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Theoretical Discussion

LeCorbusier's Ronchamp

We are always looking at theoretical discussions on architecture and architectural design. Members are encouraged to start dialogue concerning architectural theory in the forums and participate in any on going discussions. We tend to focus more on architectural visualization and in an effort to try and entice theoretical dialogue, I am posting a bit of a dialogue with Diego del Castillo  (a.k.a. ddelcast).

TheAllusionist: If you take basic classical Greek architecture such as found at the 'Acropolis', the experience is controlled by forced pathways and controlled view ports. It is my opinion for the discussion here, that this is an early form of sequential art and if you take the concepts you can apply them to graphic novels (i.e. comic books), animation and even cinematography for a stylistic experience. You could even reach and make comparisons to work by Asian action director John Wu and his combat scenes. Before I get off track, I was wondering if anyone has thought along these lines or used the technique in any of their designs, and if so how, or refer to works by others such as Louis Kahn's Salk Institute.

ddelcast: The Greeks were very conscious about POV but I think that that is a spin-off of their major concern which was perspective or should I say "correcting" perspective. That is why their columns where fatter at the bottom (to correct perspective distortion…Arch 101). I personally think that in order to control POVs you have to apply aggressive framing techniques, which not many architects apply (not so much to control the movement of the user but to control what they look at). These framing techniques are pretty apparent in Richard Neutra’s California houses, which resemble techniques used in photography and cinema.

Nowadays the most “cinematic” architect is probably Rem Koolhaas (not surprisingly since he used to be a movie director before becoming and architect) but he uses it in a much more subjective manner (maybe surreal is a better word).

Another great example of POV control Is Corbu’s Ronchamp where when seen from certain angles, certain object complete themselves (like the bell towers).
A friend of mine during grad school started experimenting with that issue and with the conditions of 3d software. She would design only using the perspective view and without ever changing the POV. When the design was finished, it only made sense from that specific POV since if you moved just a little bit, you would start seeing gaps between the planes (in reality everything was distorted and scattered around the virtual modeling space). I am not sure what that means but it was certainly interesting.

TheAllusionist: I think Richard Neutra's projects seemed to blur the line between the outside to inside relationship, which perhaps inadvertently created framed view ports. Of course I am not well versed in his design philosophy and maybe forced view ports were one of his goals. I personally think it is a kind of conundrum of modern architecture in relationship to the organic outdoors, from inside, the glass box looks at peace with the natural outdoors, but from outside the hard lined geometry seems at odds. I am not saying contradiction or the modernist theory is wrong, I am just saying the typical modernistic white box and glazing on a grid system comes across at odds with the organics of nature. I of course as well as you can point out different forms of modern architecture that do not, my comment is in response to work of a certain genre that Neutra is at least in part a practioner. That is not a negative comment on his work just an observation on my part on the contradictions from inside looking out, to outside looking in. The end result is definitely sequential view ports for the observer from within.

Rem Koolhass has some very interesting work. Recently he designed the Seattle's Central Library, I have not visited it yet (I live in Seattle, shame on me), and I watched it as it was erected. I am more impressed with his past work than the aesthetics of the library. This is subjective of course, but I find the structure and the glass support system heavy handed and the over all form intuitively at odds with my personal aesthetic preferences. That said, I think you are right in your assessment that he is a good practitioner of the use of forced view corridors and has some fantastic work celebrating modern construction and sincere design.

Ronchamp, I will go off topic here and comment on a certain genius I see with Le Corbusier in regards to this piece. I believe that there is a certain set of parameters that gives something a 'ness', there is dog'ness', a certain set of qualities that make every dog apparent that they are a dog, and it applies to almost all things. What is amazing about this church is that it looks like no other church really, but has the church'ness' qualities that make it apparent that it is a church. This ability to take the essence of something and create a new form encompassing those qualities yet having a unique appearance all it’s own is amazing to me and I see it as pure genius.

Taking your friends exercise on step further, wouldn't it be entertaining to create a project that as you viewed it from different angles it appeared to be a totally different form of architecture all together?

I will admit that I am more interested in the forced pathway and controlled view ports in relationship to the experience outside of the building. I know that we experience architecture more intimately from the inside, but there is something exciting to me about approaching and experiencing architecture from the outside, building up the anticipation to what lays within.

Please feel free to start/participate dialogue on architectural theory and share ideas within the forum.


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