Thursday, 23 January 2014

Early Graves



For regulars, I'm sorry for the lack of recent posts, but they may also notice a pattern, since at exam time and when I'm ill (usually these are congruent) I feel too out of sorts. But I have been working; pieces on Venturi Scott Brown and Michael Graves for the AR in particular, worrying about in progress paragraphs like the ones below at 4 in the morning. That is one advantage of illness, irregular hours and the quiet of the night. Also, with the benefit of thirty years in between, it is a very enjoyable to ponder the mountains of pretentious crap architects and critics were pushing out in the late seventies and sort through the emperors old wardrobe. 

'If it became OK, indeed de rigueur, to mash up Le Corbusier’s four villa types abandoning principle (the five points) and adding swimming pools and perching the results on convenient rocky crags in the Pocantico Hills for the Rockefellas (Michael Graves Rockefella House 1969) it was impossible to ignore the phenomenal relation paper-cardboard-matchwood that drew the result closer to Gone with the Wind, for it was balloon frame (so named for fears it might blow away) which made wall and floor, structure and fabric, indistinguishable and allowed a content of ‘floating’ Corbu signifiers. The fact that this was done with ‘high code’ Corbu rather than ‘low code’ Queen Anne set Graves and Eisenman (in their early years) apart from Venturi. Queen Anne had been done over for generations, Corbu was still sacrosanct, so the conjugations had to be further propped up by verbal gymnastics.
However what was crucially missing from this frontier white architecture was a sense of urban civility. Exemplified at Garches, one of L-C's five points they binned (out of circumstance, context, yes, but they still binned it) was the free fa├žade: frontal, urban, static and proportioned. These buildings appeared more gyroscopic; without facades at all, merely frames or cages, with vast areas of holes, indeed, windy, certainly cold, and certainly intellectual, and undoubtedly pretentious'.

That's an early Eisenman above; chilly, definitely chilly.

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