Sunday, January 11, 2009

Prep Time

"Building art is the will of an epoch translated into space; living, changing, new. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, only today can be given form. Only this kind of building forms. Create the form out of the nature of the assignment with the means of our times. This is our task..."
-Mies van der Rohe

Still in North Carolina getting the last of the prep work that I can done before I set off into the great unknown, or at least unknown to me. Right now I'm pulling together my ghost lab application for the coming summer as well as sneaking in and out of the NCSU Design Library. I ran across a great book by accident entitled Building Simply, which goes into depth of the importance of building within a means and time available to garner better results, not worse. A great essay by Florian Musso entitled "Simply Good" states that "As with simplicity, complexity is an option, and it can no longer be ignored solely on the grounds of restricted means." I believe Musso is calling attention to the somewhat recent discourse in architecture of more complex and louder buildings many times taking the main stage. That since we can no longer use the excuse of ease of construction and affordability, increasingly complex and over the top buildings are many times as easy to get built as those simple ones.

Anyone that has ever undergone an architectural education has experienced the tendency to add more rather than take away from a project. Many times in order to have the most visually engaging project as possible for a short critique session where subtleties are able to elude even the most attentive juror. Though the book sometimes presents simple design as the end-all-be-all of architectural intervention, I think it offers some extremely relevant critiques of our desire to strive for complexity rather than simplify when it comes to construction and design.

The first step on the trip looks to be Portugal, which is either a short flight or a long swim depending on how you look at it. Though only a week or so long trip, I hope it will be a great place to jump in and investigate the rich Portuguese tradition of masonry construction and understand how one of the modern masters, Alvaro Siza, regards his relationship with the current craftsmen as well as the past ones in his long and fruitful career. I leave you with a quote from Siza explaining his deep appreciation for the laborers of his projects...

"I still keep the precarious pleasure of working with the marvellous artisans of the North of Portugal; plasterers, carpenters, stone masons - those stone masons that raise with three sticks five meters long lintels and place them over openings singing ancient music, as was done in Egypt by the builders of the pyramids. Equally satisfying is the work with the labourers of Holland, immigrants or not, who assemble the standardized parts produced by industry. The gradual loss of how builders with hands that were once ours, slowly and patiently would work, beyond the limits of drawings, still affects architecture and architects."
-Siza 1989

1 comment:

Brad said...

Beautifully written, as always.
I am looking forward to your trip through this part of the country. Safe travels, kick some A**, and Cheers!

Ohh, check this book out, The Mathematics Of The Ideal Villa And Other Essays, 1982, by Colin Rowe. He discusses the architecture of Palladio, Le Corbusier, etc., and an architecture of Utopia. I think it is right up your alley. Let me know what you think!