly praise his wife, or even just showed her friendship. The tenderness of that time in Rome or England was unprecedented, but this sophistication was pleasant for the Danes, who might think of themselves as the innovators.

The bohemian king

Lighter approach to societal customs is also common to Paris of 1960s’. The beginning of La Belle Epoque was saturated with academic style of painting, which was strictly dependent on a set of rules, ordering artists to strive for the refined “effect fini”. However, simultaneously, the first signs of secession also started to come up, and artists like Whistler, Monet and Baudelaire were making their art, among the happy circles of Parisian boheme.

In this time Whistler, finished his “Symphony no. 1. The Girl in White”, and hence the phrase “art for art’s sake” found itself another place for existing.

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Henri Fantin-Latour, “Homage to Delacroix”, 1864

Through artist’s eyes

As I indicated at the beginning, Jan Vermeer for a long time sustained in the dark corner of history, and number of his painting (relatively small anyway) was being accredited to other artists, like Rembrandt or Pieter de Hooch. Therefore we don’t possess such a vast archive about him, as we do, in the case of Whistler.

What we can firmly assume, however, is that he was certainly aware of the uniqueness of his country’s society. On his paintings we can see how laboriously he expresses his rapture, through perfecting every small detail, in the lion timber chair, and the red, heavy curtain, and the densely patterned Turkish carpet, captured in extremely low perspective.

How opposite this attitude seems to be, when looking at the pale, blank face of the Whistler’s White Girl. We see her being totally undergone the artist’s sense of aesthetics. We can’t see any element of the personality, of the girl, who was paradoxically also Whistler’s lover, but tortured mercilessly by the painter, through long sessions of tiresome posing and making more and more changes of his artistic vision.

Seeing music

In fact, Whistler’s tenderness is directed somewhere else. The reference to music is the key for discovering, the essence of his art. As the artist was a faithful music fan, he tried to capture sound in a visual experience. I described this , actually quite an often theme, appearing in many generations of architects, in the post, on the fifth chapter of “Experiencing Architecture”. Both, previous artists, like Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and later ones, like Mark Rothko, shared penchant for these themes.

Over two-hundred-year difference bordered an obvious difference between the technique of the artists. Except formal requirements like the prize of paints in Vermeer’s time, the idea what artists should strive for. in his art, has changed dramatically.

One deceived nature, the other one deceived a man

The famous Greek tale of Zeuxis and Parrhasius’s contest, and their goal to create paintings utterly deceiving viewer’s eyes, so-called trompe l’oeil, was a still-going mindset of the Dutch artists. And although Vermeer’s art goes much further, than merely copying nature, his sensibility in depicting everyday objects sustains an indisputable value of his works.

Looking at Vermeer, we can sharply feel, the weight of the objects, the mass of the suspended curtain and the timber-made window beneath it. The sense of weight is for us intuitive, and many artists penchant for playing with it, for example like Whistler who does it, by making its model resemble more a specter, than a real human’s flash and bones. Velazquez’s visible brushwork strongly influenced Whistler, by making its paintings composed of, in terms of space and mass, obscure, vague shapes, that vibrate before our very eyes, calling to mind tightly stretched strings, or… simply music.

Dense patterning is shared by both artists, either in Vermeer’s Turkish carpet or Whistler’s colorful strokes, put on the distorted in perspective floor. However, while the decision of using it by Jan Vermeer, comes simply from “memesis-ing” Dutch interior decorations, Whistler’s dancing patterns is, as mentioned before, originated purely from artist’s sense of aesthetics.

Art for art’s sake

A peculiar example of van Gogh, the artist who sold merely 2 paintings in his lifetime, and was glorified after his death, presents the problem of dialogue between artists and society.

Of course, not always discussion between society and artists can be possible, and the fault lays as well on the one as on the other side. We, architects, know profoundly, how unpleasant may be explaining a stubborn client the point of curving a wall or building a column diagonally.

Many masterpieces were originated only because artists were given the freedom of expression, although there are also creators, who are able to enter into debate and through the power of art can influence society, just like Frank Gehry changed for ever the atmosphere of Bilbao, or like Picasso depicted the cruelty of war in his “Guernica”.

Decay of art

Vermeer’s highly detailed richness of textures, light and color resembles wealthy Dutch period, in which art run along craftsmanship and beauty of deceiving viewers’ eyes were comprehensible to everyone. However, the inevitable law of entropy proceeded and led culture towards rejecting this noble art and praising ugliness, primitiveness of the contest, in which wins the one, who si able to stun the audience more.

James Whistler’s art is placed somewhere between this process, and I believe that, if an experienced eye focused really, really strongly on the cracks, in the paint of Symphony no. 1, between its shadows it might see, the picture of society digested by its own negligence.

List of references:
http://www.essentialvermeer.com/cat_about/open.html#top (access 20/10/2013)
http://smarthistory.khanacademy.org/Whistler-Symphony-in-white.html (access 20/10/2013)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_McNeill_Whistler 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belle_%C3%89poque 

Chapter V “Scale and proportion”

comparison

The awareness of being part of the continent, which originated so many ideas, throughout so many years makes me happy.

Especially in history of architecture. Golden ratiomusical harmony, “form follows function” and many more, are all small compounds of the noble contribution of geniuses, in our contemporary understanding of architecture.

Some of theme came from pure imagination, some of them, more prosaically, from deep observation of human nature. History dictated circumstances which led architects to certain reflections, and through the twenty-three pages of the fifth chapter, Professor Rasmussen will present us these ingenious ideas, and will provoke us to reflections on their legacy.

“When I see architecture which truly moves me, I hear music in my inner ear.”

The chapter begins with the alleged legend of Pythagoras’s experiment with tautly stretched strings. The famous Greek mathematician sow that when the lengths were related to each other in the ratios of small number the strings produced harmonious sounds. This discovery was fantastic for the ancient philosophers, because it proved, according to them, hidden order of the world. The idea that through mathematics people can produce utter beauty. It’s worth noticing that their idea of melding science with art will be continued by Renaissance architects.

The second concept undertook in the chapter is golden ratio and world-famous modernist’s, Le Corbusier’s faith in its natural, and also ideal, beauty. Steen Rasmussen indicates that although both ideas, musical harmony and golden section, regard similar, they do not show any other relation, that is the numbers and proportions of golden ratio don’t refer in any way to the numbers of musical harmony.

In terms of golden section professor also refers to buildings of Andrea Palladio, especially his Villa Foscari. The comparison of Palladian and Le Corbusier’s architecture is, in my opinion, a fantastic thought, due to the fact that both architects are regarded the most influential individuals in history of architecture. And now we see that they also have followed similar ideas.

Idea lying behind things

Another building, connected with the idea of building through geometrical rules, is the project for a philharmonic building in Copenhagen by Ivan Bentsen. In his building Ivan designed windows of the next stories so they gradually expand in one dimension towards the ground level. His modern building interprets the rule of golden section, what was vividly highlighted by Rasmussen, that is the expansion of only one dimension is rather rare in nature. Jorn Utzon claimed that designers must look into the true nature of things, and a good example of this are snail shells, which the next parts grow on the basis of golden section and although have the same shape, the size is different.

Nature of things

One might ask, whether there was any goal, hidden behind all this geometry and numbers, or was it just “art for art sake”. Yes – there was. Palladio’s quotation may lead us to the answer: “From architectural world of pure harmonies one should be able to experience Nature in all its phases.”

Andrea Palladio at the beginning of his career went on the tour to Rome, where he spent time on analyzing Roman ruins. What must have fascinated him at that time, were ideal proportions of architectural elements and although, even then, their bad condition, they must have still awoken imagination on their previous shape. Though being only ruins, they sustain their specific atmosphere, after all.

He inevitably was also familiarized with the common Renaissance premise, that harmony comes from nature, nature understood in the most general sense, with the special indication on mathematics. Therefore, he must have believed that if he will build referring to this ideas, his architecture will be as beautiful as nature itself.

The similar values are also evident in Mies van der Rohe buildings, especially Farnsworth House (after all, architecture of this successful modernist were often compared to the ancient buildings). His ingenious sense of proportions compiled with glass walls, which open the resident’s view on nature, create an atmosphere, which we might guess, Palladio was looking for.

Utility of things

However beautiful, Palladio’s villas were often uninhabitable. After all, the well-regarded architect strove for immortality and pure aesthetic experience, who dared to bother him with such prosaic concerns as functionality.

Only modernists started to pay attention to many absurdities of previous generations’ style of dwelling and invented ways of proportioning and scaling, according to a phrase “form follows function”.

Good example of this thinking is given at the end of the chapter. The project of Kaare Klint’s proportion study of the rooms in Frederik’s Hospital in Copenhagen shows how dimensions of the room are made in regard to the most important component, that is a bed. Width between the particular beds are counted, so people could easily go move among them, and also all beds are organized on the sides on the axis, which goes straight through all rooms and enables nurses easy access to their patients.

It must be mentioned that the difference between Rasmussen’s examples, comes inevitably from the clients of the architects. Palladio was designing his villas for the rich of that world, which could afford lack of conveniance (maybe even common sense, but history of architecture is full of examples of building vividly against society e.g., Versailles). What they wanted was nobility and in fact, when one visits villa Foscari, even not knowing about all its perfect calculations, one intuitively feels the lavishness of the place.

Moreover, the further architects’ emphasis on function, obviously comes from the societal changes, which degraded the enormously rich higher class for more just distribution of wealth. Thus, architects, following engineers of this time, started to produce buildings, which say, “First things first – we must serve people properly, not be slaves of unhealthy ambitions of few.”

References:
Steen Eiler Rasmussen, “Experiencing architecture”, First MIT Press paperback edition, 1964
Le Corbusier, "Towards a New Architecture", 1985

The Preface

I am happy to see how the number of people visiting my site is constantly increasing. It’s good to know that there is a place in Internet not only for Nyan Cat videos and Ray William Johnson’s shows, but also for real architecture lovers.

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In this post I want to summarize for you the main ideas of the preface of “Experiencing Architecture”.

Common language

Assuming that you have already experienced difficulties in reading perplexing writings of books on architecture and art, the first thing that will strike you will be the language of Professor Rasmussen. Only after reading the first few sentences you get the feeling that reading is going to be pleasant.  “(…) if it can be understood by a fourteen-year-old then certainly it will be understood by those who are older.” There is simplicity of logical reasoning, reinforced by a handful of distinguishable examples and successful photos, and these are the reasons why this book is recommended for freshers on architecture courses.

For Dummies?

The even more important reason why the book is recommended, is that despite time or place on our Globe the book covers the same, the most essential and the most basic values of architecture.  It doesn’t matter if you are living in Greece, America or India, you can be sure that after reading your understanding of your fatherland architecture will go up.

We built this city

In spite of your age or origin you can truly experience architecture. But the author takes up one more idea. He recalls the image of an old-time village, in which all dwellings and all utensils were build by people living there, and this vision, of the integrated society which erects their own surrounding and afterwards feels responsible for it, is the particular goal which Rasmussen endeavors to achieve writing his book. That’s the most important idea, although being a little utopian, the most valuable trait of good architecture.

Architecture Now

Furthermore, while reading one can get impression of the sorrow, over the lack of healthy societies, of the author. Steen Rasmussen published the book in 1960s’, when modernists were still not aware of the consequences of their experiments , which in consequence, for example led to carinvasion, which took away cities from regular pedestrians.

For everybody interested in the contemporary vision of healthy and lively city, I recommend listening to the lecture of Danish Professor Jan Gehl, “Cities for People”.

Summing up

Cities like Copenhagen are today stunning the world with their congestion on bicycle lanes, pedestrian-friendly policy and the general number of people spending their spare time walking, and sitting, and buying apples, and doing all range of activities on the streets.

But the question is – how did they developed their cities to achieve such success? In my opinion that there was a number of factors, which contributed to it (and I hope that I will write another post about it, especially through the art of the Golden Dutch Age). However, we must concern the role of such individuals as Steen Rasmussen whose work, by increasing the awareness of many problems, enhancing the feeling of community in people and enriching peoples’ knowledge, and understanding of architecture, built Copenhagen as we know today.

References:
Steen Eiler Rasmussen, "Experiencing architecture", First MIT Press paperback edition, 1964