Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Plaster in Umbrella

Index of the "architectural plaster" motif in Will Self's novel Umbrella

Friday, February 15, 2013

Pigeon Tower

This is were it all begins for me. The French 19th-century tradition of depicting vernacular architecture (Corot, etc.) gets infused with a formal otherness. Cézanne's, The Bellevue Pigeon Tower moves beyond the uncanny sensibility in Victor Hugo's ruined house drawings. It pushes a representational envelope, becomes biomorphized, formalized, geometricized. The Pigeon Tower opens the obvious door to Cubism and a less obvious door to Deleuze.

“Cézanne has achieved Spartan simplicity only by stripping away everything inessential from the secene and allowing abstract considerations completely to override the vagaries of nature. AsD. H. Lawerence observed in 1929: ‘Sometimes Cézanne builds up a landscape essentially out of omissions.’ The ruthless simplification of form evident in the Bellevue Pigeon Tower calls to mind the advice Cézanne gave to the young painter Emile Bernard in 1904: ‘treat nature by means of the cylinder, the sphere, the cone, everything brought into proper perspective so that each side of an object or a plane is directed towards a central point.’ Though this of-quoted statement has been seen as anticipating the advent of Cubism and abstract art, it is best understood as a prescription for reducing the imperfect forms of the natural world to essential shapes. Far from being a revolutionary idea, this was a standard method of creating order and harmony in painting. Long sanctioned by tradition and training, it was a method also advocated and practied by Poussin. (Verdi 1992, p. 147)

The fact that this work now resides in the Rust Belt (Cleveland Museum of Art) offers new possibilities of meaning-making.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Hans Herr House

Punk archaeology, John Ruskin aestheticism, and 1930s avant-gardes have put vernacular architecture in the back burner. Buried in a pile of papers, I saw my sketch plan for one of America's most amazing house, the Hans Herr House in Lancaster County. Built in 1719, it displays all the fabulous continental traditions that made German houses so different from British houses. And, yes, there is a family connection with Herr's potato chips.

I begin my Lancaster Architecture seminar with a visit to the Herr house. The sketch was intended to show the fresh students how to take visual notes. I apologize, my plan is a bit out of proportion (it should be a little more rectangular).

There are three places in the U.S. that bring German architecture to life for me. Visit them all:

1. The Hans Herr House, 1719 (click)
2. The Ephrata Cloisters, 1732 (click)
3. The German Collections at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, including a Küche from Milbach, 1752 (click)

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Kostis Kourelis

Philadelphia, PA, United States