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Typography and beyond


Monday, May 21, 2018

We tend to relate typography to alphabet, in fact, according to the definition of Wikipedia,

typography is the art and technique of arranging type to make written language legible, readable, and appealing when displayed. The arrangement of type involves selecting typefaces, point sizes, line lengths, line-spacing, and letter-spacing, and adjusting the space between pairs of letters. The term typography is also applied to the style, arrangement, and appearance of the letters, numbers, and symbols created by the process.”

So typography can actually be more flexible than the letters we are used to.

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Ghost(s) writer, 2013

This work is a work from Karl Nawrot, a French graphic designer who now works in Paris. He was inspired by three dimensional grids when he made Ghost(s) Writer, which is “an object dedicated to the act of sketching… It rejects the idea of a definitive form and its function is left to the user or the viewer and can be approached as a typewriter, a construction game or a sculpture.” The typographic work of Karl Nawrot expands past normative visions of what the alphabet is, into multi-dimensional visions of what it could be. Having trained as both an illustrator and a graphic designer, as well as having taught drawing at Gerrit Rieveld Academie, Nawrot is prolific in the way he combines narrative and storytelling, drawings, line, space and sculptural architectural forms with type design. The way he works with material is particularly innovative, often creating forms that resemble architectural models, which then become a basis for type.  An example is a model that derived from Le Corbusier’s Domino House, where the staircase is translated into a cave-like form. Instead of looking at a lay-out, two-dimensional alphabet, static on a screen or paper, we are looking at a process, which is given much emphasis over outcome. Because for Nawrot, it is crucial he gives himself a physical narrative to work with, so that whatever the ‘final product’ is, it is linked to a fiction.

Similar to the Domino House model, Nawrot created the Breu for Marcel Breuer font by making plaster model interpretations of Breuers abandoned building, The Parador Ariston, where he saw the rooms as instead ‘nests and caves’, which forms were illustrated in the letters. This playful, almost childlike, but acutely refined, material approach to the alphabet is what makes Nawrot unprecedented in todays typographic realm.

 

The infinite potential of the tools and ways we use to communicate through words and letters is being pursued in a similar way by Guy Rombouts, who created the Azart programme.

Guy Rombouts’ work can be spoken about under the term of ‘visual arts’, however throughout the mid 20th century he worked as a graphic artist with an ongoing fascination for communication systems. He is principally known for his Azart alphabet, which questions the way we interact with letters by adding multiple dimensions to how we ‘read’ words and sentences. Perhaps this is what makes his sculpture work fascinating- Often Modern sculptures will be associated with ideas, feelings or explore pure materiality, yet Rombouts creates 3d forms which may appear abstract or indirect, but in fact according to Azart, directly communicate something. Also his ‘typographic’ sculptures have often been put into public spaces, for example the 9 foot and bike bridges on Java Island in Amsterdam. Just like language bridges the gap between people, Rombouts forms connect the land together. Language doesn’t just have to come from the mouth.

 

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Azart alphabet

 

This new alphabet gives letters new and double meanings, related to objects and colour, which when strung together as words and then sentences, creates a loaded and complex shape of values and connotations. Like Nawrots process, Azart embeds narrative into characters, and new shape and more dimensions to letters. With this programme a user is put into a position of eradicating their memory of ‘normal’ character shapes, and take on a new vision where, like when we speak, each sounds from a letter is influenced by the one before and after it, thus the form of the word uses 3 dimensions to resemble this. We must question, is typing on an electronic document static or moveable, is it personal or objective? Just because we have fed a computer images into its memory does not mean it is fixed there. As important and useful as they are, in the age of computers, it is important to use creativity to expand and question what it means to communicate.

 

This leads us to discuss the work of Émilie Ferrat and François Girard-Meunier, who graduated from Graphic Design at the Rietveld academie with a collaborative ceramics project, ‘Ceramics with Émilie / Ceramics with François.’ They explored the way language can become material in an installation, in which there was a video where the two designers talked about some clay forms they had sculpted. In the videos, the idea of ‘meaning’ is broken down. They explore, in a new way, the on-going puzzling relationship between words and objects. How do they relate to each other? What do they mean? What is meaning? By translating the idea of a known object into another form and material, there are many questions to be asked, to which answers and messages can be found within the material. Hence, a form prompts a dialogue. You can find their work here http://designblog.rietveldacademie.nl/?p=47725

 

Suprisingly, we made a work which is closely connected to those ideas.

The work is inspired by the game kids use to play in order to learn alphabet. They have to associate a random letter with an object that begins with that letter.

Here’s an example with the letter C

game to learn alphabet

The fact that we have learnt our whole life to associate specific words to specific objects can be very limited, that’s why our work is meant to show the variety of forms and shapes and stories you can give to typography.

 

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We followed the same concept as the game for kids, but instead of focusing on the words, we focused on the objects.

We made a list of random words following the letters of the alphabet, and then sculpted abstract shapes out of it.

A=apple                                                   N=nose

B=bed                                                      O=olive

C=candy                                                   P=pickle

D=diamond                                               Q=queen

E=egg                                                       R=rainbow

F=fish                                                       S=shell

G=glasses                                                 T=tree

H=hairdryer                                               U=umbrella

I=icecream                                                V=violin

J=jar                                                         W=window

K=keyboard                                                X=xylophon

L=locker                                                     Y=yellow

M=moon                                                     Z=zucchini

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Pickle

 

But of course you can go further with the idea and play with the words which surround us in our daily life. Here’s an example of how a character would look like with our system

character

With this system, you don’t visualize just one thing anymore. The first thing your brain wants you to think it is is a character, but by being more attentive you can see a whole set of signs, of objects within one object, words within one word. At the end it makes clear for us with this experience and Azart alphabet that typography can actually be seen from different perspectives. With the shapes that Guy Rombouts creates, he makes an assemblage which gives the word another way of seeing it. The shape Azart alphabet gave us with Millie’s name might look like a rabbit, and mine, well… It’s up to the viewer to decide what it can be. All those systems want us to think differently, there is still something hidden behind the shapes we see at first, there’s a meaning even if it might not be obvious. Another example of that can be calligrams, drawings made by handwriting. You can choose to relate the writing to the drawing, but it’s not a necessity. With our character, the idea was to see what else you can obtain by replacing the eyes by eggs, legs by lockers, arms by apples, etc. But maybe the clay objects could have communicate something ? As for the pickle example above. Maybe this system can be considered as a new way to communicate with your lover, while other people wouldn’t understand what you are trying to say.

Eye Movement and Words


Monday, May 21, 2018

When we read, our eyes do not move left to right in straight steady lines; the eye goes back and forth. The movement is a combination of small rapid jerky movements, saccades and fixations, where our eyes actually stop.

When we read a text, our eyes do not move in a straight line across the page. They make skips from words to words call saccades. They also skip words, repeat words, and fixate on words.

In the image, the dots show the fixations.

 Image 1

The brain creates the illusion of smooth line and that we read every word. But the eyes fixates on only about 60% of the words we read. The eye will fixate on the less familiar words. The brain will complete, fill in the blanks.

The are three regions of  perception:

  • the Foveal region takes up only 1 to 2% of your total vision, which is around 3 to 6 letters we can see very clear;

  • the Parafoveal region is around  24 to 30 letters which are not perceived very clearly;

  • the Peripheral region is everything else we perceive, such as gross shapes.

The page, the screen where the letters are written on, give us a frame in which our eye will stay in during the reading process. But what happens when this frame disappears?

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Arktype Curtain and "Fire Basket"by René Knip

René Knip challenges this idea with his Curtain Arktype typeface. This typeface is meant to be hung up in a space. It is taken out of the paper into a 3D world even though the typeface itself stays flat.  The work balances between the 2 and 3 dimensional. One could call it 2,5 dimensional. The white negative space of the paper around the letters does not apply to this typeface anymore, as so is the frame given by the paper or screen in which a text is normally written on/in. The negative space is the breathing room around the subject that determines how appealing it looks.

Now that it is hung in the air, you will have to determine the frame.  You will perceive the surrounding and the text as a whole. The eye will change the way how it is perceiving the text. This is also due to the fact that the letters are connected vertically even though the words are placed horizontally, still, this will guide your eye in a different way.

An interesting thing happens to the text that has now lost it frame. It is no longer just the text that creates the visual narrative, since the text is immediately influenced by its surroundings. The two are inseparable. The Curtain Arktype makes the viewer experience reading of text in a different way. As said before, the eye does not pay equal attention to every part of a text or every letter. The eyes move around, locating interesting parts of a scene.

When reading a text created with René Knip’s 3D typeface, there is almost too much for the eye to focus on. The eyes of the beholder make jerky saccadic movements from the text to the background, finding interesting parts everywhere. The words become truly visual, where meaning is created not only by the meaning of the text, but also by their sight. Furthermore, negative space has become positive, as it has become defining creator of context.

The text and the surroundings become equally important and following that you will look to it more as a composition between the text and space. Your eye movement will be guided by the shapes around it, an eye movement which is closer to one looking at a painting, sculpture rather than one reading words.

 

The birth of the Intrinsic Colour System


Friday, March 30, 2018

When thinking about colour  I immediately become somewhat insecure. For me colour has a strange randomness to it and therefore every choice I make based on or about colour becomes almost arbitrary. There is also this common colour psychology theory people start quoting when talking about colour. Maybe it is because they are just as uncertain about the subject as I am. Or maybe it is because they do know what they are doing when using colour.

In order to keep evading the subject of colour during this project I had to figure out how I used colour in previous works. It turns out that most of the things I made aren’t colored. Of course they have a colour, but that is because the material of which the object is made has this colour as a natural property. If a thing I make is made from wood it will have a wood colour. If it is made from metal it has a metal colour. Not choosing a colour doesn’t mean you have to pick white, but it means to not cover the intrinsic colour.

Now with this new revelation about my colour use I had to think of a way how to put this in a system. A couple of weeks before this project I did some research about the DIN colour system. Which was an interesting experience. There was nothing to be found about it on the web or in libraries. This meant that I had to define what the system was about by combining multiple contradicting sources. Although that feels like you are just making up something it gave me some understanding of the general structure of colour systems. Most modern colour systems combine 3 parameters: hue, saturation and brightness.

glass  plastic  wood

brick  clay  marble

concrete  metal

The First step in translating these intrinsic colours to a system was to just combine the two ideas I discovered. I tried to find three parameters, not necessarily hue, saturation and brightness, in the materials I would qualify as materials I would use. The list got longer than I anticipated. And I started to notice something else; these aren’t materials I would use, these are building materials. The focus of my materials shifted from sculptural perspective to a architectural perspective. Not held back by this discovery I tried to put the materials in a circle as if they were colour hues. This led to a couple of interesting connections and contradictions.

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Now that the hue parameter was replaced by material I still had to come up with a replacement for saturation and brightness. This is where things started to go wrong. It didn’t take long before one of the biggest philosophical themes entered this soon-to-be colour system: time. I came up with the idea that the use of material changed over time and that the amount of a material that was used could make great graphs. Now brightness became time and saturation became the amount of the material that was used.

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Because this may sound a bit abstract I will try to explain it with an example. Glass was used in small quantities during the middle ages. With several improvements in the production process and by improvements in building construction larger pieces of glass were used in buildings from the end of the middle ages. An even better production process because of the industrial revolution combined with the modernist ideas of the first half of the 20th century lead to a enormous increase in glass use. Our obsession with high buildings, great views and daylight lead to the highest amount of glass used in architecture since ever.

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I made timelines like this one for all the materials in my material circle. Now I could make the step from theory to a specimen. It seemed logical to make the graphs of amount of material over time out of the material they are about. I figured out a way to do that but I still needed something for these physical graphs to be presented on. Within half an hour I went from a graph to a maquette with 12 buildings in the middle of Paris.

IMG_9522kopie

As I said when I had to come up with 2 other parameters, it already went wrong after the first step. The parameters where to abstract, farfetched and maybe with this last step to applied. I got stuck in an object that was just there as an object instead of what a colour system should be: a tool.

So now what? As with colour in general I decided not to use it. I did nothing with the project for a couple of weeks. But one day before the deadline of the project I had to come up with something. It was clear that the project was way to much thought and far to little hands on with the subject. I had to get out. Check out how these materials are used in the city and try to find transitions in material. So I took my camera out on this lazy Sunday, jumped on my bike and went on a slow journey into Amsterdam.

I just took photo’s of every building that used a material because of it’s qualities. This resulted in about 300 photo’s of bricks, metal sheets and glass. The selection could begin. By deciding whether or not I picture was more than just a registration I could narrow it down to about 60. Which I then sorted based on material and colour. Just like I did when making the material circle in the first step weeks ago. In the end I had about 35 images which made a colour circle that could start anywhere in the series.

Schermafbeelding 2018-03-30 om 16.37.57

It could be because of the medium or traditional ways to show colour systems, but it seemed logical to make a book of these photos. I tried to make spreads in which it would be sometimes difficult to see where one image starts and the other ends. To create this illusion of a gradient, but also to make them more abstract. They are not about the building that is depicted, but about the material of its facade.

An intrinsic colour being covered by another while both are being slowly smuggled away.

An intrinsic colour being covered by another while both are being slowly smuggled away.

 

I printed the spreads on separate sheets which then were connected like a leporello. Just because I didn’t know any better I connected them with a nice wide piece of double-sided tape. This made the leporello almost a structure, something that could stand on its own instead of having a cover. When installing it in a circle it didn’t work for me, it wasn’t as self supportive as it was in a book form. So I decided to add a cover that was attached to the last page and would wrap around the first page. This would complete the circle, it could still be viewed as a structure and it would still feel as a book. The material circle is printed on the back and is incomplete, for new materials to be added. I think this fits in the idea of it being a tool instead of just an object.

If there is one thing I learned from this project it would be that it is important to materialize the process. This project, for a major part about thinking, turned at the end into one about doing. Though this thinking was needed for the doing in the end I would like to experiment with reversing this process. Do first and analyze afterwards.

 

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Interview to Mr. Martelli


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

 

A few weeks ago I had a really sensible idea. I would have a sit-down with one of architecture’s most progressive faces, ask my questions and occupy their precious time, all in the name of a little assignment. I sent this email out to some emails pulled from the internet:

 

“I know that Mr. Koolhaas and Mr.Martelli (as would be anyone at OMA reading this) must be supremely busy, what with a world filled with commitments, responsibilities and the occasional pause for breath, but I was hoping you could spare a few minutes to a young, art enthusiast with lofty expectations, and help me in contacting him.”

 

Several fumbling attempts at communications; email, Instagram, other emails; (and a flash sighting of him at a crowd at SM some weeks later): I had secured a meeting with Federico Martelli, a proper, nice lad, in Rotterdam the next day. That Sunday I was quite nervous, the interview seemed to have fallen through altogether and only materialised in the last 12 hours. Federico was scheduled to jet off somewhere exotic that day, and I had never conducted an interview. The anxiety gripped me, what to do? I got on a train before I knew where to go, cleared it up with Federico en route, and finally met him in person. I asked Federico Martelli if he was Italian, he said “No.”. Misleading names are a rare sign of genius. After formalities and inviting him to cake and coffee, we presumed to the interview.

Throughout, Federico would emphasise certain things that were of importance to him. Among them are some I would like to focus on: temporality, durability and that architecture makes up the foundation on which him and Rem Koolhaas designed Base °1 and °2.

Martelli explained me how He, Koolhaas and the Stedelijk curators approach the project since the beginning. The collections is recognised as one of the most important in Europe,

the walls are filled with the history of the Stedelijk’s past; more than a century of choices made by directors and curators. What has grown is a 90,000 piece archive to choose from, a supremely diverse catalogue of art reflecting the individuals who have shaped the museum’s existence. The new approach can properly adjust to this diversity as free-choice pathways do away with traditional ideas of how we are guided in our experience. It rids the audience of rooms that follow formulas, instead creates open mazes in which “each wall is a theme”. New meanings can be created by the visitor as two or more walls make relations. Clusters of relation can converge as themes relate to a multiplicity of closely placed others. To summarise: The collection is on display with purposively selected highlights and clusters created by the walls. Two or more walls implies spaces, so relations. These relations are not obligatory and the route around the space remain undetermined and personal.

 

AMO_concept_collage_02

diagram

 

Federico stresses this point, him and Rem are architects. They have designed and built “walls”, not free-standing art display cases, hangers or frames.

The walls are constructed to be solid, Federico and the team spent ages testing re-design to be durable and immutable. They are meant to look solid, some arch over unmoving, as free-standing extensions of the building’s skeleton. This perceived solidity for the audience is a reaction to a fragility in how artwork has been displayed in the past. Free-standing wall within museums, including ones used at the Stedelijk for decades, are seen as aesthetically temporary, provisional. They allow for flexible re-constructions for new exhibitions or for creative freedom in presentation. Bases °1 and °2 extend this trend of mobility and flexibility, yet attach a material solidity that optically asserts permanence. The new walls further allow for greater threshold of art to be displayed, being heavy enough to support differently weighted works. The team faced another challenge to its goal of perceived permanence in the bases’ lighting. Martelli tells of internal discussions with some offering critique of a lack of natural light, arguing that certain, special, artworks would suffer in a space without openings for natural light to filter through, thus being in constant exposure to artificial light. On the other hand, artificial lights if implemented smartly, were found to be able to highlight some works more efficiently, say a cold light that could expose a Mondrian’s vibrant colours. So while the base lacks the natural setting that windows and openings for light to filter through, it can control the direction of light completely thus maintaining the base in one state over time.

All that internal debate, discussions and the good amount of compromises the result of almost 2 years of work is clearly visible today inside Stedelijk.

At this point everything turns out to look like a confidential chat between friends in addition of some little secret funny stories that of course I am not gonna reveal and I will preserve together with the memories of my “official” first “serious interview” of my life

This experience teaches me how many factors are as important as the final result, how many things for the viewer are imperceptible in their individuality but essential to make the whole well balanced and produced by smart studied choices. I hope I successfully find out a bit more about this project and maybe  answer to some of your questions…

 

stay tuned for the next one

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Final Selfie with Mr. Martelli

 

Where order is born is born wellbeing.


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Alvar Aalto, one of Finland’s most famous people who reshaped architecture and furniture of public buildings on the basis of functionality and organic relationship between man, nature and buildings, is now called the “Father of Modernism” in Scandinavian countries.

 

He was born Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto, on February 3, 1898, in Kuortane, Finland (at that time Finland was part of Russian Empire). He was the first of three children. His father, J. H. Aalto, was a government surveyor. His mother, Selma Hackestedt, was of Swedish ancestry, she died in 1903.

Hence, Hugo Alvar Henrik Aalto was educated a lot by his grandfathers. His grandfathers were both very close to nature, one of them was a forest guard. Alvar Aalto has a child use to play a lot in the forest. It was obviously through him that the outdoor world, particularly the forest became so important in Aalto work. The forest with his towering tree trunks and his various rock shapes is a world a constant changing forms which inspired Aalto a lot. Aalto probably found in nature the basic geometrics patterns for his architecture and furnitures.  The forest thought him also that nature is a sensitive ecological system in which men must find his place.

Aalto’s relationship is pretty clear according to the paintings he did as a child. He hesitated few years either to become a painter or an architect. According to his saying, he decided at the age of nine that he wanted to become an architect.

Aalto has been educated in the idea of National Romanticism, the Finnish version of Art Nouveau. Aalto rejected it, such as pretty much his whole generation. However he took one important feature from his predecessors : the idea that his creation should perfectly fit into nature.

Around 1920 a softer version of the strict modernist aesthetic emerged in Scandinavia, characterized by the use of (curved) wood in combination with shapes, colours, and decorations inspired by nature. The resulting furniture arose from the ambition that design should offer both beauty and functionality, and be affordable to everyone.

Aalto rejected a lot of furnitures of his time, he wanted to find a material that makes chairs pleasant to sit in. A lot of Aalto’s furnitures were also inspired by the shapes of nature. He often solved practical problems with abstract experimentation of forms with wood. Aalto experimented with bending a bunch of wood to create chairs.

Through experimentation with wood Aalto discovers specific properties which could be useful of men. For instance, in the interior of the Viipuri Library Aalto created rooms inspired by nature which specific functions. Such architectural solutions as a sunken reading-well, free-flowing ceilings and cylindrical skylights, first tested in Viipuri, would regularly appear in Aalto’s works. Aalto differed from the first generation of modernist architects (such as Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier) in his predilection for natural materials: in this design, « wood was first introduced into an otherwise modernist setting of concrete, white stucco, glass, and steel ».

Aalto’s work with wood, was obviously influenced by early Scandinavian architects; however, his experiments and departure from the norm brought attention to his ability to make wood do things not previously done. He was one of the first architect/designer to be able to find a way to bent wood in order to create theses beautiful organic shapes. Aalto studied architecture at Helsinki University of Technology, however during a large part of his career Aalto created a lot of furniture. Like Le Corbusier, Aalto considered that furnitures and architecture should be a collective and cohesive ensemble that creates order. His experimental method has been influenced by his meetings with various members of the Bauhaus design school.

After traveling through Europe, he was exposed to International Style and soon adopted the natural materials and organic forms of this approach into his aesthetic.

Design and Pattern


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Pattern, cell of design

Blog_MarcelWanders_Knotted

Living creatures have evolved as a result of adaptation to daily environment surrounding them. Creators are often inspired by those forms of nature, which is not only aesthetic but also functionally appropriate. So some design objects get to resemble living things. Looking into them deep, we can perhaps find that they both have a powerful element which does not appear on the outside at first glance but still has its influence on the overall appearances.

It is the cell that constitutes the whole body, which also can be called the pattern in design. The knotted chair of Marcel Wanders, made in 1995, shows good example of 3D pattern design. One unit that makes up the chair could have been no more than a twisted line, but it acquired more durability when several units are gathered and patterned under the certain and repetitive rule. (Of course, there was a process of hardening with thermosetting resin.)

It is also noteworthy that a cord, which is not very expected material for furniture, was used to make a chair which can withstand loads over 100 kg. Could this be possible if there wasn’t composed unit with consistent rule? Apart from this, how Teo Jansen could achieve to make kinetic sculpture that shows flexible movement with hard wood? I think a patterned design allow creator to be able to explore the materials and thereby can have its own texture. I would like to mention ‘knotted chair’ as one of the designs that can provide us with vision and tactile sense simultaneously on the basis of its pattern.

To continue with the research on connection between ‘design’ and ‘pattern’, I come to ask first,

“What is pattern?”

Then, look up the dictionary definition of the word-
Pattern is a particular way in which something is done, is organized, or happens; is any regularly repeated arrangement, especially a design made from repeated lines, shapes, or colors on a surface;

The word ‘pattern’ can be regarded as the particular way something is generated or as the regular arrangement that include continuous rules inside. What I can find from those selected meaning of the word is that; whatever we call as pattern has to have regular and repetitive factors, which makes it predictable, organized, and look stable.

So, what does pattern mean to art and design?

It could be one of the foundations that construct the way we see the image as well as deliver it. To explain this, let’s look at a few principles of design. The formative elements such as dot, line, surface, shape, matter can be said to be materials that is used to create image or object. Here, the ways we arranged those material- principles of design- are involving. Some of them are unity, repetition, harmony, rhythm, symmetry, balance, proportion and so on. Each of them, at some point, is related to allowing materials to look similar and coherent. We intentionally or intuitively use those principles for organizing a clear image to deliver our message efficiently. At the same time, our eyes receive those similarity, without even noticing it, and store it as groups in our mind. Therefore, we can realize that discovering the coherent image and patterning it is the basic method how we perceive visual information.

Pattern on 3-dimension

My research have had more focused on pattern in 3D design object than any other kinds of art pattern. It is not only because that the starting point was the knotted chair by Marcel Wanders, but also dealing the pattern in terms of its relation with object’s shape and texture are worth to watch. With the development of technology, more than any other times before, designer can now easily explore the new materials and create their very own way to use it.

Marcel Wander’s various way of using pattern are illustrated well with Knotted chair, Crochet chair, Flower chair, Cybrog chair and Cinderella broke A Leg bed.

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Earlier, Alessandro Mendini used his fabric pattern on the baroque style chair, Magis Proust. By seeing the pattern as ornament, he was marked as the one of those leading the postmodernism. In this case, ‘pattern’ became the mean to deliver the designer’s concept.

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Then, Zaha Hadid presented her colorful patterned furniture, Tide, at 2011 Milan Design Week. This work obviously shows the great promise of using pattern in design. The symmetric shelving module that one can create different compositions through rotations on itself allows individuals to build and rebuild the module to fit the space around them.

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Last but not least, I would like to refer that 3D pattern is also opening the door from craft to industrial design. 2D pattern design can be easily processed and completed on the screen while 3D pattern still needs to be experimented by hands at the first stage, especially if it is for the furniture or architecture that should ensure the stability. For example, the Knotted chair of Marcel Wanders is actually known as a result of handwork knot. Creator, as a human, they also make mistakes, sometimes do fail but later approach the point where they can create the most safety and aesthetic cells. This process is happening with hands. So I can see that link between handwork and industrial design is generated if the design happens under the conditions that need to be experimented and proved before it is systematized to be a mass production.

So far I looked through the definition of pattern and the how important it is on the art and design field, especially with the context of design objects. Also I found that how differently each designer handle the concept of pattern. Some of them would use it as their identity, other see it as a way to express their design philosophy, and another can develop it to interact with users.

At the beginning of the post, I made a connection between ‘cell’ and ‘pattern’. Just as the cell breath, nourish and endure the living body, pattern also function as indispensable part of whole (design object). It can be always developing and has endless possibilities, because there are still numerous ways to make a new rules and compositions out of it.

All is to happen


Saturday, February 3, 2018

French version:

Sillonnant depuis plusieurs heures les allées sans vraiment en connaître la raison, je décidais je hâter le pas en direction de ce qui semblait être une cage d’escalier. Je m’y engouffrais, et toujours dans la hâte commençait à grimper les hautes marches, deux par deux.

« Trente-six, trente-huit, quarante, quarante-deux…soixante-quatre,soixante-six, soixante-huit..quatre-vingt-deux! » m’écriai-je, le souffle haletant. J’étais arrivée au bout. Mais rien. Il n’y avait rien; rien d’autres que de nouvelles allées, semblables à celles que j’arpentais quelques minutes auparavant. Je m’asseyais, afin de reprendre mon souffle, suffoquant toujours de ces quatre-vingt-deux maudites marches que je venais de monter. En m’asseyant, je m’adossais contre la paroi murale et sentis un léger glissement. « Ce doit être mon imagination: je n’ai presque pas dormi et je ne sais guère à quand remonte mon dernier repas» me dis-je, en m’appuyant plus fortement encore. Mais cette fois-ci, la paroi eut un glissement soudain et cette fois-ci ce ne pouvait être mon imagination: je me retournai, et la paroi s’était ouverte sur un nouveau dédale de ruelles. « C’en est assez, de ces allées! » D’un bond, je me levais et passais le seuil de ce qui ressemblait fortement à un labyrinthe. Je me mis d’un mouvement frénétique à pousser les parois murales qui m’entouraient et sans m’en rendre compte je créais ce qui pouvait être associé à un repère un abri, une maison, ou toutefois quelque chose qui me servirait d’habitat.  « Cela manque tout de même de couleurs, ces teintes grisâtres ne m’inspirent pas. » Il suffisait de le dire, et une lueur vint teinter l’enclos de couleurs que je ne saurais nommer. J’exaltais, et m’empressais de pousser à nouveau le mur qui me servait de sortie, dévalait à toute allure les allées à la recherche de quelqu’un avec qui je pourrais partager ma découverte. Personne à l’horizon, mais je continuais à explorer la cité avec engouement. « Hey! » m’écriai-je. C’est alors que j’aperçus quelqu’un: elle ne m’entendit pas, et semblait déambuler avec candeur tout en bousculant, abaissant, inclinant plus de parois que je ne pouvais en compter moi-même. Je restais béate, devant l’architecture qui se créait peu à peu sous mes yeux. Et je décidais de la rejoindre. « Ludens » me présentai-je. « Babylone » me dit-elle sans un regard tout en continuant gracieusement à articuler ses mouvements, créateurs d’une architecture que je ne saurais qualifier. Nous continuâmes sans un mot à assembler, élever, courber, soustraire, façonner pendant un temps qui me semblait ne durer que quelques secondes mais qui m‘aurait pris une éternité à décrire.

C’était comme si mon esprit s’était dissocié de mon corps, et que je pouvais me voir, près de Babylone, des structures suivant harmonieusement nos gesticulations jaillissant de part et d’autres de cette superstructure. Il me semblait participer à un tableau architectural, où le temps ne faisait pas raison et où nos envies seules motivaient notre initiative.

Quatre heures dix-huit. Suffocante et moite, je me réveillai d’un souffle haletant, me précipitai dans la salle de bain et m’aspergeai le visage d’eau, me contemplant dans le miroir. « Qu’est-ce qu’il t’arrive, Ludens? » me demandai-je dans un bégaiement. J’avais passé la soirée à écrire jusque tard mon roman, et m’étais réveillée au beau milieu de la nuit, avachie dans mes brouillons éparpillés sur mon bureau. Un sentiment étrange me transperçait: avais-je bien écrit cette histoire que je ne cessais de me répéter en boucle, ou n’avais-je que rêvé cette incroyable cité? Je me dirigeais à nouveau vers mon bureau, avançais ma main vers le tas de papier gisant sur le bois luisant dans l’obscurité. Je ne trouvais qu’une pile de papiers, griffonnés du mot Babylone.

Je m’asseyais une fois encore derrière mon bureau, saisis une feuille vierge et sans hésitation me mis à écrire cette histoire que je venais de rêver. « Sillonnant depuis plusieurs heures les allées sans vraiment en connaître la raison, je décidais je hâter le pas en direction de ce qui semblait être une cage d’escalier » étaient les premiers mots de mon roman que je nommais New Babylon.

English version:

Roaming for several hours across the aisles without having any clear the reason, I decided to hasten and go into the direction of what seemed to be is a staircase. I rushed into it, and still in a hurry began to climb the high steps, two at the same time. “Thirty-six, thirty-eight, forty, forty-two … sixty-four, sixty-six, sixty-eight … eighty-two! » I yelled, gasping. I had arrived at the end. But there was nothing: nothing but some more aisles, similar to those I had been striding across just a few minutes before. I sat down to get my breath back, still suffocating because of the eighty-two wretched steps I had just climbed. As I sat down, I leaned against the wall and felt a slight slip. “It must be my imagination: I’ve hardly slept and don’t even remember when was the last time I had food” I said filling dizzy, slouching against the wall. But this time, the wall suddenly clearly slipped and this time, that wasn’t my imagination: I turned around, and the wall opened on a new maze of aisles. « Enough! » In a single bound I jumped crossed the threshold of what looked like a labyrinth. I started pushing in a frenetic move the walls around me, and before I could even realize I’ve created a shelter, a house, or somehow something that could be a living place. « I’m still missing colors, though ». All I had to do was saying it and the walls started to slowly get tinted into colors I couldn’t name. I exalted, and hastened to push again the wall that seemed to be the exit, ran down the aisles searching for someone I could share my discovery with. Nobody was around, but I continued to explore the city with enthusiasm. « Hey! » I yelled, stopping my race. She didn’t hear me, and seemed to move with candor while jostling, lowering, tilting more walls than I could even count. I remained blissful, in front of the architecture which was slowly being created under my eyes. And I decided to join her. “Ludens,” I introduced myself. “Babylon,” she said without a glance, continuing gracefully to articulate her movements, creating this architecture any word couldn’t invent. We continued without a word to assemble, raise, bend, subtract, shape for a while, that seemed to last only a few seconds but that would have taken me an eternity to describe.

It was like my mind had been dissociated from my body, and I could see myself near Babylon, the structures following harmoniously our gestures springing from both sides of this hyper structure. It like participating to an architectural painting, where time wasn’t serving any purpose and our desires alone motivated this initiative.

Eighteen past four. Suffocating and clammy, I woke up gasping, rushed into the bathroom and sprayed my face with some water, contemplating myself in the mirror. “What’s the matter with you, Ludens? I asked myself in a stutter. I spent the whole evening working on writing on my novel, and had woken up in the middle of the night, slumped over my drafts scattered on my desk. A strange feeling was running through my body: have I written this story that keeps looping in my mind, or have I only dreamt this incredible city? I headed back to my desk, moving my hand toward the pile of paper lying on the wood glowing in the darkness. I had only found a pile of papers, scribbled down with the word Babylon.

I sat down once more behind my desk, grabbed a blank sheet of paper, and without hesitation began to write the story I had just dreamed of. “Roaming for several hours across the aisles without having any clear the reason, I decided to hasten and go into the direction of what seemed to be is a staircase” were the first words of my novel that I named New Babylon.

 

spatiovore

Spatiovore,1958 / Constant

Astonishing, humble yet clever form, presented in a corner of the basement of Stedelijk museum, behind a translucent display case with a black background, its shape appears to be like two convex lenses of a thick and rigid perspex, half-opened almost like a shell; containing a fragile installations of metal shafts, of which stands out a thinner layer of orange perspex; the whole forming like a complex machinery lying on a wooden base.

I lingered over it for quite a while first because I didn’t, couldn’t understand it at first sight. I just found it beautifully standing there, laying inert.

It appears as being paradoxical to me though: its whole shape, so geometrical and immobile because of this thick and stiff perspex seems at the same time setting in motion; its metal shafts seem to slowly get activated, rotating and could be like seeing a painting taking physical spatial shape and rise. Forming a whole thing where each fragment becomes complementary to perfect the machinery. I fully appreciate its size, neither excessive nor ridiculously small; I appreciate the interplay of lines; alternating between transparencies and opacities, its colors as being injected with a syringe into the space. But I still don’t get it.

Now I do. Constant has effortlessly been trying to assert and establish what reality could be with New Babylon 1, and I would like to salute his attempt of creating alternative life experiences, what he called situations. I could only merely explain his lifetime project consisting into megastructures where « the bourgeois shackles of work, family life, and civic responsibility would be discarded. The post-revolutionary individual would wander from one leisure environment to another in search of new sensations. Beholden to no one, he would sleep, eat, recreate, and procreate where and when he wanted. Self-fulfillment and self-satisfaction were Constant’s social goals. Deductive reasoning, goal-oriented production, the construction and betterment of a political community-all these were eschewed. » 2. In other words his city of future was placed under the guidance of playing, adventure, mobility, as well as all the conditions that facilitate the free creation of the own life of its inhabitants who would have at their disposal a large collection of material and tools to freely shape and reshape their own environment.

In a lecture given by Constant at Delft University, he summarized his retrospective thoughts about New Babylon as follows:‘… it is possible to form a fairly clear idea of an as yet uninhabited world. It is more difficult to populate this world with people who live so very differently from ourselves: we can neither dictate nor design their playful or inventive behavior in advance. We can only invoke our fantasy and switch from science to art. It was this insight that prompted me to stop work on the models and to attempt in paintings and drawings, however approximately, to create some New Babylonian life. This was as far as I could go. The project exists. It is safely stored away in a museum, waiting for more favorable times when it will once again arouse interest among future urban designers.’

 1 – Wigley Marx in Constant’s New Babylon, The Hyper Architecture of Desire:

« the conception of the city and its effects is based on the autonomy of the single building, or on the interrelation of individuals in a social matrix of extreme functionalism, derived from one-way political thinking »

2- Wikipedia article: New Babylon, Constant Nieuwenhuys

 

 

Judge a book by its cover


Saturday, November 25, 2017

Book Cover     Illustration 2

Sound file: ‘Front Cover’

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The blue colour of the spine was the first thing that attracted me to the book ‘Walls That Teach’. I reached up to grab the book and upon closer inspection I discovered a beautiful cover with an interesting layout of text and attractive illustrations. The layout of text on the back of the cover for example runs horizontally, forcing you to turn the book to the side to read the text – something that reoccurs occasionally within the book. Despite the title of the book and the topic – architecture of youth centres – being an unknown topic to me, the design of the cover intrigued me enough to give the book a chance and look within it.

Typo 'w'

I opened the book and ran my fingers through the pages to feel the paper. The book felt light and the paper felt thin. The colours of the paper were the next thing that I noticed – they vary between green, white, and black paper. The main texts appear on the green and black paper. The illustrations and images appear on the white paper. The white pages are laid out horizontally requiring the reader to turn the book to its side in order to look at it.

Sound file: ‘Chronological’

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Young Pioneer Palace 3

The way the font (Gil Sans, Gill Sans Infant) is used and the strokes of the letters, the layout of the paragraphs, the letter spacing, word spacing and line spacing give a feeling of space on the pages without giving the impression that the page feels empty. The letters, words and lines are spaced quite far apart. The Paragraphs are centred on the middle of the pages, leaving a space of about an inch on either side. The strokes of the letters are also light (there are specks of white on the text that is black). All of these factors contribute to the appearance of the pages not looking cluttered.

Sound file: ‘Playful Typography’

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Illustration 4

The illustrations throughout the book are very imaginative. The first illustration is on the front cover. it is an architectural drawing of a youth centre with illustrations of people demonstrating how the space would be used – people are dancing in a disco, some people are playing table tennis, some people are sitting around and some people are working.

Sound file: ‘Illustrations’

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However, these illustrations change inside the book. The people depicted in the illustration on the front cover are no longer contained within the walls of the ‘youth centre’, but are left to roam freely over the pages. Sometimes at the bottom of the page you will find a couple walking hand in hand. On another page there are people playing table tennis. On another page beside a paragraph about the planning of a youth centre there are a group of people meeting around a table discussing something.

Illustration 5

The contrast between these illustrations and the more practical architectural drawings within the book is really amusing. For someone like myself who doesn’t know much about the topic of architecture, small details such as the people wandering through the pages really capture my attention and encourage me to read. The different photographs of the youth centres under construction, how they were used and exterior shots of the buildings punctuated throughout the book also adds another dimension. The combination of how the text is put together, the illustrations, drawings and photographs really brings the book to life for me.

Sound file: ‘Images’

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Book Images 2 Book Images 3

My first impression of the book was that it appeared to be playfully made. This struck me as being funny because the topic of the book is about youth centre architecture, but the topic of the book suggested that it could be heavy to read. Upon opening the book and reading it, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the playfulness of the cover continued throughout. All the different elements brought together really encouraged me to read. I think that the intention of the design element of the book is to inspire the audience to interact with the book and create discussion. All in all a very well designed book.

 

Walls that Teach, designer: David Bennewith & Sandra Kassenaar, Rietveld Library Cat. no: 718.5 pie 1.8 met 1

Purpose


Thursday, October 26, 2017

266px-J.J.P._Oud 260px-Landing_of_De_Vonk_by_architect_Oud Cafe_De_Unie

Jacobus Johannes Pieter Oud is a dutch de stijl architect. In his early career he was mainly inspired by Berlage. Buildings he designed were really geometric, he used long staright walls, rounded corners, horizontal and vertical lines. And these elements would cover an open space inside. He was interested in using unexpensive building materials and on the buildings he didnt want a trace of human hand. He was also interested in how the light comes in the building, how clean and fresh does the building look and feel. In his sketches you can see how he also sketches the entrance of the light into the space. Between 1918-1933 he was Municipal Housing Architect of Rotterdam. During these times the country was getting a lot of labor so he worked on mass housing for the coming workers. He didn’t want to use the traditional way of using bricks. Other two examples of his known works would be: Vakantiehuis De Vonk, it was made for working women so they could spend their weekends outdoors and be involved with the countryside. What makes this building special are the tiles on the main hall. They were painted by Theo van Doesburg to include painting in architecture and they thought this would make people interested in art when they were staying there. The other example would be Cafe de Unie. It was not really liked when it was built. Outside of the building looks like a Mondriaan painting. With the use of these primary colors and illuminated signs they wanted to attract attention. The building was destroyed during the 1940 bombardment and was reconstructed later.

What I want to investigate further is the situation in Vakantiehuis De Vonk. Can we really make people interested in something by just putting it ”there”?  Or did the answer to this question change in time? In one of Oud’s projects (Vakantiehuis De Vonk), they painted the floor tiles on different colors and it was designed by Theo van Doesburg. They wanted people who go into the building get into art by experiencing it. When I think about it, the purpose of commercials is the make the consumer interested in the product. Does this really work now in 2017 ? We have internet and social media. We are living in times that is extremely easy to reach people. So you would think that it would work amazingly because when you think about it a lot more people actually see the commercials now therefore the sales should go up right? Well, online commercials are everywhere but people are not seeing it. A personal example would be: when i am just scrolling through social media, I don’t stop scrolling until I see something that immediately grabs my attention. Let’s say an AD grabbed my attention, as soon as i realise that it is an AD I would just go back to my endless scrolling to the depths of the internet. More general example would be Adobe’s researches about ADBlocking. In the graphs they made as a result you can see that adblock users keep growing daily and in January 2015 monthly active users were 181 million. So in conclusion I would say in 2017 ads are definetely seen by a large group but it doesn’t interest people. The reason i am giving an example from online advertising is according to the research done by Nielsen(2013-2015) shows us that the most effective way of advertising is online. By these information I could say that these days placing something somewhere to make people interested in it doesn’t work really well.

So in the making of Vakantiehuis De Vonk, the artwork became a commercial and art became the product. But this is not the only way to use art. I think we can all agree on that in contemporary art doesn’t carry this purpose of making people interested in it but also we can’t deny that artists, sometimes in groups and sometimes indiviudually give art their own purpose. So I can say that art is subjective. Therefore, using art for a purpose would only work if the audience had the same ideas in art with the artist.

PRPS

Adolf Loos vs Hansje van Halem and the importance of ornament in the contemporary world


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Adolf Loos was an Austrian and Czech architect and an influential European theorist of modern architecture. One of his famous buildings, Looshaus, is now one of the most representative architectures of the modernist movement, although at the time it was established it had received great opposition and contempt.

 

 

The industrial revolution, the sudden accumulated wealth, and the people who longed for the appearance of the nobleman came to the city to compete with the idea that they should be more splendid than anyone else and it is natural that such people despised Looshaus. Anyhow, Loos was established with his opinion, he believed that the ornaments were not beauty, but more as a self-display and that if an artist made commodities for aesthetic purpose, it would not reflect the way people live and would not have the necessary function. The ornaments were a crime for Adolf Loos, a waste of the craftsman’s time, they were made for the main purpose of aesthetic pursuit and must be eliminated from architecture and design. He said that if an artist produces household items for aesthetic purpose, it does not reflect the way people live and it is a crime to make the worker spend so much time on such a useless thing. Therefore, he can not be called extreme functionalist, rather, his ideals were to produce household goods and to build buildings by reflecting the people’s real life at the time. Alfred Loos want to send his message to people who are captivated only by their splendid ornament and life and who are trying to forget their past without being true.

 

59291451bfcde2e8a4f4df61c4343021-loosbuilding-535x408

 

Hansje van Halem is an Amsterdam based graphic designer, she is mainly interested in typography, book design and other printing techniques but she also experiments with computer processed graphic patterns and drawings. Her work is centred on “exquisite” typography, it is a fusion of ornamental patterns and letters which become more then letter-forms, they are ornaments wth a specific function, they are meant to be read.

 

Ornamentismeanttoberead

 

There are 100 years between the idea that Adolf Loos had about the use of ornament and the way Hansje van Halem is using it today, and it is very interesting to see how, although their point of view regarding it is so distant from each other, there’s still a big connection between two, both indeed are giving great importance to the “function” of their work, Loos eliminates the ornament because there is no function in it and van Halem on the other hand gives a function to it though the use of typography.

 

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But how are the contemporary artists and architects actually reacting to the Adolf Loos’s ideas nowadays ? There are different manifestations of the ornament’s resistance in the contemporary architecture, The London-based FAT (Fashion Architecture Taste) for instance consider ornaments as an important and indispensable part of architecture, Charles Holland, partner of the FAT says in an article from the Financial Times: “The Loos argument is very interesting. As I understand it, he was saying that ornamentation was a waste of labour, effort and craft. With contemporary techniques and manufacturing it is possible to achieve a lot of complexity and intricacy with very little effort, so there’s a weird reversal of his argument. We regard ornament less as a guilty pleasure and more as a communicative tool. There is traditionally a kind of puritanism in the UK, a rather macho approach in which engineering and high-tech appliqué is OK. It can all be justified in practical terms but I think we can look more critically now at a modernism in which the motifs of industry were applied to architecture to make it look modern, which in itself is a kind of ornamentation.”

The current computer technologies are also playing a big role in the contemporary w  orld, this modelling and manufacturing technologies has allowed the mass production of the most complex forms and ideas. Evan Douglis is using this technologies to create new strange, forms which recall baroque and rococo decoration in their own new digital world, he also says: “The technology and the software at our disposal now gives us enormous control over form, equations can become a material presence. We’re interested in that intricacy between pragmatism and retinal exuberance – it’s something that bridges the disciplines, from architecture to furniture, interiors and product.”

 

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This new digital tools are helping designers and artist in their work as never before in our history and are also an easy way to experiment with forms, letters and of course ornaments, it makes the whole procedure more interesting and exiting, this is how Loos’s position, after a century, is slightly starting to become invalid, and the ornament on the other hand is on it’s way to decriminalisation.

a cooperative research by Yuriy Krupey & Eun Seo Lee

Architecture and Environment Coexisting


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Presenting itself as the architecture of the future, the new ideals of De Stijl privileged man-made realities, and therefore they had to be detached as much as possible from anything that might recall elements we find in nature. But is it really the best solution for a human, which is to all extents a natural creature, to be living in an environment which denies such a big part of its essence?

Imposing

Theo Van Doesburg, one of the founders of De Stijl movement, believed that because you can’t imitate nature, and you therefore need to move as far away from it in your design. There should therefore be a clear separation between nature and culture. A building with clean geometry, primary colours and curated composition was in his opinion the best way of creating a holistic experience. Studying his theories, sketches and actual buildings it appears that the surroundings should fit into the atmosphere the building creates, rather than the building into its surrounding. Van Doesburg followed his theory mercilessly. And maybe this strict praxis is the reason that only a few of his architectural designs actually got build.

It makes sense that, considering the time frame in which De Stijl developed, artists promoted a radical new approach to design and art, disclaiming anything that might refer to the past. This is true for De Stijl but also for the futurist movement and many others. We are forced to recognize that any movement in any context has an influence on what follows. The idea that a space should be as impervious as possible to any organic shape or colour, advocates an understanding of the world where humans are placed diametrically opposed to nature, and justifies a sort of alienation from it. In a way this is still just a residue of the dialectic of the Enlightenment. Evolution in this mindset is seen as the process of placing humanity as superior to its surroundings, and as consequence, of marginalizing it to new self-made environments with no regard to the old ones. Examples can be seen in Van Doesburg’s works such as the Huis Van Zessen, the project for the Maison d’artiste, and in L’aubette Cafe. This multifunctional cinema and dancehall presented a minimalistic interior and bold decoration of diagonally squares in strong colours were not normally seen in public spaces. And even though the creation is considered a masterpiece today, customers did not feel comfortable when visiting the Café. The atmosphere of the place was not considered cozy. The L’aubette Café makes you wonder if Van Doesburg’s theory is simply too strict and fierce to execute in real life. This manner of not taking the surroundings and people into account, has without doubt stimulated a big development in the way we think about design today. But is this challenging style too distant from the user’s demands to actually work?

aubette cafe

 L’aubette Cafe

Combining

Even though De Stijl has become very influential, and we see elements that allude to it in many modern design and architectural works, the issue of the role of nature has been re-considered in different ways. For instance, Frank Lloyd Wright represents a more organic approach of  doing this. His works mirror his belief that structures should reflect harmony between humans and nature. He achieved this by incorporating the present natural elements into the design of the structure. Each new design was carefully thought into the environment it should be in. The most famous example is the praised Falling Water House, built in Pennsylvania in 1935. The house is built on top of a cliff from which a waterfall originates. And although the modern house consists of inorganic geometrical rectangles, it seems perfectly in harmony with the surroundings. This is achieved by the use of rock-like bricks and the synergy between the position of the house and the waterfalls helps it to both stand out and to fit into its surroundings. This approach of placing minimalistic houses in the middle of wild nature has since become popular. For many it’s seen as the ideal way of achieving architectural serenity and a way to be in touch with nature, which is paradoxical considering the contrast between the unstructured wild nature and the inorganic shape of the these kind of houses.

fallingwater-3

 Falling Water House

Incorporating

Another compromise is to literally immerse the structure into nature, making the whole as homogeneous as possible. This is evidently the opposite of Van Doesburg’s philosophy. As an approach it dates back to primitive housing, when nature itself had to provide shelter. Turf- houses were used as dwellings for thousands of years. Because of the turf’s biodegradable properties, this tradition has been lost. Still in countries like Iceland it’s not difficult to encounter traditional turf houses that blend completely with the surroundings.

turfhouses icland

Icelandic Turf-House

In modern architecture these principles of integration have continued to develop. An example could be Malator Earth House in Druidston, Pembrokeshire, Wales, built in 1998 and designed by architects Future Systems for a former Member of Parliament; or Villa Vals in Switzerland, which was designed by Bjarne Mastenbroek and Christian Müller, respectively of the architectural offices SeARCH and CMA. Their design plan was to completely integrate the villa into the landscape to avoid disturbing the unspoiled nature.

malator earthhouse

Malator Earth House

villa vals

Villa Vals

Rethinking

Aside from the aesthetical differences between the architectural typologies we have analysed, what really is relevant is the interaction between the building and nature. The fact that nature determines the building’s survival, as well as ours, can’t be ignored, and now it’s clearer than ever. The sort of ideology promoted by movements like of De Stijl, that didn’t take into consideration nature and its resources, represents in a way the cause of all the major ecological issues we are facing today. Turf houses and eco-houses that merge totally with nature are not only an architectural achievement but also an ideological one as most of the resources aim to be sustainable. It’s necessary now to find a new way of incorporating sustainability in our lifestyles and as consequence in our architecture.

a cooperative research by Thea Knarberg & Emma Sardoni

Mondrian, Rietveld, Theosophy.. wait, what???


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Have you ever heard about theosophy?

We didn’t either, but check out this article because then you’ll know how it influenced Mondrian and Rietveld’s work.

 

Theosophy- what does this even mean?

 

theosophy

 

It is a unity of Religion, Science, and Philosophy that combines a variety of belief systems in its search for an underlying universal harmony. Basically, it is everything, therefore you have to be very focused to understand what specific ideas it defends and how is this shown or practiced in art and life in general.
It is also a doctrine of religious philosophy and mysticism (so it isn’t a religion itself), but holds that all religions contain elements of truth.
Theosophical writers hold that there is a deeper spiritual reality and that direct contact with that reality can be established through intuition,  meditation, revelation, or some other state transcending normal human consciousness.
Theosophy has influenced many artists among whom were Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, Gauguin, Malevich, Gerrit Rietveld (and some others from De Stijl movement) and Pollock too. This beliefs played a crucial role in the work of this artists, whose works were seemed to search for the understanding of spirituality.
All in all, theosophy seeks to integrate perception and thought, the natural world and the spiritual work, science and religion.

 

How did theosophy influence De Stijl

 

De Stijl magazine was publishing the group’s design work combined with theoretical writings which also contained mysticism. Members were deeply influenced by theosophy which was also an important part of Bauhaus. You can see that in the way they rejected any form of naturalism in favour of a formal abstraction that connected the movement with Russian Constructivism.

De Stijl group wanted to create a new kind of art, architecture and design in order to raise a disillusioned humanity from the horrors caused by World War 1 and as many artists throughout Europe, they attempted to liberate the arts from tradition. They wanted to change art from individual to ultimate, universal. Their vision was based on deconstructivism – reducing the universe to fundamental elements and forms – the vertical and horizontal lines became the symbols of universal harmony, to which were added primary colours red, blue and yellow along with black, white and gray (considered non-colours). Even if you don’t understand the deeper meaning of theosophy, these are the things you can recognize in artworks of De Stijl movement.
Anyways, members were aiming towards geometrical and technical art which would be an experience as a whole. They were trying to give art a spirit of forms and mystification.
What was important for them was purity in architecture, the absence of organic and personal forms. Like theosophists, members of De Stijl believed in the presence of deeper spiritual reality, whereas a direct contact is established through a state transcending normal human consciousness. They brought a sense of material, intellectual and spiritual unity to art, architecture and design.
 

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Theo van Doesburg’s work related to Neoplasticism – a work from Vilmos Huszar

Mondrian as a member of De Stijl

 

His path to Neoplasticism

 

Mondrian intensified gradually his expressive manner of painting and began to have a more and more intensive use of colours, that eventually lead him to the need to depict the visible aspects of reality.
From 1908, Mondrian began to work in search for a truly form of painting. The artist came to the conclusion that the pure, intense, inner colours (the primary colours) and a simple manifestation of the line (horizontal and vertical) could help reach an abstract form of art that would be suitable to the spirit of the new modern age.
In 1917, Mondrian and Theo van Doesburg founded the group De Stijl. Mondrian used this magazine as a vehicle for his ideas on art, and it was actually in the magazine where he defined his aims and the term Neoplasticism. Though Mondrian established his only visual manifestation/painting style: Neoplasticism, based on philosophical and moral considerations associated with theosophy, this name was also applied not only for his work, but also for the art that the De Stijl circle practised in the different areas.
The intention would be to use the form and line to reduce the visible reality to its essence. So, in Neoplasticism, all the abstraction is connected with the reality. The elements are displaced from their visible form, but reflected in an abstract dimension.
As Mondrian himself considered:

”As a pure representation of the human mind, art will express itself in an aesthetically purified, that is to say, abstract form. The new plastic idea cannot therefore, take the form of a natural or concrete representation – this new plastic idea will ignore the particulars of appearance, that is to say, natural form and colour. On the contrary it should find its expression in the abstraction of form and colour, that is to say, in the straight line and the clearly defined primary colour.”

Mondrian uses the basic elements of painting: line, form and colour in their purest, most fundamental state, creating compositions with different lines and planes, verticals and horizontals, neutral and primary colours in a universal visual language that everyone could understand intuitively.
Two years later, the architect- designer Gerrit Rietveld joined De Stijl, which had a significant impact on the Neo-plasticists’ ideas and production.
Influenced by theosophy’s ideas, Mondrian reduces all elements to straight lines that cross and form various sized squares and rectangles and restricts the palette to pure neutral primary colors and black, white and grey. This was his proposal to represent the universal order, rather than the physical meaningless world.

Mondriaan in Stijl 1         Mondriaan in de Stijl_950

Modrian’s texts on Neoplasticism

How is Neoplasticism connected with theosophy?

 

Piet Mondrian was raised in the protestant church and later on, in 1909, joined the Dutch Theosophical Society, which was one of the main spiritual movements in the Western society at the end of the 19th century. This Society was founded in the United States but quickly spread throughout Europe and had an immediate influence on art, particularly in the Netherlands. In fact this influence was so visible that forty Dutch artists participated in the exposition organized in 1904 in Amsterdam for the Theosophical Society’s International Convention.
From this time on, theosophy was to be a major influence in life and work of Mondrian.
In the journal De Stijl [x], Mondrian published some articles about the influence of Theosophy. In this articles, the artist analyzes the role of traditional art that he considers as a consequence of the lack of harmony inside of man (conflict between matter and spirit) and the imbalance between man and nature. For Mondrian, theosophy was the answer to this imbalance. Theosophy principles could, in his ideas, bring consciousness of the self, and as a result, bring the harmony in this relations.
For him, when the consciousness of individuality or, in other words, the concept of spirit emerges, two conflicts emerge with it. The first one would be the conflict between this individual spirit and his physical body. The second one, as a consequence of the first one, is a confrontation between man and nature, generating a ‘disharmony between man and his surrounding,’ or simply ‘the tragic in life’ as the artist considered.
In this way, we can consider that Neoplastic art arises from the same principal as traditional art does- from the perception of an imbalance inside of man. However, Neoplastic art tries to represent an absolute truth directly: the idea that if the artist represents it, is because he knows it, and not just some partial and accidental truth as traditional art seems to do it.
The aim of Neoplastic art is the representation of the absolute, almost like religion. By reaching this goal, he would be able to help the common man finding his inner balance. How? Modifying the external world to another one capable of bringing some inward balance: by transforming the surrounding environment, he would transform the man itself, and consequentially the society.

 

“Art –although and end in itself, like religion– is the means through which we can know the universal and contemplate it in plastic form.” (Mondrian, 1918)

 

Neoplastic art’s objective is to restore in man a balance with his environment, lost when man gains consciousness of his own individuality. Neoplastic art should be dissolved and fused into and with life.
For the artist himself, neoplastic art shouldn’t be limited to painting but rather extends to architecture and urbanism, and in this way make a real change in the environments. Mondrian considered that each artistic disciplines should perform a specific role, and together they should reflect the common harmony of the universe.
Therefore, for Mondrian, painting’s task would be to act as the guide for the rest of the other disciplines and eventually be dissolved, if the task is successful, into architecture, urbanism, life.
We can consider that theosophical beliefs are expressed in Mondrian’s neoplastic work, both, theoretically and concretely, in a constant demand for a true theosophical art.
Art is, in this way, a reflection of the absolute, “the Radiating Center” (as Theosophy calls it), which is the original force, creator of everything (idea that nature and spirit are manifestations of the same original whole: universal/cosmic order).
The artist, thereby, is the “translator” of a higher reality, and his works must repeat the representation of this “Radiating Center”.
Art should reproduce the conflict between opposing elements and the solution for that same conflict. The image of harmony cannot be static, but represented by multiple dialectics: two levels of elements, among which, simultaneous oppositions are produced (line/plane, vertical/horizontal, female/male, color/colorless…) The universal force/cosmic order/ the harmony, is so expressed in the duality between this contrasts.
While searching fot the harmony between opposites, Mondrian aims to help common man access his own inner harmony. By transforming the entire natural environment, the artist would establish the balance and reflect the image of the common origin of all creation: of the absolute. In this balanced environment, the common man can reach his inner equilibrium.

 

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 Composition A, Piet Mondrian (1920)

 

Gerrit Rietveld as another member of De Stijl

 

He was born in Utrecht in 1888. His father was a cabinet maker and when just a little child, Rietveld joined the family workshop. His apprenticeship was steeped in the traditions of the Arts and Crafts movement which can be seen in his early work (first attempts of furniture design).
In 1911 he opened his first shop in Utrecht and started studying architecture. As many others, he was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright’s architecture. By 1919 he became a member of De Stijl and became friends with its members Huszar, Theo van Doesburg, Robert van t’Hoff and others.

 

What influenced Rietveld’s work?

 

Theosophy played a major role in Mondrian’s art, but since Rietveld was a member of De Stijl too (although he never actually met Mondrian), we can also see the influences of the proclaimed philosophical ideas in his work.
In De Stijl architecture and design, Cubism was again influential but so also were Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie House designs, with their asymmetric free-flow of interior and exterior spaces. Despite all that, Rietveld’s ideas were more down to earth and less philosophical that the ones of Mondrian and Doesburg. He didn’t speak frequently about his work. Therefore the interpretation of it is based on the more philosophical tenets of the other De Stijl artists (members were very different considering a way of thinking) and it sometimes seems as if the designer’s voice may have been overshadowed.
Rietveld’s painted Red/Blue chair became the archetype of the movement, it was also the first time that the De Stijl colours, usually used 2D, (on Mondrian and van Doesburg’s paintings) were applied to a three-dimensional object. It was the first major piece of furniture to accord with the movement’s principles – conceived as a spatial composition, conspicuously disregarding comfort, traditional construction techniques and concepts of decoration (built on a series of horizontal and vertical planes, provides a clear expression of the group’s ideas).

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Gerrit Rietveld: Red and blue chair

 

With the Schroder’s house Rietveld created a totally original vocabulary in building construction and in the treatment of interior living space. The complex, asymmetric cubic construction of horizontal and vertical planes and lines encloses and releases space in a three-dimensional equivalent of a Mondrian painting. Linear elements are red, blue, yellow or black; surfaces white or grey.

 

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Gerrit Rietveld: Schroder house

 

A major effect on Rietveld was also Frank Lloyd Wright’s work who was a functionalist and a part of an International style. The most influential details from his work were the flow he produced between interior and exterior and also the use of verticals and horizontals. You can also see that in Rietveld’s last work, Gerrit Rietveld Academie where glass surfaces are made in a way you can see through the building, therefore it merges with surrounding nature.

 

Fallingwater

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Frank Lloyd Wright: Fallingwater Frank Lloyd Wright: Robie house

 

While quickly recognized as a major contributor to the development of Modernist architecture, interior and furniture design, Rietveld’s later work was largely confined to furniture design. Most known examples are his tubular steel and wood Beugelstoel chair, wooden Zig-Zag chair and wooden Crate chair. Among his other design work was the Netherlands pavilion for the 1954 Venice Biennale and a sculpture pavilion in Arnhem, Holland, built in 1955.
His furniture was designed for a mass production to be available to a large audience, even though at the end is wasn’t mass produced nor standardized – no two versions had the same dimensions.
It’s funny how when you see buildings, you mostly don’t think about the theoretical background of their form. Until we started making this research, we were more focused on functionalist features of buildings and which movement or era they belong too, but now we find ourselves thinking: ” Do this shapes represent some philosophical ideas?”

 

To conclude …

 

It’s interesting how the abstraction of Mondrian and Rietveld’s work seems to be so far from theosophical ideas – when you see the chair or a painting you don’t make an instant connection.
Mondrian and Rietveld both seems to try to make art that could reach the majority of people –a painting that would have an universal meaning (Mondrian) and a furniture that would be available for masses (Rietveld) – Art for everyone, art that would make life better. In a way, one can consider it an utopian idea, since the majority of people does not really understand the theosophical thinking … So the question remains: How educated should someone be when experience their art? Or in other words, to what point do you have to be aware of the purpose of the work to have the full experience of it? [x]

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Now you know. Awesome, isn’t it?

a cooperative research by Neza Kokol and Carlota Bóia Teixeira Neto

In with the out


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

We questioned ourselves on this new ideology De Stijl was confronting itself with in the early 1920s. One of them being the notion of inside and outside in architecture. As we found out by researching aspects of the Stijl after viewing the exhibition « Architects and Interiors » in the Gemeentemuseum of the Hague, there is a significant new way of looking at architecture in that period of time. Architects wanted a style that was more connected with their own time and ideology, traditional architectural rules were no longer significant. When we look at the scale models of the Maison d’Artiste by Theo Van Doesburg and Cor van Eesteren , designed in 1923, we can see the transition of walls that flow from inside to the outside. Trying to dissolve lines but also creating a way to incorporate the outside into the building. An interesting factor at the time was the creation of big windows and the opening up of space, which created a deeper connection to the exterior. Another example from around the same time is the Schindler House built in 1922 in Hollywood. By creating a massive wall that can be opened up between the garden and the living room, Rudolph M.Schindler created a space that can connect the inside with the outside.

Schindler house

Schindler House

Our next lead took us to the Case Study House project (1945-1966). A project consisting of 36 planned houses that were published in the Los Angeles based Arts & Architecture magazine. After the second world war there was an advance in technology and material. Architects worked together with the magazine to create new ways of seeing and constructing liveable homes during the population boom at the time. Even though not all houses were actually build, these plans were a hot topic among American architects. These houses were characterised by flat roofs, glass walls, modular design and steel frame construction. They neatly integrated into the sites with an emphasis on indoor-outdoor living. One of the first examples that can indicate a fusion of inside and outside is the plans for the Greenbelt house, where the architect tried to create an open space in the middle of the house that could be used as a place to store crops and other vegetation. Another project is the #21 case study by Koenig, where an irrigation system that surrounds the steel construction helps cool off the house itself. The design emphasise harmony of materials and balance between interior and exterior through the use of terraces, water, glazing, and skylights. Many more of these projects were about the connecting and fusing of the outside with the inside. Elizabeth Smith, Chief Curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, talks about this combining of inside and outside elaborately among other subjects in this lecture.

Case Study House #21 by Pierre Koenig

Case Study House #2, Pierre Koenig

 

If we look back in time, structures that connect the inside with the outside have already existed for a long time. We can take the example of the engawa in Japan, having the entire house surrounded by a ledge and being able to open up all doors and windows creates a connection between inside and outside. Recreating these structures and ideas. It’s almost like there was a necessity to be out in the open again in the 1900s and after. Today we can still find traces and marks of this ideology strongly present all around us in our contemporary world. What is being outside? What is being inside?

The Japanese Engage

The Japanese Engawa

In recent architecture we can find a lot of traces leading back to this ideology of bringing outside and inside together. Big windows for example are still a highly used aspect in a lot of houses. However, not all modern houses really look into the effect of this blending of an outside and inside. And there also seems to be a genuine difference in houses that have the the possibility of indoor and outdoor blending and houses that are created for the soul purpose of bringing the outside inside continually.

Let’s compare this difference by first looking at the OZ House by Andrade Morettin Arquitetos Associados. The house is made, similar to some of the Case Study Houses, out of a concrete framing that holds the big windows and walls. The south facade of the house made of glass opens up all interior areas allowing it’s openness to the views of the surrounding vegetation. It has the possibility of creating an outdoor/indoor connection by opening the doors, so it may or may not use it’s features. This way you are not limited by the outside forces, they can be ignored by isolating the house from them (closing the connection).

OZ house by Andrade

OZ house, Andrade Morettin Arquitetos

 

Inside Out by Takeshi Hosaka

Inside Out, Takeshi Hosaka

A great example of a house that tries to bring the outside in continually is the Inside Out building by Takeshi Hosaka. Intended to create a house for two cats and a human couple, the house was not focused on the human perspective alone. In this house there is only a few spaces that are able to be closed off to the outside, the rest of the building is open and connected to the wind, rain and sun. The ones living in the house have to adapt and live with these weather conditions and live accordingly. So in this example the outside has taken it’s place as a constant force inside of the building. The occupants have only one room (the living room) that they are able to control. Another less extreme house that takes the outside in is Casa Ilhabela by Studio MK27. By creating privacy around the house using walls and plants, they created a situation where they were able to take out the walls of the lower level and create one big space that is inside and outside. This space is a living room, but also a garden area. Having some outside forces, predominantly temperature and weather, continually coming through the living room makes this another example of a house that is bound to the outside. However on the first floor of the building, there are bamboo shutters in front of the balcony areas that can be opened up. Together with a pair of doors that can also open up the first floor to the outside. Having the possibility to also have an outside/inside connected space on the first floor. This house is balanced between the concept of a continuous outside in the inside and a possible outside in the inside.

Designers, architects and artists are also questioning the idea of bringing the outside indoor by bringing the nature into the interior space, incorporating scenes of nature. This transition with the natural world blur the lines and barriers between inside and out.  Bringing trees and other elements of nature inside, these projects question what is possible within the confines of erected walls. The artist Jean-Marc Navez incorporates trees that reach the ceiling and occupy the whole space to underline the bringing of outside into an indoor space. Through the incorporation of indoor trees the divisions between the home, office, landscape and environment are blurred.

Jean-Marc Navez

Silène, Jean-Marc Navez, 1984

 

Up to now this article has been about building houses and bringing whatever is outside of those buildings inside. But there are also lots of houses that are build to be enveloped by nature, by building into already existing structures like mountains, hills and trees. These give you a feeling of literally living in the outside. Some of these houses also have the ability to use their natural structure to create effects in the inside of the house. Sometimes they can control warmth or certain weather effects. For example earth sheltered homes like the Icelandic turf houses, are build into a hill to ward off cold winds. They also use turf to build thick layered walls that can keep the warmth inside. This technique of holding warmth is a great example of how to be sustainable.

Icelandic Turf house

Icelandic Turf house

This aspect of sustainability and our carbon footprint are quite popular and important in our most recent history. From this thinking comes a new way of creating houses, so called eco-houses. Here is a small video about an eco-house build by a couple in Norway. As you can see in the video, a lot of these houses can generate warmth and energy by themselves and leave almost no negative traces. A few of these new houses even have the ability to sustain growth of plants. By doing so the house itself is creating a connection between itself and the outside. Mostly build out of natural and renewable materials, they shape the way we look at modern constructing and living. A great example of a material used in a new experimental way is the mushroom that they used to make bricks for the Hy-fi construction of David Benjamins. Having bricks made of mushrooms that can be grown in 5 days, but that can also be easily composted afterwards is a very nature friendly and innovative approach to constructing. It shows us a glimpse of what we might be able to use in future construction of buildings.

Hy-fi by David Benjamin

Hy-fi, David Benjamin

Thinking about these concepts of sustainability and carbon footprints we also come across another question. Should we think about our plants and animals? Recent architects have been busy thinking of ways to incorporate the outside forces but are now also busy finding ways to cooperate with the life around us. One of the bigger projects that used this way of thinking is that of the Gardens by the Bay in Singapore. A project based on two major elements: human involvement and stimulating nature. One of the keys to this project were the supertrees. A number of man made trees that stimulate the growth of plants on them. Even though this is not about housing it shows us a new perspective and way of looking at construction.

Supertrees of the Gardens By The Bay project

Supertrees of the Gardens By The Bay project

 

So how will we adapt to new ideologies in the future?

Will we see self-growing houses or constructions that don’t depend on traditional aspects like walls and floors? Structures that blend the inside into the outside? Blend man-made with natural? In this technological era we might be able to control all these aspects of living a bit more and we have a broader understanding of the outside forces. But as nature is always changing, it’s still not certain if we will be able to control the outside. And if so be truly able to create an outside environment that is at the same time our inside.

a cooperative research by Billy Jansen and Chiara Moscatelli

Niban-Kan building, Tokyo


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Walking around Shinjunku, Tokyo’s district, one may have noticed the unusual buildings standing out on its east side.
The Ichiban-Kan (“building number one”) and the Niban-Kan (“building number two”) were designed by the architect Minory Takeyama in 1966. They were commissioned by a Korean Toyota salesman, asking him to design both buildings at the same time, and finally completed in 1969. Respectively, one was home of 49 tiny bars distributed through its eight floors, and the other hosted bars, clubs and sauna.

Slides from the 1970s, reproducing the two buildings. Domus Archive

 

In 1977, the cover of Charles Jenks’ The Language of Post-Modern Architecture features an enigmatic Japanese building. It raises the Niban-kan as an icon of Supergraphics, along with its adjacent brother building the Ichiban-kan.
Niban-Kan’s colored surface has been painted over by now, blending now with Tokyo building’s flat designs.
But what made this building so special, beside its colorful surface ?

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In the 60’s, East-Shinjuku was the land of protest and porn, where one could meet the radical, intellectual, and other underground Japanese subcultures. This area’s hyper activity led to an important street competition, where signs and speakers had to be bigger and louder.
Minory Takeyama was challenged to implant a new architecture in the given context. It had to stand out of this saturation of lights and neons, while blending in with the energy of the district.

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Entrance of the Ichiban-kan building

 

Japanese architecture is typically vertical, where each floor has a common area with entrances to shops and bars. As architecture was being more and more influenced by western design in term of multi-storey models, Takeyama exploited the local past of architecture and brought the verticality back to the front, creating a vertical street through the facade. The late-Modern “High Architecture” aim to reveal the movement directly from the outside, such as what’s going on, and how to get there.
The front shows the circulation, to arouse curiosity. This is completed by signs that bring an informative layer to the surface. At night, neons reflect on the glazed area, which emphasize the gap between the surface and the platform, and reveal part of the building’s activity.

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Left: a view of the Niban-kan interior today. Right: The same space with the original flooring, as seen in a 1970s Japanese publication, Domus Archive

 

The Niban-kan and the Ichiban-kan are representative of Tokyo’s relation between private and public space. You can go from the street to the seventh floor without encountering a door. By directly opening to the street, those buildings breaks the boundary and transmit a feeling of public space from the street.

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Entrance of the Ichiban-kan building, with a direct access to the outside

 

In the exhibition “Designing the surface”, The Niban-Kan was presented as an item from the, ‘agency’ category, through Charles Jenck’s 1977 bookcover.
Agency is an action or intervention producing a particular effect. Minory Takeyama’s colorful and ambitious buildings were possible to realize at that time, far from the actual strict rules of urban planning. This freedom made it possible to bring local tradition in the actual architecture and –promoted by Charles Jenk– become a figure of Post-Modernist Architecture.

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Ichiban-kan and Niban-kan seen from Google street view 2016

Architecture became almost a banal experience, we are surrounded by buildings that we don’t question much, because the more we see them, we forget them. We take design for granted. But sometimes one stands out and makes you travel.
It’s fascinating how design, by small changes of the interface, can revolutionize the way we experience our environment.

 

Charles A.Jencks, The language of Post-Modernist Architecture 1977-1987, London. New Institute. exh.cat.no.61-agency

It wasn’t a spontaneous encounter. I looked for it.


Tuesday, February 7, 2017

encounter

Coarse antique white paper. Slick bright white paper. Corresponding with these two feelings 70’s architecture gives me. This vintage feeling of the past, but in its day so modern and progressive. The book feels historic yet contemporary. I feel like I’m holding a treasure in my hand. This book; 17 by 24 centimeters, comfortable in one’s hand and easy to carry with you. Beautiful pictures in black and yellow printed on this coarse paper feeling like an old precious book in my hands.

cover side1

O B S E R V A T I O N S:

First of all, the book is titled “De kritiese jaren zeventig”, which I think is genius. The 70′s way of spelling “kritiese” is used in the titel, rather then the contemporary “kritische”. The book, designed by Beukers-Scholma, is linked to a 2004 exhibition with the same name. Their work contains several award winning designs.

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The book consists of 2 types of paper: coarse antique white paper and smooth bright white coated paper. Furthermore it contains 3 types of pictures: black and white, black and orange, black and yellow. The coloured pictures are like black and white prints on coloured paper.

Black and white prints are used for specific buildings. Every chapter is divided in paragraphs that deal with a building. The pictures of these buildings are in black and white on coated paper. The texts are also printed black on white coated paper.

The colour yellow presents scenes: People or streets. They are accompanied by relevant quotes and precede the introduction of every chapter. They are printed on antique white paper.

Orange is the colour being used in the general introduction as well as every chapter’s introduction and the first and final page of the book. The black and orange pictures that introduce the book are printed on antique white paper. The single orange introduction pages for each chapter are printed on white coated paper.

THOUGHTS:

How can I not read this book? Knowledge, knowledge, knowledge. I’m not, I’m not reading. But I see words, I see sentences, their meaning is clear to me without doing effort and so I want to read, I want to continue what my mind processes without conscious effort. This coarse paper feels so…… coarse? soft? Old? Precious I guess. I know this book is about the past. And we’re making the same mistakes all over again. Humanity makes the same mistakes all over again all the time everywhere, always. Why is there so much violence, why are people so unhappy. And I mean unhappy, unsatisfied in a well-developed country. This book evokes so much in me. And it’s not the architecture, not so much the design, but the fact that I know it’s about the past and I am not happy about the world and… Past, present, past, present and I wonder; where is this going? The design of the book anticipates on the context very well. At least on the fact that the book is about the past. And the design feels like the past, it feels like not now. Old pictures, blurry pictures, pictures in black and white, black and yellow, black and orange. Then again I also think this book is bullshit. Pure bullshit. Like everything contemporary related to architecture; this quasi science. Conceptual bullshit about how architecture makes a better world. But it doesn’t because we are inherently messed up. People are insane.

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Let's try to take a step back.

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The book feels like an escape. Just like how I can get lost in google maps, looking at buildings, I can get lost in this book

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The book makes me passive, receptive. Maybe that’s how I am in general. No I’m not. I’m creative. I create. I’m not that passive. But then again I am. Well at least lately I am. Sigh. I just want to see, touch, feel, sense the book. Which is okay. I guess. That’s the assignment. But then again, am I researching? Is this going anywhere? No. I just want to get lost. Lost in the images of the book. Lost in the colours of the book. Why do I enjoy looking so much? I do it so much. Just watching buildings. Going on google maps or biking around the city and just looking at buildings. Getting lost in watching them and enjoying them. I can hide my face behind the book. I like it. I want to disappear……………………….

With drawing and painting I tend to write a lot. Write previous to painting or using written words in paintings. I tend to write a lot. In this assignment however. I seem not so capable of writing. Even though I’m writing now. The book makes me very passive. Makes me want to see the book, feel the book, read the book, but not write about the book.

Now how did this all start? How did I end up picking this book? It started with a list of books we could choose from and I decided to look for books about architecture and found this lovely book about 70’s architecture. I happen to have a thing for post-world war II, pre-90ties architecture, so I had to choose this book. Then the book also happened to be so well designed. Also, the text is not only about the architecture but the whole social context of the 70’s. The book contains beautiful pictures, not only of buildings but also of people and sceneries. Sceneries of the 70’s. This book is a history book and its content is wonderfully converted in its design.

It wasn’t a spontaneous encounter. I looked for it.

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De kritiese jaren zeventig : architectuur en stedenbouw in Nederland, 1968-1982 = The critical seventies : architecture and urban planning in the Netherlands, 1968-1982. /Rietveld library catalogue no : 719.22 vle 1

content vs appearance?


Monday, January 30, 2017

In high school, my teachers always thought that the content of a book was more important than the appearance. I had to choose my books based on the texts inside of those. Opposite to what I was asked to do high school, in this Basicyear I was asked to choose a book on its graphic design. I was pretty surprised when I was told to because I am totally not used to do that. I liked the idea of it immediately. At the same time, I actually did not really get why we had to reflect a book’s appearance until we had this guest presentation of Elisabeth Klement, a teacher from the graphic design department in Rietveld. She showed lots of books where she did the graphic design for or just really liked. She told us that the content of a book is dependent on the looks of it and also the other way around.
So when I was wandering through the library, this specific peachy/sand/pink colored book caught my attention immediately. I remembered that Elisabeth showed this one in her presentation. I took it out of the shelves and saw this nice bold font on the front saying: ‘From A to K, Aglaia Konrad’

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The book is like an encyclopedia. In an alphabetically placed order, you go through a list of words which refer to the rapidly advancing process of urban globalization. The content is focused on the relationship of society and spaces and how they change. On the cover of the book, the letters and words A to K are spread playfully over the cover. The A and the K are echoing behind the title as big geometric shapes which remind me of modernistic buildings from the past 50 years. graphic designer Linda Van Deursen made the decisions about the fonts, the cover, and the initial layout. She created an architectonic feeling in all these choices. The co-designer of the book is Eva Heisterkamp, a freelancer who got this job from Linda because she thought the job would suit her.

Aglaia Konrad is an Austrian photographer. She has a fascination for architecture, urbanization and especially their transformation. This leads into rough photographs of abandoned buildings, unfinished constructions and city infrastructures without any human beings involved. She experiences architecture and urbanization as something overwhelming. Something elusive. It is not simply about architecture but about trying to understand space and how it becomes nature itself in at a certain point. She studies the signs and codes, actions, representations and meaning of the architectural system.
Last year she had a solo exhibition called ‘From A to K’ in Museum M in Leuven. Paired with this exhibition she decided to publish a book included all the terms referring to her studies in alphabetical order. The photos featured in the book are her works from 1950 on till now.

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Linda van Deursen acclaimed international fame. Together with Armand Mevis she established the graphic design studio Mevis & van Deursen in 1986. Linda Deursen has been head of the graphic design department at Gerrit Rietveld Academy from 2001 till 2014. She is a critic at Yale School of Art since 2003. The agency has done great things. For example identity projects, organizing events, exhibitions. One of their more recent projects is the logo and identity for Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. They were awarded for several art prizes as the Amsterdam Prize and the Grand Prix at The Brno Biennial
Recently they also design the printed version of the magazine South as a state of mind: DOCUMENTA 14.  A magazine which is being published four times biannually till the opening of the exhibition in Athens which is paired with documenta 14. The magazine could be seen as a manifestation included critique, art, literature and research.

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Eva Heisterkamp was a student of Gerrit Rietveld Academy, she graduated in 2007 in the TxT department. Joke Robaard was head of the department back then. After having worked for Mevis & van Deursen for four years she now became head designer of Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. I was especially interested in her role in the whole design project I was wondering how much she had to say about the layout and division of the content. She answered me all my questions clearly in an email.

After analyzing this book the past few weeks, I could tell that the design of the book made the content stronger. Using Times Ten and Univers as main type fonts is very convincing. The fonts are formal but also a bit playful because they are a bit horizontally stretched. The empty space between the words refers to the emptiness of the decayed cities. The repetition of the words in alphabetical order refer to the repetition of modernistic buildings and the recurrence of urbanization. Every page has a vertical line placed on the left side, which accentuates the vertical aspect of modernistic cities where all buildings are raising to the sky. The book sometimes still seems under construction like cities themselves are. At one page you just see a row of O’s on the left side and a picture placed over what used to be ‘ the rest’ of the word which starts with an O. The pictures are most of the time black and white except for some pages. Eva herself decided which pages she wanted to be in color and which ones to be in black and white. There is also another book which is all printed in color but less editions of those were published.

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Aglaia selected the pictures per chapter. She communicated this to Linda and Eva. Eva told me that through the whole process a lot of things changed and she could decide a lot in the design process. For example this case she told me that the font size of the essays were smaller in the beginning. In the last correcting round, the authors of the texts disagreed with the font size. The whole layout shifted, which made it very hard to finish the book in time. I find it very remarkable and a bit funny that the title refers to an unfinished alphabet because the design itself also seems like ‘unfinished’. Eva noted that here and there are some mistakes been made in the design, but I think we will find it out ourselves.The content, the appearance and even the process were constantly progressing. It all was endlessly in juxtaposition. That’s why I think content and appearance are always dependent on each other.

 

Aglaia Konrad, from A to K /Rietveld library catalogue no : konr 2

Transitions – from autonomous to applied arts


Sunday, January 29, 2017

A line, a letter, a page, a building, a photo, a book – separate stages that can either stand by themselves or remain transitioning points while executing somebody’s vision. It is common that an artist starts one’s creative process with making a sketch or writing down a sentence that popped out in the head, though, later on this idea might get a completely unexpected appearance. After the piece is created it will most likely be documented in a book, that sometimes serves as an autonomous work. Therefore, it is important to choose a right graphic designer to collaborate together for this process.

 

For my design research, I have decided to look into Alon Levin’s designed book ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’ that is a documentation of the former contemporary art pavilion in Almere.

 

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According to the Artistic Managing Director of the Museum De Paviljoens, Macha Roesink, the aim of this book was to expose the complexity of building such as De Paviljoens and document the history in a case study of the life of a building, in the form of a journal composed of accounts by many of the people who have been involved.

 

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Museum De Paviljoens

 

The building is transportable, like the ultimate kit, but it is standardized to meet building regulations. Documenting it in a book clearly makes it even more handy. I think it was not accidental that Alon Levin was invited to design the book as he himself works transiting from fine arts to design. To understand the concept of his way of working, it is important to look at his other projects.

 

In A. Levin’s book ‘Things Contemporary’ published by Dexter Sinister & Alon Levin, 2009 he talks about his interest in man’s eternal pursuit of order; not the ideal of order, which renders things absolute, resolve and static, but in the actual process of organizing things, which inevitably falls short. Artist takes up forms such as the triumphal arch, the victorious podium, or the Ferris wheel, and translates them into model-like wooden constructions and plaster forms reminiscent of the model. It creates images for the ambiguity of success and failure, for the instability of ideological, economic and scientific systems. Analogous to the accumulation and formation of knowledge in the “free encyclopedia” Wikipedia also Levin prefers, when he reused, deconstructed or repeated individual elements of his own works. Data, buildings and documents appear as moving building blocks in a constantly transforming and updating view of the world. To process this information, he uses charts, diagrams and transforms his knowledge into abstract geometrical shapes that later become sculptures or installations. Space-grabbing constructions from simple materials available in the construction market are based on the exploration of the technical and architectural achievements of the Western world and their significance for contemporary society.

 

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Things Contemporary published by Dexter Sinister & Alon Levin, 2009
 

Even though, it seems Alon Levin himself does not see switching from graphic design to fine arts as transitioning, I was curious to find out when and how do these two spheres meet. His pieces and texts are based on invoke either the incalculably large or the immeasurably small, hence the mathematical sublime, the way in which they thematise structure and collapse points. Using the design made for ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’ and photos of various installations I tried to create some ‘systems’ that could represent their ‘shape’. I discovered he used three sizes for the font, therefore a zigzag in my drawings representing ‘text’ in the book is in three different sizes. Considering purified and structured shapes he applies into his pieces I decided to replicate both pages and 3D objects into slightly modified, geometricized shapes. At some point I realized a certain rhythm appears, which blurs the line between two subjects of my research.

 

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Left – sketches of installations by Alon Levin, Right – schemes based on ‘De Paviljoens: Journal of a Building 1992-2004’

 

In fact, these two ‘sequences’ I made are just my interpretations of Levin’s creations. They might transit into something new and exciting at some point and that would probably be sort of an example the way the original author was building them. In ‘Things Contemporary’ he admitted that during his studies at Gerrit Rietveld Academie he wanted to understand the power of manipulating information: not just consume it, but to actually make it. To try and understand how all the information we ingest daily is organized and what the thoughts and structures behind it are. I think one of the best representations of this attitude is in his project ‘The Basics of Growth’ that dealt with similar ideas in botany as in economy, making some comparison through books that A. Levin had published himself. The content of these books was from Wiki that provides the material for the content of a book. He later on transits from the book into 3D structure based on the same subject, which in this case was a greenhouse on the rooftop of the office building.

 

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The Basics of Growth

I presume researching the history of the pavilions, he applied this same method in a reverse version – firstly, understanding the building with its context and then transmitting it into a book.

Throughout my research I learned that the endless cyclical game is the fundament of Levin’s work – a natural flow that drives him from one medium to another.

 

De Paviljoens : journal of a building, 1992-2004 /Rietveld library catalogue no : 700.4 pav 1


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