Puplication(s) : 2010

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Many diverging interpretations claim to classify Stirling, documenting the inability to pigeon-hole him and his continual experimentation with changing aesthetics. One of his students, Robert Kahn ’80 has recently suggested that Stirling “could have continued to do Leicester. ...he could have continued to do [it] better, but just he got bored. He was somebody that got bored with things and he moved on...”

His series of Yale studios were his laboratory to test alternative combinatory strategies to his own schemes. He appeared quite pragmatic and intuitive in studio, and was never interested in supplying a socio-political or theoretical “libretto” to accompany the projects, partly because he could not fathom architecture as a disembodied “idea.” In his mind, all architecture materialized as a particular instantiation of the spatial organization of the program and circulation of a building; as Louise Braverman ’77 has stated: “You see him doing these somewhat outlandish things, but they were always buildable.” As a teacher, he functioned more by inspiration than by instruction. At Yale, as well as on the platform of architectural innovation, he was a fresh voice continually reinvigorating the way architects thought of their own discipline.
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In an interview in the early 1990‘s then, Rudolph even suggested that “you have to be a little bit stupid to be an architect... [because] you have to be opinionated.”

Rudolph did not only emulate Socratic ignorance as a strategy of self-reflection, but unknowingly rehashed the plea for the heroic personage, which American philosopher and poet of individualism Ralph Waldo Emerson had made in the mid-19th century, when he observed that “there is somewhat not philosophical in heroism.”

Rudolph saw architectural design as the exalted task of an individual creator able to rise above the banality and littleness of the everyday with his art, and to will a world with his self-reliant, creative force. In the early 60’s, he wrote:

We must understand that after all the building committees, the conflicting interests, the budget considerations and the limitations of his fellow man have been taken into consideration, that [the architect’s] responsibility has just begun. He must understand that in the exhilarating, awesome moment when he takes a pencil in hand, and holds it poised above a white sheet of paper, that he has suspended there all that will ever be. The creative act is all that matters.

Very much in line with the myth of the heroic artist of the 1950’s and early 60’s, Rudolph’s statement replicated many a decree of the contemporary art scene, especially of Abstract Expressionism; the spontaneous, subconscious, emotionally intense, abstract, gestural process was to reveal a formal truth, where the image was the outcome but not the guiding energy of the act of creation. In addition, the artistic search was conceived as a solipsistic enterprise of a character, who had a privileged access to the laws of spatial relationship: “Insofar as he is an artist, Rudolph claimed, the architect must inevitably be subject to the same rule as any other artist, that of personal expression. Here he is alone, despite his many roles.”

The outcome of this thinking was the keen, muscular, polemical and sculptural structure of the A
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In the last decade of the 20th century, architects have reactivated their attention to particular aspects of the body, an interest which, I would argue, has adopted the Romantic sublime as its conceptual antecedent like no other period of time since Burke’s. Herein, the idea of the beautiful, autonomous body has mutated into the notion of the architectural organism, capable of new interactions with the spaces within and around the surface of the classical body. Increasingly, different physical states of the carnal body changing in time have become paradigmatic for architecture’s morphogenesis—like, for instance, the body in a state of decomposition, or the grotesque body. Once architects emphasize the transient and singular nature of the physical body over some classical idea of formal stasis, architecture can engage in an unprecedented way with the ephemeral, the transitional, and the contingent. In this conceptual frame, the architectural body is no longer primarily articulated in space, but in time. Amongst other factors, increasingly sophisticated and versatile animation software—first introduced in the world of architecture in the early nineties— opened the way into an understanding of form as dynamic and, at the same time, as inhabited by some enigmatic agency with an idiosyncratic and quasi-autonomous behavior. The effects of the software—which itself has a progressively more opaque logic of operation to the architect-user—hold great poetic potential: the creative software-user relishes the ineffable effects that different algorithms produce, and we are awed in the face of the unfolding techno-sublime. For an architect like Greg Lynn, this new paradigm has had mostly geometrical effects. Indeed, in a number of his early texts, Lynn situates his interests within a well-known formalist tradition from Rudolf Wittkower to Colin Rowe, and, against their “reductive formalism,” lays out the parameters for an irreducible formalism that is based on anexact geometries. In the very beginning of Animate Form, however, Lynn explains that “animation implies the evolution of a form and its shaping forces: it suggests animalism, animism,

growth, actuation, vitality and virtuality.”05 Both his choice of metaphors in this quote and his reference to the series of Blob films (starting with The Blob , directed by Irvin Yeaworth, Jr., in 1958) used to illustrate his case reveal that Lynn’s interest goes beyond the potential for new geometries; in fact, he is fascinated by the changed psychological conditions new monstrous, dynamic, and amorphous forms could provoke in the beholder of architecture.06 In Yeaworth’s films, the “blob” is a scary alien life-form, which consumes everything in its path as it expands.Fig. 2 While architectural tectonics have hitherto been grounded in a tradition of making the joinery of different formal systems articulate, blobs erase the legibility of such connections altogether; hence their uncanny, “sticky” appearance. And, most importantly, the decrease of traditional categories of “understanding” in this paradigm is commensurate with the subject’s lost ability to comprehend the object-world around him, as well as the ensuing psychological trauma he suffers from his loss of control over the environment. At least on a theoretical level, the body of the subject and the body of architecture now influence each other interactively, which renders the autonomy of both of them unattainable: subject and object now have to be conceptualized in relation to one another. The motif of humans losing analytic control in face of the ineffable behavior of the blob acts as an analog to the changed relationship of the animator/architect toward his design.

The architect’s agency undoubtedly finds itself radically altered when feeding the computer with data while abandoning the traditional design techniques of the paper sketch. This type of architecture unfolds through iterative processes, instead of as a series of conscious, step-by-step, non-automatic, and non-linear decisions. Lynn’s early projects—derived from those creepy, sticky, and slimy forms—impose on both the designer and the beholder of architecture psychological sensations of fascination and, at the same time, of impotence and horror. The distinction between the will of the subject— the designer as an agent of formal decision-making—and the internal “strategies” of the object—designed as the “receiver” of formal information—is removed.
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