November 25th: Students speak out on Eloquence - Part II

In this continuation of our conversations with students from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, our students spoke their minds on Eloquence in Architecture - Part II.

First up: a discussion of the Dr Farnsworth's house, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe:

Next up, we talk about the Schröder house, designed by Gerrit Rietveld for Mrs. Truus Schröder-Schräder in Utrecht, Netherlands. If you follow the link (just above) you'll learn that Mrs Schröder lived in the house through the 1980s, as did Rietveld - with whom she developed a relationship. This is somewhat surpressed information, 'though hardly surprising!

And then, for something completely different we spoke about the Temple of Dendur, now installed in the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum, here in New York.

And our conclusion was yet more discussion of 41 Cooper Square, designed by Thom Mayne of the architectural firm Morphosis, which I liken to rock & roll - rude, ostentatious, occasionally voluptuous, always self-referential, intended to shock and disturb:

I rest my case.

Our musical selections were:

Opening music - Rolling Stones' Gimme Shelter

Farnsworth House - Coldplay Clocks

Schroeder House - Igor Stravinsky Firebird

Temple of Dendur - The Bangles' Walk like an Egyptian

Thom Mayne's Cooper Building - T Rex Bang a gong

Thanks for listening. Talk with you again soon.

November 18th: Students speak their minds about Eloquence - Part I

This week and next we have a lively conversation with students, who give their takes on Architecture & Eloquence.

Here are our students, in the studio; a short video of us setting up:

This experiment in Radio Pedagogy was inspired in part by the this article in Harvard Magazine:

First up: the Frank Gehry-designed Beekman Towers, on Beekman Street in Lower Manhattan.

These are, of course, highly effective renderings of the design intent. You'll have to venture down to assess the results for yourself in person!

Second up, a conversation about Native peoples of the Southwestern plains, the Anasazi, at Mesa Verde:

And an Anasazi kiva - sacred place of purification and spiritual renewal:

We spoke about the entrance - from above - and the round shape of the kiva, as you can see in this photograph.

Next up: Juan Carlos Villanueva's ill-fated mega-block development in Caracas - 23 de Enero, which was occupied by squatters from the ranchos that it replaced - bringing with them the squalid style of living they had previously lead in those hovels, the ranchos.

Above, a scene showing how poorly used the "green" spaces between the buildings became.

And last up for our conversation of November 18th, Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan:

In our conversation both Professor Knox and I defended the well-planned landscaping as an example of the best of examples of the Tower In The Park concept,

Jane Jacobs' love of the typical Manhattan Street notwithstanding, Stuy Town is a truly successful alternative to the ruthless grid.

Next, on November 25th we will talk about the Farnsworth House designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe; the Shröder House in Utrecht, Netherlans designed by Gerrit Rietveld; the Roman-Eqyptian Temple of Dendur, now in the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum, NYC; and the rude thing that Morphosis and Thom Mayne have designed for Cooper Union at 41 Cooper Square, New York.

Our musical interludes were as follows:

Gehry's Beekman Tower
Flower duet from the opera Lakme'

American Indian aesthetic sensibilites,

23 de Enero by Juan Carlos Villanueva in Caracas
Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileras

Stuyvesant Town & City Planning
Gerswhin – Rhapsody in Blue

Outro theme
Velvet Underground: Sweet Jane (for Jane Jacobs & all things related to The Village)

Thanks for listening. Speak with you again soon.

November 11th: Architecture & Eloquence - Part II

Here we are, in a continuation of our conversation with Professor Roderick L Knox, architect on the vast topic of Architecture & Eloquence.

Rod declined to elaborate further on the Vesica Piscis, but noted the many uses of this mystical symbol in Glastonbury, which has a charming legend as being where the Holy Grail was hidden.

A Vesica Piscis design in a garden of Glastonbury. The intersection of spheres plays a thematic role in much of baroque architecture, which we discussed later in the program - see below. 

Pozzolith, the Roman concrete, as used in the dome of the Pantheon:

The Carpenter Center - and its ramp, which links Quincy and Prescott Streets - just across from Harvard Yard, and the home of the department of Visual and Environmental Studies:

Le Corbusier's monastery at La Tourette:

The Templar fortress Convento de Cristo in Tomar, Portugal –

The Convento de Cristo was in use to well after Friday October the 13th - 1307, when the Knights Templar in France were executed; in fact this fortress/monastery was in religious use until occupied by Napoleonic forces in 1810 for barracks.

Boston City Hall, by architects Kallman & McKinnell, completed in 1969 and despised ever afterwards:

and which certainly owes a lot to La Tourette, dontchathink?

Representative of Felix Candela's thin-shell structures are these hyperbolic paraboloid arches:

Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal owes much to Candela's work, as you can see in these images:

- above, a cheery illustration from 1961, and below a recent photograph of the terminal's interior:

Saarinen's CBS headquarters, with its triangular piers and black granite cladding:

Whereas "Black Rock" is not as severe as the monoliths or stellae in Kubrick's 2001:

- certainly the entrance to the CBS building is much harder to identify than, for instance, the Chrysler Building's entrance:

We argued a bit over the notion that concrete should be expressed in progressively thinner profile as the structure rises and bears less weight. Here is a Mies van der Rohe building that Professor Knox uses to illustrate his point:

To which I retort that to step back a structure for structurally expressive purposes might lead one to something like Raymond Hood's Chicago Tribune Building:

We spoke in passing about another Mies project, 860 – 880 Lake Shore Drive towers:

- a pure expression of steel structure: all grid, all lattice. Completely unlike Saarinen's CBS building, which is a concrete structure.

Here is a closeup view of the plinth on which these Mies towers perch:

Another work that is representative of the worst of Brutalist architecture is Paul Rudolph's Lindeman Center, which happens to be a neighbor of Boston City Hall:

- which, now that I'm looking at these photographs, certainly seems to owe a debt to Corbu's buildings in Chandigarh:

The Jaoul Houses – Neuilly:

and the exposed concrete wall (to the right) that Madame Jaoul patted as I toured the house with her in June of 1974:

Note the flat Catalan arches.

Corbu's Modulor Man:

and his trademark open hand in this monument at Chandighar:

The famous Villa Savoye bathroom, with its somewhat ergonomic resting platform:

Rudolf Steiner's Goetheneaum:

and a marzipan cake:

Adolf Loos' – Müller House, Prague – 1928-30

Examples of unified art, or Gesamtkunstwerk - as practiced by Frank Lloyd Wright in his prairie school houses:

- in which the architecture, the furniture and the furnishings have all been designed or selected by the architect.

Borromini's San Carlo alle Quatro Fontana – Rome 1646:

in plan

in elevation

and in reflected plan (ceiling view). Absolutely gorgeous.

Bernini's Sant' Andrea al Quirinale, of which we also spoke, in passing:

And - not to be overly self-serving - apropos of how collaboration can result in a work far better than what would result if the client gave us carte blanche, a few details from my own Bridgehampton National Bank, on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton, NY (1993 - 97):

A design sketch for the cupola (which the clients insisted upon, and which I insisted be useful to introduce daylight into the interior of the rather large volume of the building):

And how it turned out in the end:

Not at all what I would have designed for this bank, had I been left to my 'druthers, but certainly exactly what the bank wanted.

Well - here we are at the end of images for our conversation of November 11th.

Our musical breaks were:

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fifth Symphony - 4th movement

Richard Wagner: Die Meistersing von Nurnberg

Sergei Prokofiev: Romeo & Juliet (ballet) - Dance of the Knights

Philip Glass: Satyagraha - Act 3 Scene 3

Speak with soon, and thanks for listening.

Curtis B Wayne,

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