Working Site Model - Ground Play - (un)Canny Inhabitations

I have built a site model for my studio project and am having some fun playing with the ground plane. The project will essentially be some sort of secular temple / park / public swimming pool. How this is going to turn out I have no idea!


Pictures from Around Rome - 08-03-23

There is an exhibition on at Trajan's Market displaying the work of Japanese-Italian sculptor Kan Yasuda. His objects, large smooth sculptures in stone, are especially uncanny in relation to the rough brick and stone of the market. His work seems atemporal, perhaps because of their general lack of referentiality, which contrasts powerfully with the perceived historicity of the market.

This temporal perplexity persists - here the timeless sculptures contrast against the rough hewn quality of the very old market, but also against the historical faux-historicity of the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele Due.

The sky, framed behind the Baths of Diocletian

One of the bronze doors to the Baths of Diocletian, representing martyrdom

Rome can always be counted on to present strange vignettes such as this one.

Myself, Christina, Ryan (visiting from London), Ryszard, Shane, Jeff & Bri (visiting from Victoria) eating out on the street in Trastevere. The restaurant was too full to accomodate us, so they set up a table outside.


Yi-Fu Tuan

Today I happened upon this quote from the Cultural Geographer (I hope I can use that title, I'm borrowing it from elsewhere) Yi-Fu Tuan and I find it remarkable. From his book, Cosmos & Hearth:

"Singing together, working together against tangible adversaries, melds us into one whole: we become members of the community, embedded in place. By contrast, thinking--especially thinking of the reflective, ironic, quizzical mode, which is a luxury of affluent societies--threatens to isolate us from our immediate group and home. As vulnerable beings who yearn at times for total immersion, to sing in unison (eyes closed) with others of our kind, this sense of isolation--of being a unique individual--can be felt as a deep loss. Thinking, however, yields a twofold gain: although it isolates us from our immediate group it can link us both seriously and playfully to the cosmos--to strangers in other places and times; and it enables us to accept a human condition that we have always been tempted by fear and anxiety to deny, namely, the impermanence of our state wherever we are, our ultimate homelessness. A cosmopolite is one who considers the gain greater than the loss. Having seen something of the splendid spaces, he or she (like Mole [in The Wind in the Willows]) will not want to return, permanently, to the ambiguous safeness of the hearth."

I think it is a wonderfully lucid description of a condition I think most people are familiar with. Slipping back and forth between these realms is an art form and I believe situating yourself with any degree of permanency is an impossibility.


Some preliminary sketches for Uncanny Inhabitations

I am trying to reinvent my working method for this new project by starting with vignettes and sections . . . here are a couple of my initial explorations. For more, go here.


By combining a perspectival sketch with a section I am attempting to capture something of the experience of the space around Bramante's Tempietto.


Pictures from Around Rome - 08-03-17

I really haven't been taking that many pictures lately - but here are a few from the last little while.

Red Hat Society in S. M. Trastevere

Penguins have been marking their territory

Liam's Scottish Relatives?

Unexplained, inexplicable, and I want one


Structuralist Design, Conceptual Architecture, Architecture of Ideas?

It's heartbreaking, but I think my long-standing dream (6 years in the making, 6 years in the breaking) of using the insights of structuralism for the purposes of designing the built environment is truly flawed. Ignoring for a moment the problems with structuralism, how it is insensitively taxonomic or violent - how it takes things apart in order to understand them; despite this, it remains a useful tool for understanding. My problem is that architecture always means, no matter what you do. To bastardize the old Jungian adage, "Invited or not, meaning will come."

The difficulty is in controlling that meaning in such an amnesiac and quick-paced era. When architects try and control the meaning of their work, the meaning shifts to representing their intention to mean. Put in semiotic terms, the most reliable mode of signification in architecture is indexical signification.

Kingwell points out in his article on 'Monumental/Conceptual Architecture', that art has to embody ideas rather than demonstrate them, or to "speak them". As he says: "Conceptual art can be strong only when the concepts are subordinate to the art rather than dominant."

This is the problem with conceptual art - it quickly shifts from being considered profound to being considered pretentious if its dominant characteristic is its concept. If the dominant characteristic is aesthetic, and the idea is embodied (as in the case of Magritte, I would argue), then the work is of much greater value.

I feel that this relates directly to my relationship with the dream of structuralist design. Plenty can be learned about the built environment through the application of a range of analytic tools, but when it comes to the project of 'making' the same tools can not be applied. If architecture is to communicate, it must embody the ideas. Being conceptual architecture is not enough - it must become an architecture of ideas.


Images from Ungrounded Objects

The following images are taken from my first studio project of M1 - Ungrounded Objects. The exercise was to take two artifacts in the city and then perform a series of manipulations to them. I chose the Ara Pacis altar constructed to commemorate the Augustan Peace in 9BCE as well as the fire extinguishers of the new Richard Meier building that houses it. See my earlier posts, below, for my reasons for being interested in these artifacts.

I began by making watercolour sketches of both of my artifacts. This was partly in order to get kinetically involved with the task at hand (rather than jumping directly into photoshop) and partly to generate a stylized icon to then be able to manipulate on the computer.

These two images deal with the idea that there are many conceptions of peace, of which the military peace of Augustus is just one. The images depict a hypothetical garden of peace in which all of these different ideas of peace are commemorated.

The Ara Pacis, sunk into the 'lagoon of history'. This is actually the location where the Ara Pacis was discovered.

Imagine if the stylized Hellenistic vegetation of the Ara was to spring to life, discarding its harmonious self-symmetry.

Fire egress plan of the Campo Marzio in Rome

As fear of fire proliferates, the same logic of fire safety expands from our buildings into the streets.

The final image of my project (cropped here) depicts a potential union of the Ara Pacis and the fire extinguishers in a 'Festival d'Estintori'. The two types of peace and order that I am concerned with, at their two different scales, are brought together in this ritual. At the end of the ceremony, the Ara Pacis stands cleansed of its vines, in its original sculpted purity. In putting out the fire, the citizens perform an act of domination over entropy and over the danger that it represents.