Arquitektuur versus Architecture.

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Arquitektuur is what you learn in modern architecture school. Words - the theoretical writings of Jacques Derrida. Pretty pictures - abstract enough to be called architecture even though they are really abstract paintings. Movies - the art house kind with lots of weird imagery and weak or no plot.
Architecture is something very different. Construction sciences - how a roof has to be put together in order for it to keep the rain out. The law - egress and accessibility. Management - how to get contractors to do what you want them to. Business - how to keep the building from going way over budget and how to keep yourself and your firm employed. The list goes on and on. And, this is where it gets abstract, the art and theory of arquitektuur plays a roll in it in allowing architects to do something (be artists) that engineers and clients usually can't do.
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Adam Weiss wrote:

There are basically three types of theory in architecture:
1) There is the type of theory that no relevance whatsoever to practical matters of building design and function, and therefore should be avoided at all costs, except as an extra-architectural endeavor, kind of like reading a book by Eco (his latest one is actually very nice), or playing solitaire.
2) There is the type of a theory that, in the historical/original/latin sense of the word 'teoria', is actually a technique or praxis for doing something architectural. This can range from the very practical (sizing concrete beams) to the aesthetic (applying Vignola's orders as opposed to Perrault's). This isn't to be confused with those theories that try to turn design into a methodology. This methodology theory isn't about technique per se but has its roots in 'strong AI' positions of being able to automatize the creative process- an impossibility, and not worth pursuing. On the other hand learning praxes is always helpful; a good architect is one who develops skill in various design techinques.
3) The third type of theory is the kind reading I did while in Prague and Milan- in particular, a little but exquisite book called 'Unmodern Architecture' by Hans Ibelings (about contemporary architecture that relies heavily on traditional/vernacular forms in the Netherlands). These aren't really theories as much as they are analyses of ongoing developments in architecture that have a significant impact on the built environment, and try to look at the starting point(s), the better works, the lesser works, the lessons learned, etc. Another example of this type of theory are histories (another bit of reading I did was Art Nouveau style in Italy- a fascinating time period (1890-1910).
The first theory is a mind game. The second theory is truly relevant to the design process; the third is a way of expanding those skills in trying to get a bigger picture, seeing where things came from and where they are going in a larger 'global' sense.
I consider the first 'bad theory' for architecture because there is nothing much that is relevant. It's a distraction and nothing more. Anyone who tries to make obstruse connections (such as between doing an historical/ interpretative analysis of literature and how to design a building) is wasting time. The second and third types of theory are valid and helpful in the process of becoming a better architect, and shouldn't be discarded.
Until schools and teacher give up on the first type and go back to teach more of the second and third, there will always be this disconnect of paper/web 'architects' and the true practitioners.
Reading up on the Art Nouveau style in Italy, and seeing the Art Nouveau in Prague and its lesser variations in Italy, I was amazed at the consistently decent work done at the turn of century (1870s to 1920s), particularly in relatively 'simple' constructions like apartment buildings. European cities (US too) had significant building booms during that time and the quality of design work, the balance of aesthetic and functional considerations was especially skillful, with the end result being that block after city block of normally 'mediocre' architecture was actually well executed, nice to look, functionally valid and decent.
This is because architects (and builders of course) had a fair amount of theory type 3 and good amount theory type 2, and didn't waste time with theory type 1. It was only with World War I, when everything changed dramatically (culturally, theoretically, technologically) that theory type 1 came into being, to the detriment of architecture, urban planning and building.
Just my 2.5 cents.
Marcello
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snipped-for-privacy@cpu-net.net wrote:

I believe for someone to be a well rounded architect, all three are useful. But, and this is a big but, a good architect would be able to differentiate when something is of the order of practical, or of the order of pure ideation. A good architect should have a big toolbox from which to draw from.
For example, someone who would not be too welcome here by reading all the recent posts, is Lebbeus Woods. I don't believe he has ever designed a single building in his entire life, yet he has written many books. One of which I own, titled "Radical Reconstruction" deals with the reconstruction of demolished or War torn buildings. Basically his "ideation" is of building upon the demolished, in many radical ways.
I think this has a lot of relevance to places like New Orleans. His ideas would have one build directly on top of torn down buildings, or leaving the destruction and building around it. Of course this is not practical at all, but it gives someone the thought of it, and a good architect (one that actually builds things) would have in his toolbox, this idea of a remembrance of the past, especially a place like New Orleans. And a good and practical architect, would take that sort of idea and put it to working use. The extreme idea can lead someone more practical to something beyond what they have done in the past. This doesn't mean that Lebbeus Woods is out there demanding that ALL theory be changed to do his bidding, but that his ideas push the boundaries and limits of others.
Can you imagine what a totally practical and profit driven architect would do with New Orleans? Someone with this idea of remembrance of the site, and its history, and possibly of its destruction, could bring back N.O. in a more profound glory. I'm not saying someone totally practical would not be able to do the same, but someone with a bigger toolbox might be more likely.
I went to a lecture of Lebbeus Woods once and it was very interesting. He never professes to be something he is not. He never acts as any sort of "wanna-be", he only does what he professes to do. Take a radical look at something through ideation, theory and writing, to expand the vocabulary of those that do the practical work. Is it less work to do such a thing. It's fine for those of you in here who want to teach the practicalities of architecture, it is necessary and obviously needed, there is no doubt about that, but I think there is a necessity to push boundaries in all directions, to expand the mind, whether they lead us to a dead end, or push us further. I guess maybe after years and years of working, you forget that life isn't just about working.
--
Edgar

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Edgar wrote:

Wow, not a single response...ok whatever.
--
Edgar

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Let's not confuse "expressing an idea" with the notion that any idea being expressed is good simply because it's been expressed. Sure, he may have written several books, drawn some fantastic stuff, but if he hasn't built anything, in truth, he knows nothing about Architecture (defined as the entire process from beginning of client contact through finished construction).

This idea isn't a "Lebbeus Woods Original." Others have thought that building with remembrance of the past is important (and one might argue that you can't NOT build without having some relfections on what has been built before).

Yes. And in my world this isn't a bad thing.
Someone with this idea of remembrance of the

Why do you assume that practical and profit driven implys having no remembrance of site and history? Profit automatically drives out other considerations? You have emperical proof? How about the idea that NO was build as it was because of profit and practicality? I can't imagine that anybody that built pre-hurricane in NO built out of the goodness of their hearts.

So...his radical look (because he's the one taking the radical look) automatically is valuable because he looked at it radically? I said this previously in the post. Just because we have the right to express an idea doesn't make the idea good, valid or anything else. In current politically correct don't-hurt-my-feelings society all ideas are of equal worth and validity. Lebbeus Woods, it appears from your statements, thinks that his radically different view is an important tool for my "architect" tool box. What if I think it's a piece of junk made in a foreign country and not worth using?
Is it less work to do

The boundries of architecture get pushed by all sorts of outside influcences, fads, trends, new building technologies, etc.
What if life is about working? (which leads to an interesting aside...about a century ago most of the world's human labor was spent in sustinance living...you worked so you could live. It's only you being able to have a 40 hour work week (or 35 in France) that allows you to even contemplate the idea that there might be something outside of "work.")

I sent a response, but my newsserver didn't like it... You may not get this one, either.
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3D Peruna wrote:

Did you miss my BIG BUT at the begining of my post. The real architect decides what idea they find useful and what they don't. I'm not confusing any sort of expressing ideas with them automatically being good. I expressed this idea here and I don't know necessarily that it is good, you might not think so, and from that I might learn something.
If you disagree, don't use it, simple...you are a thinking person and a thinking person can decide that for themselves, rather than take for a fact and supreme theory that people that don't build things don't know anything about architecture.

Yes, this is true, he may have added to this or done it differently or just repeated what has already been said, you'd have to read it yourself to decide which one it is.

Lets get Wal-Mart in there pronto then. Big box stores are the most practical right. Why is our country littered with this crap then? Why is every city near me exactly the same as the last, and the only way I can tell them apart is what freeway is near them or what the sign nearby says? It must be profit, plus other things, not JUST profit. History for one, connection to the local community for another.

It is valuable if you find value in it...right? So you don't, ok, you gonna tell Mr. Woods he can't do what he does because you think he's a phony? Will he care what you think?

Yes, yes they do get pushed by everything.
I don't know if I read this somewhere or heard it from someone, but it was about the perfect life of a human. It would be to live at the bottom of an ocean, inside a cylinder of bricks that reaches all the way to the surface. The human would spend his life fixing the leaks, and procreating to be able to continue after his death.

This one I got, thanks. I hate writing stuff and not getting shot down immediately.
--
Edgar

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Edgar wrote:

'Pushing the boundary' isn't a theory; it's a simply way of designing. Rebuilding on half demolished buildings isn't theory either. It was common in Middle Ages (c.f Piazza Navona as one of many many examples), but isn't tenable in the US given the structural requirements of buildings. Reusing old buildings is only really possible with masonry construction, and only if you can verify how good the original is asa foundation.
As for recalling what was built, areas like the 9th ward in New Orleans (from photos it looks like all low income housing) have little to 'recall' in terms of actual quality architectural details or references. It's not the same as reconstructing the historic center of Warsaw in 1946.
Personally, I would veto construction in areas below sea level. I'm sure the area was built in a kind of 'natural' way through dredging, infills, first one lot, then another, etc. But it will always be a disaster waiting to happen if the area remains decisively below sea level. Water overcomes everything. It's best to build elsewhere.
It's ironic that the oldest part of the city was relatively undamaged by flood waters. Tells you something about how much more in tune people were with the land/river back in the 17th/18th century.
Marcello
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snipped-for-privacy@cpu-net.net wrote:

I agree, none of this stuff is really theory to me, as I think that word is much to over and mis-used. I just call them ideas, or ideation. There is very little NEW stuff out there to learn, a lot of it is revisiting old stuff in a new way. I'm sure I did him a disservice in describing what he was trying to get across, but its for anyone who is interested, not for everybody.

I guess what comes to mind is those older parts, or the stuff that is really historic.
As for the rebuilding, it is hard for me to say. New Orleans went a long time without being hurt this badly, it may not happen again for a long time. I honestly can't answer that one. We have Earthquakes, other people have tornadoes, and others freezing weather.
Is it possible that innovation could bring about answers? Floating houses, some way to fill in what was taken out, and the rest filled with canals, or other things I couldn't possibly fathom?
--
Edgar

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It doesn't tell us that at all. We may guess based on that but would have to do some more fact finding before we can consider ourselves told that. Further, "much more". Again, it says nothing about that at all. "Wow, I want to live there. I think I'll build on the highest land that I _can_." Are you saying that the people who came after, who put up the newer parts had the option to build on already occupied land? Since there wasn't active pumping going on, do you suppose that maybe they didn't build where they did because "it will decrease our chances of being flooded when the whole nature of the area is changed in future centuries" or perhaps rather because "seems relatively dry here. better for the chickens to have a spot of dry ground"?
All too common for people to project their hindsight on people before the fact.
"Oh woe, aren't we the pathetic failures, not even smart enough not to build where it'll flood. Bad modern person, bad." Yeah yeah, everything was so much better off when everybody lived in dirt and died at forty because they were so in tune and clever and observant and respectful and they paid all their taxes without complaint...

Tsk tsk... Everybody KNOWS that this is only the tip of the iceberg (so to speak) of global warming, ozone holing, man made destruction and mayhem because we don't listen to our shamans and eat enough worms. It will happen again and again and again, year after year after year until you learn to walk to work.

"Don't build in a swamp directly connected to yet below sea level." Innovation.
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gruhn wrote:

You need to read Palladio's 4 books, particularly the opening sections related to foundations and layout out a building, to understand what I mean by people being more in tune with nature.
Tens of thousands of towns and cities were founded close to a river, in locations that were high enough to avoid getting flooded every 4 years, but not high enough to warrant transporting stuff up a rocky 300' crag by mule, unless the crag was natural defensive outcrop (like Orvieto, for instance.) Settlement building took several generations so there was time to make some adjustments if rivers changed course or flooding patterns changed. New Orleans had 200 years of Spanish houses before the French 'officialized' it, so if the Spanish had flubbed it initially, the French had gotten right by 1718.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Orleans
People had an idea of what they were doing back then. Not for nothing Palladio's wooden covered bridge in Bassano del Grappa is still around, complete with original foundations, and that's 500 years old. Venice too, with its island churches of 11th century.
Marcello
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snipped-for-privacy@cpu-net.net wrote in

[ ... ]

My guess would also be that they did not have people building their houses solely to make an obscene profit. IOW, the economics were different.
At the same time, I don't really think that, at that time, they were bending over backwards to accomidate their own poor and homeless - they were left to fend for themselves. If the poverty-stricken lived in shacks down at the river's edge, and got flooded, it wasn't something that'd be really "newsworthy" back then, because the attitudes were different.
So it's not IMO that builders have lost all of the old knowledge - I think that, mainly, people are pusing for more and bigger developments, and what is known (about flood plains, fire zones, and so on) is simply being ignored by everybody, including buyers. People are covering the earth the way a culture of Pseudomonas covers a Petrie dish of blood agar, and that's all there is to it. The more people there are, the more need they have for shelter, and the more desperate the need becomes due to overpopulation, the more people will choose to live in hazardous areas.
Back in the 1700's, it was a lot easier for a family to find safe, arable land (assuming it wan't already populated by Natives - in which case, those previous occupants would generally end up being wiped out or displaced).
Not so these days.
FWLIW -
- K.

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Does the latin teoria have a different meaning to the Greek theoria, from which our word theory derives?
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o8TY wrote:

I'm not sure of either the precise latin or italian definitions, though I know in Italian it also means 'series' and I've seen used to mean 'technique' as well. Unfortunately I don't have latin or italian dictionaries handy.
I've also seen it cited in Alberti's work where he seems to use it more like 'technique' than 'hypothesis', in certain instances anyway. Can't say where in the '10 books' though since my copy is English only; I read snippets of an Italian version in Italy about 9 years ago (and wished I had brought a copy of it then as well).
Marcello
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historical/original/latin
doing
from
I'll keep an eye open for it.
Something else you may be interested in, though way off topic and somewhat lengthy, but which confirms my theory re the presence of the aeolic capital in Italy.
Origin of the Etruscans. (2003)
http://www.knaw.nl/publicaties/pdf/20021051.pdf
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Worth about 5 cents to me... Well said. I remember reading an article written in 1969 (have it somewhere in my files) in Record that was lamenting the same thing...
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Hmmm..... it's been a while...
Adam...
You and I have known each other for some time... from the time before you started at Rice. You know that I have always been supportive of you....so I hope you will take my words in that tone.
Your statement shouts of the frustration that often troubles intellectually oriented young architect/interns when they enter the so-called "real world."
Your rant....justified, I might add....against the purely academic component of architectural education is fair. But it also tells me that you perhaps fell into the trap of giving too much credence to the purely academic professors at the 'Tute.
For the record, since many of you are relative newcomers to this group... I am an architect with over 20 years in both academic and professional aspects of the profession....and I've only been active in this newsgroup since around 1994 or so.
As an architect, I love theory and I love to build....and for me there is little distinction between the two. Adolf Loos once described the architect as "A mason who speaks Latin." I think of the architect as a builder who thinks.....deeply.
Marcello, as always, offered an elegant and erudite reply, and I will grant him the "Diderot Award for Encyclopedic Knowledge." All I wish to offer is the observation that, for the architect, theory has two main purposes:
1. It is the window through which we understand architecture.
2. It is the door through which we enter architecture.
That's it. Everything else is an expansion on these themes.
If I seem to be overly simplistic, please understand that my goal is not to minimize the role of theory....rather I wish to show you the incredible profundity of its role. I once presented a paper at the University of Auckland in which I challenged the narrow dualism that suggests a conflict between theory and practice. I suggested instead that each is empty without the other. Architecture without theory is merely dry clay....while architecture without practice is merely superficial dilletantism. For me the idea that practice and theory are opposites is as idiotic as saying that light and shadow are opposites. Light helps us see into the shadow while shadow offers comfort from the light. Each needs the other. Instead of a simplistic conflict, I prefer a more subtle and profound dance. Light dances with shadow, silence dances with sound, theory dances with practice.
True architecture is far more substantial than the interesting rantings of Derrida.... and it is far more profound than the mechanistic offerings of hack practitioners. At its best, architecture can make poetry from stones....without mere words to cheapen the effect.
In simple terms, the "architect" is what the word suggests in its original Greek.... "Master builder." If you want to be an architect, you must build masterfully.
Period.
.............
Adam...on a more personal note...
In reference to the issues you raised.... it would help if you had a longer memory of the profession. Please try to remember that, in order for young architecture professors to gain tenure, they must publish academic papers without reference to practice. Sadly, it is very difficult in most US schools of architecture for a practitioner to gain tenure....so there is a strong pressure to produce "paper" ...even for the practitioner.
Therefore, students need to remember that the professors who wander around spouting apparently profound gobbledygook in the spirit of mid-20th century French literary scholars are simply in over their heads and are desparately trying to appear significant in order to win tenure. Sadly, in most cases the senior faculty who must judge them are as intellectually and artistically clueless as the young ones....so even the best young professor is caught in a very uncomfortable crack. If they do know the shallowness of their jargon they won't admit it fo fear of losing the security of the academic job.
As Marcello reminds us, the true architect, whether it is Imhotep, Vitruvius, Bramante, Brunelleschi, Alberti, Palladio, Labrouste, Perret, Sullivan, Wright, Corbusier, Mies, Aalto, Meier, Gwathmey (my dear mentor), Steve Holl, Predock, Barragan, Norten or even Gehry....always focuses on the art of building....not on the babble of words. (Gehry of the Guggenheim in Bilboa....not Gehry of the mess in Seattle!) The architect makes art of space, time and materials....not of theories. The true architect uses theories to understand and enliven the built works.....but never uses buildings to present mere ideas.
The art of literature is words.
The art of architecture is architecture.
I hope this helps.
Christopher Egan, architect
Egan/Martinez design San Antonio, Texas y Mexico City
www.egan-martinez.com
Adam Weiss wrote:

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He does have a way with words..................

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snipped-for-privacy@egan-martinez.com wrote:

Well said.
--
Edgar

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snipped-for-privacy@egan-martinez.com wrote:

Such an honor!
Diderot? Hey, I'll settle for 1/4 of one of the books of Violet le Duc's Dictionnaire Raisone sur l'Architecture.
http://www.archive.org/details/architecturefran02violuoft
Marcello
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snipped-for-privacy@egan-martinez.com wrote:
<<snipped for brevity>>
> Sadly... for some time now, maybe as far back as the 19th century,

<<snipped>>
I'm less concerned with the big words than I am with a fundamental lack of knowledge in the field. If I might go back to the distinction I made between "arquitektuur" and architecture. A great architect knows both.
Bernard Tschumi, who was the dean at the Columbia University School of Architecture for a time, uses huge words in his books and articles - words like "palimpsest". In fact, Tschumi was perhaps the only "deconstructivist" architect to actually understand most of what Derrida wrote about Deconstruction. But Tschumi has a long portfolio of BUILT WORKS. Damned bad-assed built works I might add. That is an architect worthy of teaching it.
Unfortunately, and you said it before, too many professors at Rice and at other schools are experts in "arquitektuur" and yet know little or nothing about architecture. I had one professor who has has just one building in his portfolio - a house from the 1980s. A year after I finished, they hired a lady to the faculty who had been a fellow student of mine in the M-Arch I program. No built works in her portfolio. Not even a license to practice architecture. That, in a nutshell, is what I wish would change.
<<snipped>>

I evaluate myself and my work every day, but I also pray that in 10 or 20 years students coming out of architecture schools are better prepared to enter the profession than ones who graduated in the last 5 years.
You see, it's not an either-or proposition. If architecture schools are going to be improved, and they should be, more people are going to have to question them the way I am. This is -in addition to- self-improvement and advancement in the profession.
<<snipped>>

It's more than a little frustrating when I attempt to outline the problems with architecture education and am essentially told "you're right, but don't worry about it - move on."
Maybe it's that I'm idealistic, but I dream of a world maybe 15 or 20 years from now when architecture schools have been fixed. There are small things that could be done and would, over time, go a very long way to fix the schools.

Well, not really, :-), but your points are well taken.
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