Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

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SDR
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by SDR »

Why---so we could witness yet another attack on an alien intrusion into a world of common sens(uality) ?

Heh-heh. But I take your point. As for Scott-Brown's quote, enjoyed by both be-suited intellectuals, "Apres moi, le deluge" ?
That is, the eponymous originator needn't be considered a member of the club; those are merely the followers, a different sort of animal ?

S
"As a former copy editor, I always feel I am defending the person whose name is being misspelled, not attacking the person who misspells it." Ronald Alan McCrea (1943-2019)

jay
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by jay »

Mrs. Scott Brown is surely flattering her subject; I don't think anyone is suggesting that after Venturi came a deluge of Venturi-ians. Some admirers for sure, but it'd be silly to actually credit him for "post-modernism". After all, that term connects to a far broader movement in art and intellectual culture at large. (And I'd suggest it's precisely the far reaches of the term that make it so vague when applying it as a label... What is post-modernism in literature...is it the same thing as post-modernism in architecture? What about post-modernism in pop music? etc...)

A better term than "post-modernism", I think, might be the Era of the "Meta"... Because it wasn't so much a natural evolution coming out of modernism (the way maybe post-Impressionism did..?), or even that post-modernism was simply a rejection of modernism.... But that post-modernism went down its own rabbit-hole into its own hyper self-world.

Webster's definition of "meta":
showing or suggesting an explicit awareness of itself or oneself as a member of its category : cleverly self-referential

The Vanna Venturi house, I'd argue, is "Meta-Architecture". And I'd also argue to Mrs. Scott Brown that Venturi never created a system, the way Freud or Marx or Wright did, but rather he and just about every other artist of his generation merely directed their art at precisely its own private world. (Hence, we then saw "Meta-Literature" and "Meta-Philosophy" etc etc.) At that point, the common person has lost all common reference because one must be in the exclusive club to understand the "significations" found in the Meta-arts.... Instead of Ernest Hemingway being the modernist author of the era, we found Thomas Pynchon as the post-modernist author of the era.... and then chastised common people for not keeping up with Literature....

It'd be silly to say post-modernism and the Meta-arts shouldn't have happened. Or that all of it is bad. But I find the main thrust and tendencies of the meta-arts culture to be fundamentally flawed... and if I kept going, I'd surely end up at the notion of "elitism".

SDR
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by SDR »

Yes. Perhaps intellectualism is its own worst enemy.

Again, I follow you. Painting surely came to that point of self-reference, in the post-war period ? My education in re many periods of cultural history is sadly lacking, so forgive me. (I'm still in the dark about deconstruction, but it seems clear that the term might mean very different things to different disciplines ?)

But wouldn't any two artists working in the same medium at the same time want to engage in dialog ? And wouldn't they often develop an argot, just as a set of twins are apt to do, and wouldn't that terminology become a token of the "inside," to outsiders---professional critics first of all ? Are Scully's round spectacles a signal that his interest was architecture ? Aren't the two men, dressed so similarly, speaking the same language and comparing notes on a shared history, a perfect illustration of the insider and the outsider in conversation---the practicing theoretician/architect, and the critical historian of the art ? Isn't theory---though they specifically in this moment disavow it---the part of the Venn diagram that they share ?

S
"As a former copy editor, I always feel I am defending the person whose name is being misspelled, not attacking the person who misspells it." Ronald Alan McCrea (1943-2019)

Roderick Grant
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by Roderick Grant »

"Post" is easy enough to corner. "Modernism" less so. Lexically Post-Modernism is meaningless without corralling what modernism actually is. Assumptions have always been assumed, but without rigor. I believed Robert Venturi when he dismissed the idea of being Post-Modern. He may have nudged the profession in that direction with books such as "Learning From Las Vegas" and "Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture," but his own work is not easily defined by the term. I suspect he may have been influenced by Sibyl Moholy-Nagy's book "Native Genius In Anonymous Architecture." He admired the "ramshackle hut."

I blame Michael Graves for PoMo, beginning with the Portland Building. It became an ism because a lot of lesser lights latched onto it and found it easy enough to proliferate. Isn't that the usual course of events? Didn't impressionism evolve from Manet, progress through Cezanne and run wild with Monet? Happier results, of course, but not so different a process. Overall, it seems like an argument without end, what is and what isn't. In the arts, each perpetrator is responsible for his own output.

jay
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by jay »

But wouldn't any two artists working in the same medium at the same time want to engage in dialog ?
Yeah of course. I'd frame this whole thing as a study in the "technical" mind, or the theoretical mind, the conceptual mind, etc. Professionals from various fields––auto mechanics to brain surgeons––form a specialized intellect, their minds going deep into their respective field, all of which is beyond the common mind and the common experience. From this point, the technical mind must then balance itself between two worlds––its technical world and the real everyday world.... It's not unusual to find highly technical people who have trouble relating and communicating with the common world, the 'everyday folk'. I recall reading about medical malpractice lawsuits, in which studies showed that doctors who had poor "bedside manners" were far likelier to be sued. This led to doctors getting "bedside manner" training, which is pretty funny if you think about it, these doctors doing years of med school and having some of the sharpest minds in the society, then taking classes after all that in order to learn how to simply talk to regular people again.

A more 'local' example for us Chatters could be when Dan gave his web-lecture earlier this week. While discussing his Sweeton restoration, he said something about steel attachments atop the mullions, and used a technical term. He instantly then said, paraphrasing, 'that's architect-talk for a really tight fitting'. To me, this is a technical person gliding between two worlds, and knowing his audience, which in this case was a more common 'everyday folk' crowd.

So Scully and Venturi having a discussion, sure, you'd expect a technical conversation. Tradesmen talking about the trade... But what I'm driving at is the work itself. And Scully's endorsement of the work itself....

With the "meta-architecture" of Venturi, his building(s) aren't made for the common folk. He hasn't used his technical and intellectual skills to craft a building that is supposed to appeal to regular people. Instead he has made buildings as an architectural statement, works to be interpreted, intellectually, for those in the know.... Meta!

On the flip side, there is no art without a technical and conceptual framework. I'm not arguing that art should be simply 'folk art' (or that philosophy should be simply 'folk wisdom'). But I am arguing that there must be some form of a return from the technical to the common––the synthesis of the two worlds.... Wright's work is undoubtedly very technical and conceptual––hell, he even founded an entire system of 'organic' architecture––and yet he returns each of his works to a 'humanistic' or 'biophilic' level that is easily understood by the common man. Maybe not everyone "likes" Wright's works, but I've never heard anyone say they don't understand it.

So perhaps intellectualism isn't its own worst enemy, so long as it's used as a tool. But when it's used as the point of entry to an exclusive club, well that just leads to a tearing in the social fabric, where we hear terms like "being talked down to", "condescending", "elitist".

SDR
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by SDR »

Very well. And about Wright we can say that he generally didn't play the "elitist technical" game of inside jokes, buildings designed to speak to other architects ? Perhaps as a beginner in the game he incorporated a few "bits and bobs" from others---one of Scully's favorite self-assigned tasks was to identify these---but it's an open question whether he did this to win points from the profession, or simply to distinguish his work from the commonplace.

We can even discard "organic" from the discussion, as there really is no "organic system," just a series of choices of form and material that every architect has to make. That we even today sometimes believe in such a construct is evidence that his PR ploys were a success, one of a series of attempts to create an aura of "genius" which because they worked so well can now be dispensed with as unnecessary fluff, leaving behind the drawings and the buildings, which together more than adequately fulfill his mission.

S
"As a former copy editor, I always feel I am defending the person whose name is being misspelled, not attacking the person who misspells it." Ronald Alan McCrea (1943-2019)

jay
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by jay »

Wright had an architectural system, at least of his later career, correct? A student of Wright could, and can, lay out a grid system and use techniques both taught and often used and repeated in Wright's later career. I'd assume half the people on Wright Chat could pull out some graph paper and do a mock up of a Usonian-ish design quite easily. That's what I call a system. Of course that isn't to suggest those mock ups would be high-caliber "Wrightian" designs per se, but it'll get it into the ballpark quickly.

Whether we call that "organic" (which was Wright's term) or not I could care less about. But yet we have to call it something. And if I just said "the Wright system", then it could imply Prairie designs which are not the target of my comments.

Steve, is there a preferable term you wish me/us to use? Usonian? Later career? Intrinsic?

SDR
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by SDR »

Usonian---another nonsense term, but it's the one we use because Wright used it---captures the series of design decisions that you're talking about. I suppose it could be called a formula or recipe for a house, using a prescribed grammar (materials and their detailing) and a planning grid to regulate the design. That is a valuable insight; the use of such a recipe is something that few architects have employed with anything like the persistence of Mr Wright.

Of course, almost as soon as he had assembled the first Usonian Standard Detail Sheet he began to modify it, experimenting with perhaps a dozen or more different grids (plan "units") and over time the original formula was largely superceded, though pieces of it---the use of brick, block or stone masonry on a radiant-heated slab, the simple yet fully-customized millwork details, the unusual roof fascia, the corner window and sometimes the board-and-batten partition---persisted to the end.

More important than these to his work by far was something that couldn't be reduced to a formula: the endless variations of plan geometry, of floor level and of roof form and pitch, all responding to the unique nature of each building site and to his restless imagination, resulting in spacial magic, his vital contribution to the art.

S
"As a former copy editor, I always feel I am defending the person whose name is being misspelled, not attacking the person who misspells it." Ronald Alan McCrea (1943-2019)

SDR
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by SDR »

Your contribution of the concept of "meta" objects seems valuable. It induces a number of echoes: "outsider art" vs "professional" practice is just one. Have others written on the subject, do you know ?

S
"As a former copy editor, I always feel I am defending the person whose name is being misspelled, not attacking the person who misspells it." Ronald Alan McCrea (1943-2019)

jay
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by jay »

Alrighty, I'll use "Usonian" from here on and scratch "organic" from my Wrightian terminology.

The Wrightian system perhaps is more than just Wright's personal method; I wonder if it lays the groundwork for a pedagogical system, particularly as a means to translate his architectural theories to other architects? As I'm not an architect, I wouldn't know how much merit there is to that claim... Yet even as a non-architect, I can read a Wright set of plans like it's a form of literature, and not so much a technical document, whereas just about all other architectural plans I've ever laid eyes on remain but a set of technical documents (excluding Wright admirers and apprentices, of course).

I haven't seen "meta" used in the way I did earlier. Wouldn't be surprised if it's out there in some capacity though.

SDR
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by SDR »

It is true that the plan drawings of all of Wright's work are worth studying and enjoying, for their unusual quality and originality. And as I've remarked recently, the renderings, especially in Jack Howe's hand, have a remarkable way of conveying both the material and the intangible content---the spirit---of the work.

As to the Usonian plans, the means of deciphering them for the purposes of construction has been pared down to an interesting minimum: instead of conventional dimensioning, surrounding the building object with multiple indications in feet and inches (this being America), Wright substitutes the very planning grid---in its simplest form a checkerbord---that he used to design the building, lettering and numbering the successive lines for subsequent reference to a particular portion of the plan and indicating, somewhere on the sheet, the dimensions of a single unit.

S
"As a former copy editor, I always feel I am defending the person whose name is being misspelled, not attacking the person who misspells it." Ronald Alan McCrea (1943-2019)

Roderick Grant
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by Roderick Grant »

Jay, "figurative" provincialism derives necessarily from "geographical" provincialism.

SDR:
"Two seemingly contradictory ideas or facts can exist at the same time; it's perfectly natural, even universal, but it can make definitive conclusion difficult."

Contradictory ideas exist everywhere in every context, but facts, at least hard, proven facts, as distinguished from "jump the gun" statements of facts, cannot be contradictory. Definitive conclusions cannot exist among ideas, all of which are fluid.

SDR
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Re: Lecture: Robert McCarter - "The Space Within"

Post by SDR »

Okay. But . . . but, what if I present "alternative facts" ? Do I get partial credit---or do I get tossed out of the briefing room, unceremoniously ?

S
"As a former copy editor, I always feel I am defending the person whose name is being misspelled, not attacking the person who misspells it." Ronald Alan McCrea (1943-2019)

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