Posts Tagged ‘le corbusier’

I hope everyone’s having a fabulous beginning of August.
I am really trying.

How are you doing, fabulous?

I plan to go to some movie under the stars, or at the park, or on a roof, like Cinema Paradiso. A good black and white movie, preferably a noir Hitchcock, would be the cat’s meow.

I am officially suffering from wanderlust.  If I could be in five places at once I would be home in Calabria (Southern Italy), in Cuba, Ibiza and Greece and of course right where I am, having a Summer of Art with my students. They really need to get this teleportation thing going, so I could just zip away for the weekend, or we could just do three days of plein air sketching in Florence!

Le Corbusier said that we need to see with new eyes. How true; in Architecture, drawing, and, most of all, in life.  Looking is not seeing. SO part of the renewal  is to give your eyes something different to contemplate (i.e. do something new!).  I pledge to pick up my local weekly and get out of my comfort zone (even my beloved neighborhood! I know, hard to believe). Yesterday, to start the month right, I trekked couple of hours to the beach (with my sketchbook, of course!)

Pacific Beach. August1,2010. Ink on paper.

To develop new eyes, and to stretch different parts of the brain, we have been working in class from “Drawing on The Right Side of the Brain.” One of its famous exercises  is to draw an object without looking at the paper, preferably without lifting your pen or pencil. I tried it out with my hand.

The fingerprint/pattern was inspired by a) this fascinating article on The NewYorker on fingerprints, art and forensic science and b) paying attention to things we don’t even see anymore, or take for granted. Here is our uniqueness. We are all snowflakes, and just as fragile.

Felt Tip on paper. August 2, 2010.

Draw your hand without looking at the paper, take a photo and send it to me (sketchbloom at gmail dot com) or linkback.

I am curious.


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I can't wait to design a home with a sunken garden and a wind tower. Or the italian tradition of operable windows. Both would be ideal for San Diego's breezy and sunny summer weather. Look ma, no HVAC!

Last week I had the privilege to attend two remarkable lectures. The first, on Vernacular Architecture in Persia by the Architect Simi Razavian of MSA&Associates, Inc. Architecture, was a guest lecture part of my Non-Western Traditions seminar class. Simi masterfully shared with us passive-solar techniques used in her native Iran, the lyrical wind towers of Tabas and the use of natural elements in residential design, such as adobe for construction, wet straw and water for convective cooling (in conjunction with wind towers) and gardens and fountains as evaporative cooling channels and elements of sensorial delight.

I wonder how Leed points would work for buildings that seek to return to Nature, since Simi commented that , in all the Leed lectures she attended, Passive Solar was not even mentioned (but the lates triple glazed glass was, along with ways to maneuver the artificially calculated Leed ‘points’).

Through this lecture I was reminded of of my interest in school in adobe and Pueblo construction, and of two of my favorite books, Thermal Delight in Architecture (which incidentally contains an incredible description of a Persian hanging garden) and Earth to Spirit : In Search of Natural Architecture. Notions such as these, plus genius loci and architecture as humanities-based discipline is what initially drew me to Architecture (this and Antoni Gaudi). Yet I found in practice, with very few precious exceptions, what Le Corbusier calls ‘Construction. Not Architecture’ .

Where is the poetry?

Which brings me to the other lecture I attended later that day: James Brown  of Public, one of the most ‘soulful’ architecture firms in San Diego ( I have been aware of the reputation of Public for years, and James had me at hello with his phrase on ‘spirituality of material‘, his graceful demeanor and humble approach to defining architecture and process).  The courage of design conviction, the dedication to values such as meaning and pushing, nay, nudging boundaries is the best cure for the Nothing (yes, as in Neverending Story) that is swallowing the practice here in the US.


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Last week I was reeling from hearing a contractor repeatedly referring to Architecture projects as ‘products’ (can you please stop talking about Architecture as a manufacturing industry? thankyou) and from seeing this noble profession hijacked by what one student referred to as ‘technicians‘.

Vitruvius, Le Corbu, are your tired bones  spinning in your graves? They will soon design a software that, given site parameters and local codes will design the building by itself (look ma, no architect!). If they are not about to launch it already. As my friend Andrew Duncan said, we are looking at a software company deciding the future of architecture projects in this country, in form of who owns the -increasingly more sophisticated- computer models/simulations of buildings. And thus the nail in the coffin, the relevance of our profession is eroded, while we just sit and watch, and clap at the latest computer wizardry. What is it called when people clap at their impending demise?

I am so tired of seeing the creativity of our young architects being sapped by the grueling process it takes to be a ‘licensed architect’ here in U.S. And yes, it is just here and Canada, because everywhere else in the world you are an architect after having proven worthy of an architecture degree and after a standard, brief, state exam. So we/you are all architects in my eyes.

So as I was saying, I was a bit demoralized.  But then, during our Le Corbusier’s seminars, my students put these quotes up (underlining is mine):

I repeat: a work of art must have its own special character.

Clear statement, the giving of a living unity to the work, the giving it a fundamental attitude and a character: all this is a pure creation of the mind.

This is everywhere allowed in the case of painting and music; but archtiecture is lowered to the level of its utilitarian purposes: boudoirs, W.C’s, radiators, ferro-concrete, vaults or pointed arches, etc., etc.

This is construction, this is not architecture.

Architecture only exists when there is a poetic emotion.

Art is poetry: the emotion of the senses, the joy of the mind as it measures and appreciates, the recognition of an axial principle which touches the depth of our being.  Art is this pure creation of the spirit which shows us, at certain heights, the summit of the creation to which man is capable of attaining.

And man is conscious of great happiness when he feels that he is creating.

Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture. English Ed. 1931

Is it a coincidence that Le Corbusier uses the term Art and Architecture interchangeably?

Construction is for an architect what grammar is for a thinker; the architect should not vegetate there, Le Corb reminds us.

The desired effect is not a mass of grammatical rules, but prose,  or even better, poetry, which not only uses grammar, but trascends it.

Now look around you and tell me how many pedestrian masses of periods and exclamation points surround you, and where does poetry happen (does it at all)?

In class we talked about art being the product of the heart, and architecture the product of the mind.  I knew then these young men and women believe in Architecture, with the capital ‘A’ – not to be confused with building- and everything that it stands for, everything that our ‘architectural heroes’ tell us through the echoes of time, and whispher with their art, their sketches and drawings, their buildings, their irreverent portraits (just as Keating’s poets in Dead Poets Society).

More importantly, these students believe in themselves. Everything then went right in my world.


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