Monday, 30 December 2013

Motley Crue as Robert Johnson

Scott and I discussed, at length and to some relief in the pub this afternoon (after the seasons festivities) that Motley Crue might be totally as authentic as Robert Johnson. This may be a thorn in the side of bourgeois post-moderns, who think of Motley Crue as some kind of bizarre aberration. In reality this band of muppets represent something hardly lacking interest; not a redemption from the 'modern' but a continuation of it. Meanwhile of course American literature is better illustrated by Brett Easton Ellis than Scot Fitzgerald (because, really, he's just european!) and Robert Venturi is of course the totally authentic american architect.

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Mass Hypnosis

Not only at Christmas are we victims of a campaign of mass hypnosis. Fifteen percent of families will be taking out loans they can undoubtedly not afford for Christmas. That is one horrendous statistic, (especially if those loans are taken out with pay-day loan companies) but what people are generally buying with the money (computer games/headphones/pads/phones and so on) represents further internalization of the world to the individual and the fulfillment of individual desire, in other words, a further erosion of any notion of the collective, or of the notion of society (already been declared conveniently dead long ago of course).
Therefore I find myself severely back in the territory of William Burroughs, that paranoid prophet of doom, who's 'The Job' should be everybody's Christmas present. Everything he predicts suddenly appears correct. I stare at the television, looking at that 'magical' Christmas and I wonder instead is their anything left of a certain Christmas to actually enjoy, for the non-dreamers have taken over.

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

FAT: End of an Era

The end of architectural practise FAT is poignant, at least to me. Starting out as a revolutionary multidisciplinary practise a la mode (c1990?) they grew to produce proper buildings; 'bad, but in a good way' (or vice versa, it hardly matters) as Robert Venturi espoused, and with buildings rather more rich than his. One thing that sticks in the FAT oeuvre is the grandiose, thin, ornament; they never did anything as difficult to like as the intentional (?) dullness of some of Venturi's stuff.
Perhaps their exuberance has just run it's course, dried out, but was it exuberance? What was it? I'm not exactly sure. Venturi I rank as a total American, in the American tradition from Thomas Jefferson, but over here Postmodernism didn't quite take. Jencks took five editions of the 'The Language of Postmodern Architecture' to return to a predictable cover shot of neoclassicism. Always back to the manor with us. Although, of course, there is FAT buddy Piers Gough in the mix.
No doubt all of this will be chewed over with anecdote at the AR Christmas party this Friday.
The point of mentioning Jencks is to celebrate a superficial correlation. Jencks made postmodernism in architecture of course, but I know FAT weren't about that even if they look it, at least not at the start, but they became that, somehow, somehow they became the look of Jencks' more freestyle postmodernism thirty years on.
I shared a flat with Sean in our most brilliant and difficult times; piss poor and straight out of diploma. I got to know Sam just a little via the AA. Sean's diploma project was a giant vagina drawn across Trellick Tower. Sam is the son of a judge famous in one of those sixties obscenity trials (I think it's one that benefited us all incidentally) Charles I don't really know. In the beginning it was bus shelters and squabbles: Kevin Rowbotham and Nick Clear started FAT I think, then there was Clive Sall (not forgetting loads of others) who acrimoniously split to call himself FAT International for a lecture at SCI ARC; it was all a bit of a shit storm. Eventually even Sean found that vaginas were a tough aesthetic to work with, and what you see above is active minds by necessity turned to convention. Not without fun of course; fun is one of those funny words that means worse in the diminutive: 'a little bit of fun' generally spells disaster, lots of fun you might just get away with.
Well anyway, it's all over now, and just as vaginas are coming back in.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

High Heels

Sometimes strippers wear boots you'd think would weigh them down like deep sea divers, but the substance is important. Invariably, my stripper friends, whilst having the souls of lions, are surprisingly tiny. And especially at this time of year, their business can be quite combative, since there are far too many 'once a year' arseholes out on their Christmas high jinks. This might explain not why high heels are sexy, but why they are necessary. It's hard to display that soul when you are three inches shorter, and as the girls slip on their skyscrapers they do so as necessary equipment- tax deductible I hope- so that they can level up. Of course high heels are also part of that transformation that empowers dancers into character, but I'd never really thought of it on such a practical level, including their potential as deadly weapons. Meanwhile, for those who are interested; an average pair will only last three months heavy usage. 

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Materiality in Architecture

To enjoy 'materiality' in architecture tends to mean you like the qualities that certain materials seem to have, like enjoying mohair suits, but this is contentious, for everything, as Roland Barthes observed back in 1956, may end up being made of plastic. Meanwhile, as Joni Mitchell observed in 'Woodstock'(1969) everything can also be ultimately reduced to billion year old carbon atoms. Barthes and Mitchell illuminate an intriguing conceptual position. Meanwhile, and on the other hand, to be dedicated to 'materialism' implies somebody who is interested in the mud, the people who dig the mud, the process of making the brick, the bricklayers who lay it and the conditions under which they work, the patrons of the work, their lives, and so on. Materialists cannot contemplate so much as a garden wall without thinking about why it is there, while others enjoy the materiality of the wall and happily sit on it.
However to be 'materialistic' is to enjoy loads of bricks, and not to give a toss about either of those two criteria.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Complexity in Architecture

Straight out: complexity is not a virtue in itself, practically it can hardly be a goal. Complexity, in financial matters, brings deep anxiety, complexity, when you are trying to talk sense to Tower Hamlets Homes, brings misery, complexity, when you are a student besieged by trauma rather than space to enjoy your youthfulness, is not fun. Ergo, since architecture is both a practical and idealistic art, complexity, while we endure it (sure, life gets difficult sometimes) should not be an aim in architecture for it's own sake, since it isn't pretty. Unfortunately the toys architectural students play with these days seem entirely dedicated to mirroring or even exacerbating complexity. The results are only superficially pretty as best, on inquisition (I'm sorry Neil Spiller) they are appallingly dull.
As I suggested to students yesterday, we could have just sat back on architecture the day I was born, everything was in place, theoretically, for a fine future, but of course we have progressively fucked things up and then fucked them some more, and now we are busily fucking things up at an even faster pace. It is despairing for those who might hanker for a simple, equitable, life for all.
It's better, in my opinion,  to consider synthesis rather than complexity in an effort to reverse a rather 'sick' process, synthesis being an entirely different thing. L-C whilst designing hardly pretty buildings, embodied a synthesis of ideas which is enriching, not dulling. You are not talking product, but work. Chandigarh may look shit, but it is still wonderful, it is certainly not gratuitous, and it is not the blind product of left right left right decision making algorithms, the end of which you cannot comprehend. Even if it might involve some of that kind of thinking, L-C's brand of architecture is entirely human and flawed, and you have to lift a glass to the effort- cooling towers for the assembly of a government for newly partitioned Punjab: brilliant, and brilliant on so many levels! I peer further in to the pages of the Ouvre Complet from a world that does not even aspire to be clear, worthy, or even funny, and I find some architecture.

Tuesday, 3 December 2013


This vase arrived today, reminding me the oldies are still goldies.