Wednesday, March 18, 2015

ON DRAWING - A PERSONAL NOTE

A palimpsest

Ian Fairweather's painting displays a thinking, searching brush/hand making sense out of a palimpsest

These are a few jottings, thoughts stimulated by Drawing on Life - see: http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/talking-heads-and-waving-hands-art-of.html  - notes on how I have used the computer with sketches, making technology a part of the drawing process instead of isolating it as an alien tool. After developing a schematic concept with drawings, the draftsman puts the image into CAD with my help interpreting and guiding the process that quickly records the concepts. The drawing is then printed and worked over again by sketching. The CAD document is then upgraded under my direct supervision, (sitting beside the draftsman), and again printed off for more development sketching. The over-the-shoulder work allows for immediate feedback and on-screen development. The process is interesting and useful. Ad hoc images as freehand drawings are constantly being checked against the reality of the underlying facts and figures, and being adjusted and varied to suit. The sooner the process starts, the sooner the 'errors' can be modified and variations made to the scheme. The CAD images allow one to be informed of the true circumstances very quickly. The drawings are never seen as art, merely as working documents, even though someone might think that they look ‘interesting.’



Ian Fairweather

On materials for drawing, I find anything available can be useful. Working on tracing paper, (butter paper is too frail for tough revisions), with pencil, (of all grades of graphite and colours); inks, (fine and bold; liquid and contained by felt); paints, whiteout, (of all colours); chalk, charcoal, glue, (to add on anything);  etc., all have their use, on either side of the page. Tracing paper allows for this reversed depth to be used as well as overlays, and for many re-workings, including hatching, scratching, smudging, painting and general scrawl that eventually becomes clarified with the weight and solidity of marker pens, (of all colours and solubility that do not leech through to stain other work), and whiteout brushed on, (either as line or surface either side). It is a true collage of markings for information, not its own formation. One is reminded of Henry Moore’s little sketches that frequently use five or seven different materials. The ambition is the outcome never the process of the interim scribbles making an object of desire: art. These drawings are discarded once the CAD documentation has been formally resolved.


Ian Fairweather

The other drawing process/system involves the little spiral-bound notepad that fits the top shirt pocket with the pen, a ballpoint. Here ‘Biro’ pens, (thick and fast are the best but they are messy), are used whenever the time might be available – in airports; trains; while watching TV; etc., to explore matters in concepts and in detail, both broad and specific. These markings, (I am reminded for Dag Hammarskjold's beautiful little book titled Markings - Faber), continue whenever, however, never – never seeing the notebook as a formal sketch book to become a subject for the scanning of any camera. These little books are for anything and everything – things to do; telephone numbers; images; ideas; meetings; shopping lists; ad hoc thoughts to be developed later; notes to myself; . . . The books are then brought out when sitting down at the computer beside the draughtsman and used as a reference for how matters might be considered. In the rush and bustle of two or three projects, and in the middle of the distractions of office mayhem, the question often comes: what do you want here.  One cannot recall immediately when the mind is buzzing with other concerns, so the small notepad comes out and is opened: oh, yes. The image might be weeks old: they are usually dated or located in a context. The images are an aid to thinking – designing – never a making of beauty, of arty drawings.  Drawing in architecture is a process of making marks for discovery.


Ian Fairweather

Francis Bacon spoke of how a gesture or a smudge could suggest something else. This serendipitous approach is always open as a possibility that something else might surface, be revealed: as the surprise - even with a 'mistake.'  One should never be brazen or bold enough to force matters.  Gentle coaxing is what drawing does - a drawing out. This was mentioned once in the film that would have mocked its subject less if had been edited heavily to make such statements more cryptic and clear – memorable. Instead only frustration and the hope of an end took over from the potential delight of the subject that is full of life and vital energy.


Ian Fairweather

The benefits of the sketch/CAD/sketch approach is that one is always working with accurate information. The scribble can always be tested. One might, for instance, after an open approach of scribbling anywhere, thinking, start looking more carefully on the specific context and begin by transferring thoughts and ideas to be developed with more informed scribbling, smudging, over the CAD site plan; perhaps, on tighter sites, this might become a working with all of the planning control lines marked in; with contours; site sections, etc. The mix of CAD/sketch may appear 'impure' to those interested in viewing outcomes as art, but it has all of the flexibility and usefulness of working in multimedia on the one drawing - as a rich collage; a palimpsest.

A palimpsest

The added ‘media’ is the CAD information that, when handled in this manner, becomes a useful part of the process rather than any hindrance. It is tamed. It provides critical information for manipulation of the drawing media: it frees everything up. But one does require a good draughtsman who is thorough and careful, committed to resolving and working with all of the rigours of the CAD process. (For the record: I worked at Project Services with Tony Newsham, an ex-carpenter from Eulo, now carpenter again, the best draughtsman ever in any of my teams: after a fruitful co-operative time, I moved on and Tony became frustrated with architects, so he returned to building, both carpentry and computers). The benefits of working with a ‘tradie’ who was skilled in and loved mathematical and computer problems, becomes only too evident over time. One never wants a draughtsman who is prepared to manipulate anything just for appearance or any easy outcome. It is critical that CAD maintains its thoroughness and rigour if the process, the interplay of fact and fictions seen in dreams is to be useful – both as a discovery and a short-circuiting of the determination of the final CAD documentation. One always has a link to its accuracy that is constantly being upgraded and degraded too.


A stray notebook was found in the bottom of a box.
It is reproduced here as an explanatory reference rather than any claim to art or style.
It was never meant to be a public document, or a private indulgence.

Anything to sketch on that might be portable has been used. Frequently the small 3M Post-it blocks have become my drawing book. This has a ‘pull-off-stick’ facility that is useful. Also, when working alone, a quick print off the computer draft either as A3 or 4 is made to allow a fresh start. Photocopies are wonderful as the sketch that might be getting fragile and overworked into illegibility can be reproduced in B&W and used for a new, informed start – a fresh beginning that incorporates all of the past, be this CAD work and sketches, or just sketches themselves. The zoom capability allows one to work at any scale, to test readings and to explore details. In short, technology need not be a bugbear. One has to use anything and everything that can be of assistance in exploring possibilities. Photocopies of photographs from small photographic 6 x 4 gloss prints onto larger A3/4 standard copy paper, enlarged to fit, can be another start for new sketching.




There is no limit to possibilities other than one’s lack of willingness, or wiliness, or other hesitations with participation. Drawing must be dragged away from the quaint, self-conscious artwork that it can become if it is to be truly useful as a method in architecture. It certainly has to better than the ‘Gehry sketch’ system – see: http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/approximate-architectural-theories.html  Rigour and facts have never proved to be a hindrance in any creative process, no matter how the cliché impression of freedom of expression and creative inspiration might be interpreted. One must remember that cameras can be used to capture any image too, and with these records, one can manipulate matters with numerous options and opportunities. The aim is good work at the end, not stage-by-stage good work to be recorded in the precious notebook or blank page to be revealed to cameras in the making of any film. We need to be much more creative with technology, not to reveal its wonders and amazements, but in order to seek out true meaning in our world and our works.



P.S.
On dating drawings: I always date drawings or place them in a context of time not for any archival reason, but to be able to locate them in their place. The habit started after there was a serious argument in the office on whose sketch for a project had been completed first. Mine had been but I could not prove it, such was the insistence of the protagonist. So every page is dated or kept in a time sequence – by force of habit.



Ian Fairweather painting 


The unselfconscious workings of the eye/hand can easily be understood as 'art' as can be seen in the Ian Fairweather paintings that adopt a similar graphic technique. The essence of drawing in architecture is not this 'art' form but rather the process itself - the interaction of body, feeling and mind in thought where the feedback is concentrating on the subject being searched rather than the appearance of the lines on the paper, no matter how beautiful and intriguing these might appear. It does ask a lot of the individual participating in this work, but this is another subject.



A Post-it pad found in some papers.

TALKING HEADS AND WAVING HANDS - THE ART OF DRAWING


The monthly talk for March at the Abedian School of Architecture at Bond University on the Gold Coast, Australia, was to be different. It was promoted as an 'Australian premier (sic: premiere) screening’ of a movie: Drawing on Life. This event was going to be given a local touch by a panel discussion after the showing. The immediate, offhanded response to this promotion was that it would be an event one could miss. So no particular plans were made for the evening of 12th March 2015.


Curiosity taunted the mind. One wondered what the movie might be about and returned to the promotional material to read it in more detail. It was a movie on architects and drawing - Irish architects. It sounded fascinating. Drawing and its role in creativity has always been an interest. The demise of the workings of the intimacies involving the feel and image of thought in design work has been a concern for some time. Engaging with computers and CAD involves a completely different experience. It has distractions that concentrate thoughts, feelings and effort into other more prescribed, regulated matters that override pondering, contemplation, making things that are naturally and necessarily vague, crystal clear, crisp; demanding this certainty. Doubt and hesitation have no place here. When a eye/hand might search for the right line by making several tentatively gestured passes over the page, a computer demands that the prescription, description of the line be inserted immediately, once, now, for instant admiration. Even the freehand finger or stylus creates markings in light that amaze and startle beyond their usefulness when the mind is seeking some unknown outcome, feeling for an unknown possibility.


This concern with computers has nothing to do with any phobia or hatred of technology. Computers, as we know them generically, are marvellous to use for text, for filing, and for precise drawing and detailing, as a tool. CAD can be a wonderful revelation and is able to quickly highlight a true failure of any ambition that freehand drawing might allow one to indulge in. Facts do not get fudged in the digital world without one knowingly cheating. Fantasy is judged very quickly.


The title of the movie was typed into Google. The results piled up. The revues were good. The film had been shown at the Belfast Film Festival. It was decided that a trip to Bond on this Thursday might be interesting after all. The usual prelude of cheese, crackers, chat and champagne followed by the late start eventuated. The movie was started without any technical problems after its introduction. The head of school spoke about how drawing was seen by some architects to be mystical. He told the story of Utzon, who apparently always drew a caricature of himself with his pencil poked into his brain, as if to suggest a linkage, an immediacy between the pencil marking paper and thought. The story of how the film came to Australia was then told. While browsing the AA bookshop, an interesting reference was seen and followed up. This led to a contact in Belfast and to the film. A copy of the film to show at Bond was requested, and one arrived: hence the evening - the 'premiere.' It was not really a Hollywood event. There was no red carpet here.


Small white text appeared centrally to one side of the dark rectangle: Drawing on Life hesitantly appeared as if peeping through a curtain. It looked very architectural. Then the heads appeared. It seemed that they might be in an architect’s office. Two ladies were chatting and waving hands while sliding drawings around over the table, occasionally lifting one quickly for the camera. Why were the drawings ignored? The most important thing seemed to be the heads and the endless, aimless words. The screen faded into the name of the office that appeared where the title had been, and then faded back to the heads that seemed very pleased with themselves and their statements. This was to be the format for the whole movie: full-screen heads and hands with general chit-chat surrounded by marks on paper. The ‘in your face’ style of filming always made one aware of the camera and the person/s behind it that could never be seen.


The talk was interesting in parts. It was noted how drawings can aid thought and how different materials, like charcoal, have particular properties that can be of assistance in the malleable process of discovery. Still the frustration grew. The chat was frequently about material that was out of the frame or otherwise located so as to remain vague, illegibly obscured. Why? The camera doggedly concentrated on the heads with the hands occasionally filling the screen as if to suggest meaning, perhaps to emphasize expression. The drawings seemed to be incidental. They were flashed about out of any particular coherent context, as remote visions: artworks. There was no chance for the viewer to contemplate the drawings that appeared, and disappeared just as quickly. They were referred to as arty objects: art, rather than working explorations, while the heads spoke on randomly, rambling in front of the camera, self-consciously trying to be seriously momentous and occasionally funny with no script to follow but the gist of the subject. One got the feeling that there was something forced here that sought to be free and immediate in a contrived manner. It was like watching half of an interview. Something was missing. Drawings became precious items, icons of possibilities, revelations. They were handled as if being assessed for gallery display. In a way this is exactly what was happening here. Was this the first opportunity these folk had had to be in a movie, to display their work to the public?


The problem here is that the drawings are all seen as objects, anticipated artworks, if not preconceived; never as an essential working part of the design process. They are not the results of incidental musings to aid thought and feeling, for testing and discovery, but things in themselves with potential artistic merit. They become self -conscious creations but are spoken about differently, in fact, in two ambivalent ways. Yet it was the aesthetics of the drawings that remained the core highlight as the subject, not the drawings as an ordinary working tool, even though there was the suggestion that this might be their role.

Scarborough College

The danger of self-conscious drawing, the making of a work of art, can be seen in the story of John Andrews International. It was only after Scarborough College in Canada had nearly been completed, that it was observed that the huge drawing that had been the initial sketch, the primary working diagram that was a reference for the whole project, was indeed a very nice drawing, and a very large and interesting one too. It revealed thinking as graphics, a haze of lines and notes searching for the sense of what had materialized around one. It was decided to present this to the client who had it mounted in the main lobby of the college. It is indeed a wonderful document, a true working drawing. Here the working out and the development of ideas for the college were made explicit as tentative, thinking lines. Unfortunately this gesture of gifting the ‘inspirational’ drawing of the scheme set the scene for other projects. There was always the ambition in the office to have a preliminary, loosely sketched drawing that could be presented to the client for framing and display. The word in the office was that “this could be the drawing we give to the client,” even at the time when the drawing was being worked on. The creation of the image for display became a very self-conscious making of a ‘significant’ sketch that might be worthy of display, rather than the ad hoc discovery of some neglected, unconsidered scribble at the end of the project. This preconception is the latent ambition behind every intention to make a drawing that might become an artwork to be put onto display. The naive, native potency of the exploratory working aspect of these documents is lost when the objective to make something arty, pretty and presentable takes over.


This is the weakness of the movie. Drawings are considered as nice-looking, artful things instead of thoughtful discoveries. While the ladies displayed sketches on butter paper and other apparently ephemeral, disposable materials, the drawings all looked contrived to be suitable for display. Surely they had not been made just for the film? They might as well have been for they all were singular efforts, perhaps ready to be framed if pretty enough. ‘Real’ working drawings, sketches, are messy in their layered multiplicity. One is reminded of Nicholas Harding whose working sketches of Margaret Olley on rough, torn paper, are covered with splashes and cigarette ash: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/quilty-harding-and-accents.html  Working sketches are palimpsests, where thoughts are randomly superimposed and reworked endlessly until they require a fresh start for clarification, to record the outcome for reassessment. The primary effort is in the seeking not in the making. One thinks of Charles Rennie Macinstosh’s work where detailed studies of building parts are layered as an ad hoc process of thoughtful revelation in lines carefully formed for the sake of a precise understanding and resolution, not for any appearance.


The second architect displayed his lovely work in sketchbooks that were all ordered and neatly arrayed and selected. His subjects were on separate pages – no mess here. Each sketch was ready for mounting if it could be sold – or so it seemed. His work, even though made in the cliché coffee shop, was similar to the nineteenth century ‘shadow’ drawings, where shade defines picturesque Victorian form in the void of the page. I was reminded of a colleague who always gave his children quality paper to draw on in case they might ‘crack a work of art.’ This fellow appeared to have the identical ambition. These were arty observations.


The next couple displayed a bit of everything. Here one saw the very worst case of dialogue describing drawings that no one could see or place in any context. The chat just carried on regardless. It made the whole act appear very self-indulgent. Yet later the male hand displayed a working scribble for the camera as the blurb continued to talk about involving people in space through tension, distortion and the harassment of the plan. This pair had to tell us that they taught students and insisted that drawing was part of this tutoring. It was all very tense and uncomfortable, awkward, as one was required to participate in such a pseudo-hagiographical enterprise almost as an interloper. One was left hoping that this might be the last in the series of chats; that the image would fade and the hoped-for text might finally appear in the black: THE END – but no.


The next fellow spoke hesitantly about his work, as though he was under some poetic stress, suffering some intimately meaningful struggle at being asked to be involved in this film and expose and explain his efforts. His work was interesting, but it appeared to have no relation to architectural outcomes other than as drawings for their own purpose. They were nice drawings. No one told the viewer just what the role of this speaker might be. Yes, the chap can draw, but to what purpose - self-indulgence: ‘Wherewithall,’ as the window said?


The theme dragged on punctuated by the dark voids, with one architect or someone else talking on and on, just as the first ladies had done. It was unplanned chat, with unplanned drawings being poorly exhibited if at all. The next fellow was more a working, hands-on professional. He admitted to hating computers. Why? He had developed a process of recording matters in his little black books, all of the same size and dated. They were set out carefully for all to see as though this was important. The drawings were wonderfully ad hoc and informative. He said that he used the drawings as references for his work, a little, so it seemed, like Alexander’s Pattern Language that could be used as a source, a reminder. His little books were interesting as they gathered together anything and everything, even children’s scribbles; but were they too self-conscious? He seemed happy to be able to flip through these books for the camera, pausing at the pretty, the arty and the dramatic, eye-catching images. It reminded one of Le Corbusier’s notebooks, and how every architect would love to buy the same French sketchbooks and fountain pen and do likewise: if only!



Then another female architect was introduced. It was indeed interesting to see that there are a number of senior women in the architectural profession in Ireland who are intimately involved in practice. This lady introduced us to her work at Trinity College, its new library. A few drawings were shown, but the core presentation seemed to be her new building at Trinity. Where were the rough drawings? The structure reminded one of the Ahrends, Burton , Koralek  1960’s building, but this was never mentioned. Everything was her genius. It was all about light and no walls. Great effort went into showing the detail of the clever folding wall, its operation. Why? There was very little about drawing and how it might have played a role in this project. Only a few formal sketches were linked to the project. The concept of ideas in discovery, in progress was lost. There was merely the display. Only some developed, pretty sections and detailed studies that looked to be specifically selected for their appearance in the movie were shown: then on to the next person, for more of the same.


The surprise was that Ireland had such sophisticated, skilled partitioners capable of producing such nice drawings and such elegant buildings, and being able to talk about them. They were articulate and informed practitioners, with projects that stretched well beyond their little island. One had expected this after seeing the beautiful new visitors’ centre at the Giants Causeway: see -  http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/02/giants-causeway-gateway.html  Yet in spite of this eloquence, the vision of architecture was always of ‘Architecture’: grand and especially aesthetic, described in classic clichés intermingled with many worn truisms. There is a history of intellectuals in Ireland; and of poets – Celtic poets, Joyce, Thomas. There was still energy and creativity in this country that has suffered so much. It was good to get a sense of this depth. It reminded one of the book on Irish architecture that recorded the Georgian period. The surprise was not only the quantity of building, but its quality and inventiveness.



There were still more architects and others to ramble on about their works, sauntering through ideas, all with the same certain, concentrated effort and ironic disregard seen previously; and still more after these. The film was too long. The expectation of the anticipated end was continually frustrated by a new head with new hands; a new voice, talking about new, unseen or over-purposefully presented drawings in a random, unplanned manner: just on and on. The seat was becoming very uncomfortable. Architects should not make films, just as film producers should not be architects. The film needed heavy editing. It seemed that, as a first, everyone wanted to say everything possible in this one production, and no one said “No.” Every effort appeared to be made to keep the head/s in the frame as the voice/s rambled on importantly, endlessly, without any plan for a compact presentation - no cohesiveness distilled the essence of the subject. The drawings were the background for talking heads and the waving hands that attempted to be equally momentous by being presented as close ups of the fingers near the paper, or otherwise manoeuvring to enhance expression and emphasize commitment. The core item was ‘ME;’ the drawings were all incidental art works: MINE.


The final speaker was an enigma. Who was he? What was he? No one said: or did I miss this in my growing aggravation? His ‘sketch’ books were all text in his distinctive, scrawled, illegible style. The camera unbelievably panned in on page after page of what could have been cuneiform script, such was its abstracted patterning. What was the message here? This ruddy person, with Corb-like glasses, leaned back a little arrogantly, superciliously, as he pontificated on and on as the hour and a half approached. While previous speakers had left a couple gems: “Never trust an eye witness's account” – apparently an old Russian saying; and “There is energy in a sleeping cat;” this final voice told us that “No one gets out of here (the world) alive.” I was at the stage of believing that he might have been referring to the audience at Bond University, such was his belligerence with time, so the exit was quickly reached once the film had finished rolling the credits. The panel discussion would only have extended the frustration.


P.S.
A colleague who had not had the chance to greet me earlier had followed me out. We chatted about old times. He informed me that he had been involved in the school’s beginning and asked me what I thought of the building, as he gestured over his shoulder to the foyer void behind him. I had to admit that I thought that schools of architecture should not be grand architectural statements. I took the opportunity to ask him about the workshop, after noting that there were some beautiful models on display. “Where is the workshop? Is it in the new building?” I couldn’t really understand how it might fit. The advice was that it was “out the back.” “What? Is it that shed off to one side?” “Yes.”

Floor plan of the Abedian School of Architecture.
There is no workshop in the new building

The workshop is in an adjacent tin shed. 

My response was: “Why could the school not have been a series of ad hoc sheds clustering around various random, perhaps skewed spaces if desired, not pretending to make any grand architectural statement that the Irish seem to like: just providing an amorphous, insignificant place for real discovery – not a theatre in which performances can be viewed?" It is a terrible example that suggests that architecture is ‘something grand and special’ created by a unique, creative genius, as the Irish seem to promote. I think that the Bond building sets a poor example for its students, just as the Irish film has done: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/08/is-architecture-just-grand.html and
http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/what-is-school-of-architecture.html Drawing is much more vital than a pretty, arty, display thing. Its involvement in architecture is something mystical as the head of school, and Utzon, suggested. It is never self-conscious. It is always working for outcomes, never its own appearance or purpose: see - ON DRAWING - A PERSONAL NOTE that explores this matter further: http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/on-drawing-personal-note.html


The shed is rarely, if ever, photographed in its context.

The shed has not been included in any rendering of the project.

Why was the evening so poorly organised? The standard promo times were left unchanged. Did anyone know that the movie was over one and a half hours long? Did no one ever think that by starting at 6:45pm the movie would finish well after the advertised 8:00pm closing time for the evening’s presentation? Did no one think of starting at 6:00pm? By the time the movie, the ‘Australian premier,’ had finished, the frustration with the unedited, indulgent chat was so extreme that any panel discussion would only have aggravated matters. So it was that we left, getting out while still alive. One hopes that the panel discussion was informative.

Sir Peter's grand learning space - a touch of St. Peters?


For more on the film see - http://drawingonlife.com/
For more on the Sir Peter Cook building see -


THE PROMOTION




Invitation to attend Abedian School of Architecture Lecture #4
– “Drawing on Life” Film Screening and Panel Discussion
Date:                     Thursday March 12, 2015
Arrival:                  6:15pm for a 6:30pm start (Light refreshments will be served)
Presentation:         6:30pm – 8:00pm
Venue:                  Architecture School Forum, Building 3B
                             Bond University, University Drive, Robina QLD 4229 (Map attached)
Parking:                PG4 – see map reference
Cost:                     Free
Join us for the Australian premier screening of Drawing on Life, a film that follows a series of Irish architects in their studios and the places they like to draw in. It eavesdrops on their discussions and thoughts in order to explore and reveal their use of drawing. We see them drawing in cafes, over the drawing table and sketching out their ideas as they talk about projects. The film frames eight short portraits of architects and practices as cinematic windows that look into this very individual world of drawing.
From the meditations on use and the travellers’ tales of Grafton Architects; the building of the drawing by O’Donnell+ Tuomey; writing as drawing by the architect and critic Shane O’Toole; through to the Belfast architect Michael Doherty’s vivid pencil studies – why architects draw is evocatively captured and documented in this film.
Chair
Professor Adrian Carter – Head of School,
Abedian School of Architecture, Bond University
Panelists
Suzie Wiley – Surroundings Architects
Ingrid Richards – Richards and Spence Architecture
David Kirwan – Cox Rayner Architects
Brian Toyota – ML Design
Registration
To register, please follow this link. Please note that registration is preferred.
The 2015 calendar for the Abedian School of Architecture Lecture Series will be released in the coming weeks.
For more information about the series and to view past lectures, please follow this link 
If you would like to receive notification of upcoming presentations, please follow this link.
Please contact Assistant Professor Chris Knapp via cknapp@bond.edu.au if you have any questions. 




Sunday, March 15, 2015

APPROXIMATE ARCHITECTURAL THEORIES – GEHRY GUESSING


It was in The Measure of the Golden Mean that the issue was first raised: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/05/the-measure-of-golden-mean.html The subject was how diagrams that illustrate ‘proofs’ of the use of specific proportions in a project or in nature are illustrated with lines overlayed on tiny drawings of a plan or an elevation, or a photograph; coloured stripes that are proportionately extremely thick and indecisive when it comes to understanding precisely what is being delineated other than the chosen proportion itself. It seems that one is being asked to exercise a leap of faith in the circumstance being illustrated. These crude explanatory diagrams usually fail to delineate exactly what particular points are being referred to, those precise locations being used to identify the dimensions that give, for example, the golden mean proportion. Even using the best scientific methods, no one would be able to verify anything with such ad hoc references - preferences. The logic appears to be that merely superimposing the proportion proves the point, if everything looks to be a close enough fit. This uncertain fuzziness makes it appear possible to claim that almost any proportion might be involved in the selected design, shape or detail, as long as there is some ostensible correspondence, a ‘close enough’ fit in the diagram.




In this era of laser scans, photographic surveys and digital analysis, it is possible to be extremely precise with such things, but these illustrations rarely are. They seem happy to demonstrate ‘ballpark’ relationships. Complex historic buildings have been mapped in three dimensions and modelled digitally both externally and internally with lasers to extremely tight tolerances, e.g. Beauvais cathedral: see - http://www.cs.columbia.edu/~atroccol/papers/ACVA_09.pdf  With such potential accuracy available, why do we still accept these rudimentary, crude ‘proofs’ that look almost like ancient, rustic medieval diagrams presented as quaintly stark evidence that is unlikely to establish anything, let alone the very point being made? The whole matter looks carelessly indistinct; but we seem happy to accept these graphic propositions simply because we appear to warm to the idea of some mysterious guiding principle in ancient architecture and nature, like the ‘God’ principle and Gaia: or is this whim merely wishful thinking; perhaps hopeful serendipity?




George L. Hersey, in his book  Architecture and Geometry in the Age of the Baroque,   The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2000  has published many diagrams to prove his thesis suggested in the title: that geometry lies at the root of Baroque architectural design. One does not have to delve too deeply into this book to find the first worrying illustration. On page 14 there are two identical main elevations of St. Peters in Rome. A small photograph that has been reproduced twice has been used to illustrate how the proportions of this building, well this portion of it, involve two systems: a double golden section rectangle and a double sesquiquartoquintal rectangle. It becomes obvious that Hersey loves obscure Latin and Greek labels. Later in the book he gives other examples, e.g. the Invalides in Paris.

Hersey's thick lines superimposed on the plan of the Invalides, Paris to illustrate his theory

The somewhat blurred, faded grey photographs of St. Peters are identical, about 85mm long and 30mm high. The coloured lines, blue and red, that have been drawn over this image to illustrate the idea being discussed have a width that is about one quarter of the width of one of the main doorways. At a quick guess, the line might be, if scaled, about 600mm wide. Now this in itself is not really a problem, as we are dealing with proportions. The rectangle formed by the outer edge of this frame, however thick it might be, has the same proportion as that defined by the inner edge. It is what the line is trying to relate to on the photograph that is the critical issue, either inside or out, because this is the significant point being highlighted by Hersey: that the accumulated parts of this building have been planned using specific, related dimensions, in this case, a clever twin set of proportions. The concern is that a 600mm pointer is being used to identify the precise locations of the dimensions to confirm the claim. It is like waving one’s hand at a group of cups to indicate which particular one has the pebble under it, to prove that one knows exactly where the elusive stone might be. The detail is all very rubbery, indistinct.

Hersey's proportional analysis of the facade of St. Peters, Rome

Looking closely at the image, the first thing that one notices is what appears to be the distortion caused by the lens. This is a long elevation – about 50m? – so a wide-angled lens has probably been used to capture this representation. These lenses tend to distort the image. Here it is clear that the cornice line is curved. What else might be askew? Once one accepts this deformity as a simple aberration that does not seem to be too critical to matters proportional, and with the hope that the remainder of the photograph is a reasonably accurate depiction, one looks to see the limits of the building being referred to by the overlay.

There is a lingering question: why have the building parts above the cornice been ignored? Have they simply been cut off because they have no necessary role in the argument, superfluous to it because they do not fit? Was there a balustrade parapet here? One has to ask: why was this building element never a part of any proportional scheme? How is this known? Why have only specific sections of this building been selected as a reference in order to ‘prove’ the use of a certain proportion? Is it a matter of getting the best fit for the theory? No matter how closely one might peer at this diagram, it is impossible to say precisely what it is that has been pointed to as proof of any proportional strategy. It seems that the thick coloured line might be referring to the outer limit of the cornice itself, perhaps its greatest extremity; the ultimate projection of the upper moulding, a point that is a decorative addition to the mass of the building, an embellishment. Is this point in the silhouette really the most important, the most significant place to anchor the ‘magic’ relationship, a concept that seems to suggest that the beauty of this work hangs on this ephemeral mathematical scaffolding?



The idea looks like a best guess. Indeed, when one reads the supporting caption, it talks about things deliberately being ‘approximate’:
Fig. 1.6: St. Peter’s main façade (Carlo Maderno, Rome, 1604-17); above, as an approximate double golden section rectangle (shown in red); and, below, as an approximate double sesquiquartoquintal (in blue). Photograph courtesy of Alinari/Art Resource, New York.
What, is a theory postulating the use of precise proportions really only based on the possibility of a maybe? Are all architectural theories mere guesses, someone’s ideas that are allowed so much tolerance as to be able to be applied where anyone might believe appropriate, if it looks like a close match or a useful caprice, just to illustrate the cause being argued or to justify an envisaged outcome? This looks like matters are randomly arbitrary, ad hoc.  Little wonder that others involved in more precise, rigorous fields of endeavour involving critical matters linked to the demands of necessity, consider architects as merely frivolous dilettantes, academically indulgent, flippant fools, impracticably fanciful. Einstein spoke of Sigfried Giedion’s Space, Time and Architecture thesis as a load of ‘space-time’ rubbish, all while architects were drooling over this masterpiece that established the mindset for things architectural and their associated theories for many years. Just imagine an immunologist working with and accepting such broadly brushed, approximate theories developed on near-enough matches in DNA. Today’s news, 13 November 2014, announced that, as part of the Rossetta Mission, the Philae lander had completed a soft touchdown on comet 67P/C-G. Could engineers have landed the craft onto the four kilometre wide comet after a ten-year journey using only best guesses, approximations? Little wonder that architects start to look like jokes, self-important buffoons.
So what should architects do? One might start by saying that architects need to begin thinking like engineers, so that matters can be given a real basis in logic, understanding and strategy to become a response in form to fact and function. It is interesting to note that Frank Lloyd Wright and Sinan both started their careers as engineers. Wright has said that he considered Sinan to be the best architect of all time. Are we today seeing only more and more ‘approximate’ theories, with transient and hopeful ‘maybes’ being used to make and shape our buildings and places? It seems that the best guess, or, as judges say, one’s ‘preferred position,’ is being used and accepted as though it was a rational way to fashion our world, our environment, our home. Has architecture become mere entertainment for the masses, popular theatre?



It is a stance that seems to be promoted by the media-driven hype that enjoys quirkiness, promoting its popularity and fashion rather than offering any informed critique. Here the core importance is to catch people’s attention, to sell publications and attract increased viewing numbers. Think of Gehry and crumpled paper as mocked by The Simpsons, (apparently any publicity is good publicity - maybe the stranger, the better!); and of Hadid on digital distortion, just to start with. Romantically indulgent, self-important storylines that accompany these strategies become the ‘theoretical’ basis for younger architects keen to progress and impress in their profession. These fairy-tale ‘narratives’ that describe the ‘journey,’ as the jargon goes, are grabbed by novices in portions of ideas, as pieces and parts with no necessary relevance or interconnection, or any in-depth comprehension. These schizophrenic perceptions and understandings are ‘grown’ into other different things ‘new and exciting’ to join the perpetual competition for hype and media attention. This guessed, approximate world stimulates other ‘theories’ that inspire new adherents to push positions that only develop more and differently, like a tumour, into immediate eye-catching outcomes that have no relevance other than for use in immediate prestige, publicity and recognition in awards. This measure of success is the outcome itself. Its quantity and distinctiveness, the number of ‘likes’ and its ability to be noticed, generate and define its perceived quality that is enhanced by the name, the provenance, or creates a new mythical hero for hagiographical praises and repetitive press coverage. If noticed, as tumours eventually are, these works are acclaimed; and so the momentum grows. We are ‘there’ now: but where is this? Does anyone know? Does anyone care? What is the theoretical basis of architecture today?




If we are to root ourselves in a real world where substance, fact, rigour and reality could become our basic ground for operation, where would this lead? At least we might be able to know about this place with some degree of certainty rather than floating vaguely and shyly, fearful of asking what a building might mean or why it is so praised. One is not allowed to question any genius or perversion. Today, ME and ME scream out for attention and gain it through others seeking to do likewise in their endeavours: publication, media, etc. Over the last century there seems to have been a progression in theory from simple basics to the most exotic and ephemeral of ideas that appear to operate on the doubtful basis of: as the meaning of soul and beauty cannot be defined, any inexplicable, ill-defined sketch, whim, or arbitrary form randomly assembled or otherwise ad hoc must be a meaningful, or potentially meaningful, expression of soul and beauty. Since the concept cannot be disproved, it must be true. There seems to be a lack of principle here, a gaping hole in matters apparently logical.


The City of Tomorrow

In his early work, le Corbusier strove to provide a healthy environment for people: light, fresh air, sanitation. The squalid Victorian tenement was the stimulus for this reforming zeal. Corbusier’s first book, now almost forgotten, The City of Tomorrow and its Planning, John Rodker, London, 1929, (first translated in English from the 8th French edition of Urbanisme), included an analysis of these living environments. It spelt out a vision on how architecture might improve living conditions for ‘everyman.’ Functions were studied and these results became the rational inspirational beginnings of forming. Ergonomics shaped furniture; efficiency in tine and movement studies shaped kitchens, workplaces. The proportions of the human body and its essential requirements were analysed in detail. This strategy developed new forms and arrangements. Ideas grew from this confidence into more public concerns – place: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/10/understanding-place-kobane.html  From here it became obvious that other things were involved, that we ‘read’ our spaces, forms and places in our experience of them. Semiology became an interest that then began to be used as a basis for design. Here matters moved into what became known as the post-modern era that opened a Pandora’s box of possibilities, as mind, memory, reference and symbol intertwined with an awareness of the human condition and became a part of what architects did: a stimulus to help create transparent vibrancy in place and its experience. The approach was enriched with understandings of traditional architecture from other eras, other responses to our cosmos and our being.


Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye



This is the background for today’s architecture where our new technologies have now taken our attention. Personal experience and proper fit appear to be incidental, well beyond the core singular ‘WOW! factor’ response: the shock and awe that technology can deliver in many diverse and invasive ways attracts and distracts. We spend much effort in guessing how our slick gadgets might otherwise and alternately engage us, extend us, and be used by us both generally, and in architecture and in building construction too, both now and in the future that will always be better. Digital design; robots; anything that one might think of as a possibility, a ‘perhaps’ or a ‘maybe,’ becomes a basis for research, for theory today that has endless optimism for incredible, different, improved futures.



We seem to have taken enormous steps away from understanding and caring for the human condition and ordinary, everyday experience. Today’s studies and interests might be very intriguing and emotionally attractive, but architects need to ask what their work is doing, and why they are doing it: is this work supporting, enriching our basic lives? What needs to be done to achieve this? What does this mean? What has happened to Corbusier’s concerns for the simple elements of health and well-being that today needs to include mental health as well as physical well-being? What has happened to the desire to accommodate the body comfortably and efficiently: the human spirit? Where is contentment in our architectural ideas, in our lives? If we neglect these things we will end up in the ‘Victorian’ era again, where people are left scrambling for a living in the most awkward of mean areas and distorted spaces, disorientated places all designed to the crumpled, distorted digital, whiz-bang ideals of the new masters, the ‘Dr. Who’s of architecture. It is a challenge that we need to spend time reflecting on for we live in a sad time of growing depths of depression and serial suicide. Grand, smart displays in architecture have little impact in overcoming these intimate problems: they appear to alienate - (see WAR & PEACE below).


How is meaning embodied in architecture? What is meaning? If architecture is to remove itself from the ordinary world, then it simply becomes an exotic, extraordinary, expensive indulgence instead of an essential support for life and the human spirit. One cannot pretend that the human spirit alone might be designed for without knowing with intimate precision that every specific detail has been shaped for the body’s benefit – its comfort and experience, for a life without distortion or display, engaged with forms without pretentious deformations, complete with an ‘inner necessity,’ as Kandinsky named it, shaping things familiar to us in a new manner, with depth, integrity and coherence that can enfold being, encompass it.


Painting by Wassily Kandinsky

Architecture can be seen as the interface between the body and soul, and the world/nature in its broadest scope. Both the fact of the body and the delight of the soul, the spirit, need to be accommodated. Spending all the time trying to create something intellectually spirited that might be promoted as support for a soaring, elitist soul, an ephemeral, dreamlike, dazed spirit, while the body might be suffering is just not tenable. There is an integral and necessary correspondence between the two. Things esoterically cerebral and scholarly are not necessarily embodied in things fancy, flighty and transient, even though the two aspects might be described and experienced similarly. Unchallenged and untested random inspiration, no matter how nice it might feel or sound as a basis for making, does not have to be anything other than an indulgent extravagance that makes sense only to the individual who envisages the self as a genius, or genius-like, whose nonchalant actions can be promoted as embodying universal spirit as a matter of course, as an architectural guru. Here one is never able to say that this is not so, that such has never occurred, leaving the charlatan with all of the authority and power to make unchallenged declarations and autocratic assertions, while belittling all those who doubt.




Playing vague or approximate games with architectural theories will only lead us astray into a world that cares only for the amorphous intrigue of architectural ideologies as games. What is architecture if it has no real outcome other than an approximation of itself arising from an approximation of a vague idea? We need far more commitment and cohesion in our thinking and our outcomes than is revealed in forms and places that might happily hype the media. Jumping onto bandwagons of popularity and extreme difference, (see P.S. below), might be interesting for a couple of seconds, but architecture and life have a broader timescale than this, and that of any personal whim too. If we are to work with ideas, we need to know how to turn these into facts so that they can once again dance in the world of ideas with beauty and wonder that is rooted firmly in reality, not flopping in an ‘interesting,’ vaguely amorphous flexing of flummery. It is too easy to create fantasy forms that promote whimsical visions held in frenetic structures as an approximate dream-like world of maybe, anyhow. Life will only thrive on facts; ironically, only then can fantasies be real: (see Klee's comment on fantasy and facts below). Madness grabs fantasies in order to exist. Make-believe will always remain make-believe and worse if there is no ground for its being, no substance. This is our challenge. We need to become far more questioning of things ad hoc and random rather than cringe uncritically with an inferiority complex when a ‘guru’ gestures.


Forms have their own integral rigour, their necessity, as plants do, even if unknown. Shakespeare spoke of ‘the forms of things unknown’; Herbert Read used this as a title for a book on art. We discover the rigour of forms if we place a plant that likes a cool, shady, moist, alkaline environment in the harsh, full sun of a dry acid location, when it dies. There is an inevitability that needs to be accommodated in mystery if it is to hold substance. Forms are likewise; as are design resolutions and structures too. There is an integral wholeness, an integrity that needs to be sought out for things to be what they want to be, as Kahn said. Forcing outcomes kills spirit, if not the media interest that will always try to tell us what and how to see: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/04/seeing-what-we-believe-idyllic-visions.html   when a quick glimpse will reveal everything clearly as it is, perhaps messy and awkward in spite of the hype. Tension is established: does one join the bandwagon and admire the promoted, popular image, or does one cry out about the inconsistencies, the ad hoc framework of a purported mystery made by ‘genius’? It is hard to achieve the latter when there is so much momentum in our digital existence pushing the primary, approximate illusion that struggles hard to hold the hope of wonder. Sadly even such critical outbursts, if they are listened to, are treated as entertainment – headlines.




One could call it ‘Gehry Guessing’ if a name for modern architectural theory is needed: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/architecture-as-tweets-twitter-period.html  Frank O. Gehry proudly, unabashedly, displays his inspirational scribbles as the work of a genius, a seer. Astonishingly he promotes himself and his sketches with the idea that they only make sense once the building has been completed, as if the spirit itself has moved across the paper in the whole process of design and construction to mysteriously complete itself. But he is modest: he never revisits his buildings, and never photographs them. He does admit to reading reviews on them, but perhaps dismisses the negative or questioning critiques as trash? One might comment that Mr. Gehry might learn something about his works if he did return to them to see how they are being used, rather than merely hiding away with appraisals and reviews, maybe hoping to read about his genius. The determined neglect looks like a confirmation of indulgent genius that concentrates on him and his present alone: his new idea being shaped for further amazement. It is interesting that visitors to his office have to sign a confidentiality agreement in case they get a glimpse of the next surprising building before the planned media blitz.




It is difficult to write about Gehry as such critiques readily fall into the field of the disenchanted; the envious; the unskilled fool; etc. One must never be negative about work that is loved by the mass media or that is ‘so successful.’ This evaluation usually takes the form of noting how tourism has made a fortune for Bilbao, recouping the enormous outlay for the Guggenheim Museum in a matter of only a few years. Tourism is a concern: see - http://springbrooklocale.blogspot.com.au/2012/06/who-or-what-is-tourist.html  Yet ‘masters’ should never be free from review. Consider Corbusier: his monastery at La Tourette is a fabricated image, shaped to achieve an identity rather than being the form of function that it is assumed to be, that his writings try to make it : see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/05/corbusier-renaissance-man.html  Gehry’s works are likewise, but are far more extreme. Take for instance his Bilbao Guggenheim. The Ovation DVD set titled Architecture - a must-see for all - points out that the top one third of this building mass could be removed and there would be no difference to the functions of its interiors. The Paris Opera House by Charles Garnier is a totally different proposition even though it appears far more random, decorative and irresponsibly frivolous. It was only on the viewing of this DVD that it became obvious why this building held such importance in the history of architecture. Bannister Fletcher did nothing to explain the unique rigour of this design. One used to believe that it had something to do with its exuberant decoration; but no, it is all about functions, forms and expression. It is an astonishing delight that leaves a Gehry work flopping in the doldrums of the display of a careless selfishness that has no time for the tests of rigour that hide discarded behind matters trying to be ‘poetic.’ ‘I am different’ seems to be the call, only because ‘I am,’ and will always be, different!


Section through the Paris Opera House by Charles Garnier


Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building, the UTS Business School, Sydney


Gehry speaks of his latest building in Sydney, Australia, the Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building, the UTS Business School completed in 2014, as being inspired by the rich folds in fabrics seen in paintings of old, forms that have been lovingly depicted, he explains, as a base for the portrait, the face. What has this to do with any business school other than create an exotic image, a trade mark, for the promotional brochure designed to attract student numbers? Educational institutions like increasing numbers; numbers are good. One might say that Gehry ‘did a number’ on the school. But why use this idea as the form for any building? Is it all really just a search for the most surprisingly dramatically different outcome possible?




Foundation Louis Vuitton Museum, Paris

Much is said about Gehry’s random ME architecture. : e.g. see –
The Simpsons have joined in too. Now the Louis Vitton museum in Paris is said to be his best and he is lauded as being the greatest living architect in the world. So who is out of step here? The museum is said to be a poetic vision, leaves of floating glass that some see as sails: but unlike these glazed forms, sails have a necessity about them, an inner and outer rigour layered behind their swelling, powerfully billowing expression. Their form is never random or unplanned. The LV building is fabricated to suit the image, thr scribble, the expression shaped with whatever it takes to achieve this ‘?’ at a cost of 243 million euros. The planners were apparently reluctant but eventually relented. Strangely it was considered that a glass building would have less of an impact on the parkland precinct than a 'solid' building. Do folk ever learn? The pyramid at the Louvre should have told everyone that glass can be more 'solid' than concrete, more lively and distracting with its reflections. Is it only the cliché idea that glass is transparent that allows such assessments as these?

Foundation Louis Vuitton Museum, Paris

Sydney Opera House by Jørn Utzon


One could liken another iconic building to these reflective shells of glass – the Sydney Opera House. Those familiar with this building and its history will know of its unique rigour: how Jørn Utzon and Ove Arup struggled to develop a structural strategy that would achieve the vision that was presented as a bold charcoal sketch, not unlike a Gehry but more resolved as an image. Utzon finally discovered the concept after a long struggle to seek out its best sense – to make all of the shells from the same spherical geometry. The memorable image is the orange sliced into portions that can be assembled to give the layered shell form, sail form, of the building. Everything in these ‘free-form’ shells would be built from the same spherical surface, giving them an inner logic and coherence. Unlike Eero Saarinen in his TWA Terminal at JFK Airport, New York that has a concrete shell form that was a design formed by Saarinen, who chose the Utzon scheme, reportedly from the pile of rejects, Utzon laboured to achieve the integrity of the shaping and making of the Sydney shells, and modified them into their wonderful accumulation that we see today. Gehry does not choose to suffer this test, nor does he ever appear to be interested in such a challenge. He builds whatever his sketches come to be as a building, whatever this might be. The challenge is how to hold these forms up; how to stop them leaking, although he apparently once complained about the folk worrying about the leaks in his Walt Disney Concert Hall, reportedly noting that one should expect this from such a complex building. Structure, it seems, is made however, whatever, wherever to achieve the prescribed outcome; no doubt sealing the forms is achieved in much the same manner. One is reminded of the Paris Hadid building that was sealed with huge globs of sealant bulked up over the membrane roofing and the slick fibre glass shells - out of sight of course!: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2012/04/hadids-art.html







Budgets are apparently the only aspect of the project that Gehry works to, or so he reports. One supposes that these are set unusually high to accommodate all unknowns as there have to be many. So while the image might be said to be 'poetic,' the detail seems to be a chaotic resolution, or otherwise quite complex, whatever it takes, concealed behind the gleaming illusion that becomes the public identity in the photograph. This is doll architecture: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/all-dolled-up.html    where the outer skin is the grand illusion and transforms the reality concealed behind it. The only relationship between the inner and outer is the raw necessity of the two being together in a forced fit.







The discovery of the meaning of the sketch after the event along with the casual approach to coherence and inter-relationships flies in the face of understanding structures and functions and forms in nature, be this a leaf; a rose; or the body. What would happen if life was based on Gehry guessing? There is an integral necessity in life where every part performs its purpose, and relates and interrelates beautifully. There is a good fit here. It is this lack of any good fit in Gehry’s work that is a worry. Gehry seems to push and force, to promote the idea that anything is satisfactory anyhow in order to achieve the prescribed envisaged outcome, mysteriously. Beauty is forecast into being from the ‘inspirational’ sketched guess. The making is an amorphous seeing, trying to create a match with the guesses by building these. The technology of building never seems to be used to inform the form. Rather technology is used to assist in the complex making of the guessed form whatever this might be, however it has to be formed to comply. If flowers were made like this, the world would be chaotic, random, anything, all rooted in someone’s preconception. Beauty has more rigour than this; greater integrity. While LV touches what we label,  cliché-like, as the visually poetic, its hard reality shatters this light vision with the contrasting crudity that structural demands have forced upon it. Having visions of sails and glass is one thing. Giving these their functional and factual integrity to still create magic should be the ambition. Just using all the available technologies to make anything possible, simply looks lazy, limited; it is giving up. It is a frivolous attitude to beauty that really demands effort, a struggle, for its ease and delight to flow free. There was rigour in traditional art. Precise rules were established in order to achieve the beauty and serenity revealed in any image of Buddha. Gehry’s world is theatrical; it is in theatre that one constantly sees the tricks of imagery, the facades with nothing but trash and sticks making them: ad hoc parts behind the illusion. It is now becoming the norm.





The traditional world is interesting when it comes to beauty. The idea was that something could not be beautiful unless it conforms to the common concept, the symbolism, and is truly functional. With Gehry this concept means that unless the form and the structure have been resolved as an integral whole – that they ‘work’ together hand in glove – rather than being craftily grafted to fit, the vision is a likely conceit: MY vision - see:
http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2013/12/new-gehry-projects-in-aleppo.html 
One has to ask: what does Gehry do for the human condition? He seems to act only for the ‘Gehry condition’ - ME and my unique visions. This is hardly foresight. It is simply guessing, seemingly hoping that the Gehry name, his reputation, will be enough, great enough, to silence any critique; to establish a wall of silence that can be assumed to be that of stunned amazement at the wonder rather than one of looming threat. Fashion and promotion cannot be wrong; that seems to be the assumption, and once in fashion, more and more of the variety and extremes are demanded, expected – as in the LV Gehry bag that is a distorted box. It is simply just too easy to distort for the sake, the fake of difference and gloat that others will be jealous of this manipulation. Architecture is much more than this, but our era delights in selfies and instant commentaries where everyone can be an indulgent commentator and an instant expert on everything, on anything: see -http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/architecture-as-tweets-twitter-period.html


Louis Vuitton Bag designed by Frank Gehry


The conceit is considering deformation as art when it might stimulate despair and sadness when seen as damage

I predict that it will not be until we get back to an architecture that has rigour and is based on the best outcome for man and his contentment that we will be ‘home’ again: (see Paul Klee's diary on Tunis in NOTE in http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/03/architecture-as-tweets-twitter-period.html). Sullivan predicted that it would take a generation, perhaps more, for decoration to once more regain its significance in architecture. Perhaps the two predictions might have some connection? What might meaningful decoration hold for us and our being? Dramatic theatrical performances are just too easy. It is in grappling with an integral, coherent and meaningful depth that architecture sings the tune of life, and avoids becoming the medium for entertainment, name-dropping and profit. Marshall McHulan spoke of messages and meanings. Where might we be in his vision of things? The global village is here, but where might meaning lie in this message? It will not lie in Gehry guessing or claiming that matters might be too trivial or insignificant to be considered seriously because they do not ‘fit.’ Every detail must be considered and respected. The facts must be considered unemotionally, without prejudice or preconception. We cannot accept the broad, loose generalities that Hersey accepts in his proportional analysis: as if this might be necessarily so, or should be. Rigour is essential: see -http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2015/01/george-l-herseys-hopeful-fashioning-of.html





I wonder when a researcher will discover that Gehry has used the golden section or the sesquiquartoquintal proportion in his work? All one will have to do it to reproduce an elevation at a tiny scale and draw a very thick line around it. Surely, by the laws of chance, something will align! If one is lucky, there will be multiple correspondences. Such studies will prove to be just as random as Gehry’s approach to things, where guesses become the approximate factual basis for fabricating forms and formulating functions. We need better than this indulgent sloppiness that is promoted as the work of an inspired genius, so great that one is unable to suggest that there is a problem here: see - http://voussoirs.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/swell-sculpture-festival-2013.html


Interior of UTS Building

NOTE:
WAR & PEACE
There is an interesting point to ponder in Boris Friedewald's  Paul Klee Life and Work Prestel Verlag, Munich, 2011: 
p.87
Writing in his diary, he (Paul Klee) observes: “The more horror-filled the world (as it is today), the more abstract is art, whereas a happy world brings forth art that is of this world.”



Is the chaotic outcome of our architecture today a result of our 'horror-filled' world that has suffered with wars, one after the other for over a century, knowing little of peace and tranquility? Is this why things remain so frenetic? What might an architecture of peace and happiness be? Are we rooted in squirmings of discontent, indulging ourselves with every extreme distraction that can be envisaged?





Although involved in matters esoteric, Klee made his understanding of the relationship between fact and fantasy, random guesses, very clear:
p.92-93
At the time, Klee was not alone in his metaphysical worldview, which would leave a fundamental mark on his postwar years. Especially as a result of the chaos and horror of the wartime and postwar years, many Expressionist artists saw a metaphysical view of the world as a viable alternative.

Some years later, Klee described the place or position in which he saw himself as an artist to his Bauhaus colleague Lothar Schreyer (1886-1966): “I say it often, but sometimes it is not taken seriously enough: worlds have opened to us and are opening to us that are also a part of nature, but not everyone peers into them . . . I mean, for instance, the realm of the unborn and the dead, the realm of that what may come, would like to come, but need not come – an intermediate world. I call it an intermediate world, for I sense that it exists between the worlds that are externally perceivable by our senses, and I can absorb it internally in such a manner that I can project it outwards in the form of analogies. It is a place that children, madmen, and primitives are still or again capable of peering into. And what they see and shape is the most precious affirmation for me. For we all see the same thing, though from different sides. It is the same in whole and in detail, across the entire planet, not fantasy, but fact upon fact.”



Paintings by Paul Klee

P.S. 
22 March 2015
On the significance of things different, outrageous, quirky and attention-grabbing in our society, consider one of the latest crazes - Extreme Ironing. This appears to have taken over from Planking.
Maybe Mr. Gehry has taken up Extreme Ironing as a performance art?
If one agrees that this might not be an art form, then one has to ask about Frank O. Gehry's work too.