Tuesday, 5 May 2009

the language of architecture

What month is it? May. Right. So I've been working at the AJ since September, and for both the AR and the AJ since January.

I like architecture, I like urban design and urban planning, I'm a little bit interested in psychogeography, I think about how people function in space and buildings and how both of these interact with design. But I've got no formal training, and apart from the little I learned working in a big engineering firm, I don't really know about how buildings are actually designed and constructed. I sort of hoped that working at the AJ would be like living in foreign country and that I could 'learn architecture' like one learns French living in Paris: by osmosis. Alas, this seems not to be the case. I've learned about publishing and journalism, but not enough about architecture. Maybe there's not as much to learn as I thought, but I'm still judging buildings on aesthetic principles honed on years of thinking about and looking at fine art.

The thing I can't understand is how the aesthetic principles seem to be so different between buildings and art. Okay, obviously they serve different functions, but why shouldn't a building be judged on aesthetics as well as on usability, situation, and interaction? I don't know if I'm missing something or if it is my own subjective aesthetic agenda, but you could place a pretty safe bet on our editor not liking buildings I like and vice versa. Having said this, he's not an architect either per say, but he's been working in architectural criticism and journalism for an awful lot longer than I have.

Foligno church by MDFA

Maybe it has to do with my lack of technical knowledge. I suppose it's like what I was saying about the technical appreciation of film and painting. When a "random" looks at a Jasper Johns, he thinks its a bit of fun that might look nice on the sitting room wall. But when I look at Jasper Johns, I'm thinking about how amazing it is that this artist pioneered and perfected the encaustic technique when most of his contemporaries were messing about with oils. I'm thinking about his theory of painting, and the importance for him of form and technique at the expense of narrative pictoralism. And the same thing with film. Like I was saying about Russian Ark. If anyone watched that film without knowing the technical process underlying everything, they'd probably think it's a rather strange and slightly boring look at Russian history. But when you know that it's a single take, shot over 90 minutes, you gain a new level of appreciation for the piece of work. So maybe that's my problem with architecture: I know what I like and what I don't like, but I don't know why everyone else hates Richard Meier's Ara Pacis Museum in Rome and I adore it. Or why everyone goes all fawning over something like the new church in Foligno by Massimilian and Dorina Fuksas Architects, but I think it's just a bit boring. Okay, so maybe I don't understand the complexities involved in working with concrete and that this is possibly some kind of post-post-modern renunciation of the parametrically obsessed (Cf Zaha Hadid), but I still don't get it.

Richard Meier's Ara Pacis Museum in Rome: exterior and interior
So when I realised last week that I had basically been living in AJ land for eight months and still hadn't really learned any architecture-speak, I had a mini freak out. It's exactly the same as someone who moves to Berlin, lives there for eight months and doesn't' learn to speak any German - behaviour I find completely abominable. So I think I need to pop my bubble and figure out what this world is all about. I need to learn the language.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ian Martin is all you'll ever need. Trust me Bennes.