ARCHITECTURE AND I

I have been interested in architecture ever since I was a young child. I drew up floor plans of my room and created corridors and smaller rooms on my own floorplan. I kept one of the first floorplans I did when I was seven years old. It was for a artist house that had a pottery kiln underneath.

I loved living in what can only be called as Brisbane’s first urban planned area, Inala. It was a poor suburb of Brisbane, and it had a notorious stigma that even today still conjures up memories of how good of a time I had there.

As I moved across Queensland, I noticed that people chose to live where they did by two means. They either grew up there, or they moved there from else where. But further from this, they sometimes didn’t have the opportunity to move elsewhere. This is where I got interested in town planning and decided to start it in 1992 at QUT.

I did fairly well at it, the theory that is, reading up on people like Christopher Alexander and Le Corbusier (architects), Jane Jacobs (not a Town Planner).

My great failing was that I felt that planning, is essentially social engineering, such as engineering is for buildings, some thought (I believe) that to be a dangerous thought to hold.

life lasts only a minute. compared to the universe, you are so small. Man is not that important. We have to be simpler. Don’t think you are important, because no one is. You just have to be more useful. That’s it. – Oscar Niemeyer.

Perhaps, I entered Town Planning as a naive person, expecting things to happen for me, instead life just kept plodding along, and I stopped studying and took up a job at Huson & Associates, as a personal assistant, where I computed third octave frequencies and created noise models in autocad to be used in ENM (Environmental Noise Model) to create noise dB maps. I really enjoyed the work, it was really useful.

Where do I go from here? I was thinking. In the time from where I currently work as a CTO, but, I’ve worked as a Architectural detailer, Bakers Laborer, Real Estate Consultant and chairman of an Art Gallery.

Design only comes from being conservatively radical.

But there are other things that create space within places, some have a sense of identity that makes them whole.

I believe this comes from an extension of us, from our viewpoint. After all we are the participants in the environment and this extends from us. If you go swimming in a pool and come to rest, your arms naturally fall into a position that is divided up into sections, your eye height forms a triangle that at each corner is your hands. Your arms upper and lower form towards your vision.

I call this the personal perspective. I have a feeling that this can be applied to the design of spaces and places to aid in developing a sacredness of spaces that allows an artificial connection to the environment, a external connection with place.

New Brutalism

Banham, Reyner. “The New Brutalism.” Architectural Review 118 (December 1955).

An ‘ism’ be defined by style or movement. But when does the level of participation and its rules or a manifesto be goverened by a reinterpretation of a timely style and its influence on others. I will be critiquing Brutalism from its beginnings, how relevant it was in architecture in the 1950’s and it’s existence in modern architecture.

The use of béton brut (raw concrete) was pioneered by Auguste Perret through ferro concrete buildings such as ‘Church of Notre Dame du Raincy’ built in 1922-1924. This was a move away from stone construction and a birth of a brutal finish of concrete. In addition to this move towards a technological change in architecture, the brutalist expression can be seen in Le Corbusier quote “L’Architecture, c’est, avec des matières brutes établir des rapports émouvant” which means “Architecture is the establishing of moving relationships with raw materials”. Because of the natural appreciation of raw materials and finish, Le Corbusier saw what was the ‘business’ of architecture, which is to establish emotional relationships by means of raw materials.

Brutalism is of the idea that quality of the raw materials and not that it is rough and cheap. It was “the warehouse aesthetic,” which sought to capture the raw quality of materials. It was not concerned about the material as Peter Smithson pointed out in a late interview:

“Brutalism is not concerned with the material as such but rather the quality of the material, that is with the question: what can it do? And by analogy: there is a way of handling gold in Brutalist manner and it does not mean rough and cheap, it means: what is its raw quality?”

Its raw quality may not be of the interest of the client or the site requirements. It sits in the world in situ. It doesn’t yield towards to an aesthetic that is made by society, but like nature exists in a raw element. As Luis Kahn has said “You can have a conversation with concrete… the beauty of what you create comes if you honor the material for what it really is.” This can be held as true but does refining a base element into another remove its essence.

Which comes back to Auguste Perret’s ferro-concrete cathedral. It is something that crosses between the old and new, it has one foot in the 2000 year history of cathedra. It’s step into the relm of ferro-concrete is it’s dip into béton brut and specifically brutalism. But it has evolved to be a respect of materials, to the point of worshiping a brick for its beauty. With ‘the warehouse aesthetic’ it was a commercialisation of Brutalism for the masses, something that was set loose. But it still is revisited today. It exists in the “Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels” in Los Angeles, California by Rafael Moneo. It has elements of deconstructionism, but echoes back to Brutalism just as the ‘Church of Notre Dame du Raincy’ harked back to cathedra.

Notes

Collins, P. (2004). Concrete the vision of a new architecture. Montreal, Que: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Banham, R. 1966 The New Brutalism: ethic or aesthetic? London, Architectural Press, p16 Translation provided in: Brutalism. The Grove Dictionary of Art. Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 2000

Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture p10-11

Smithson, P (2004) Conversations with Students, Princeton Architectural Press

Nelson, L. (2006). American sanctuary: Understanding sacred spaces. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.