Friday, October 23, 2009

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Media & Architecture: Reading Response for 4/22

The readings for this week were a little bit different. We read from a couple of novels, which was fitting because the theme of this week is architecture's relationship to the book and the printed page. Distinctly removed from the printed work we talked about last week, the zines and publications, books are a solid work like any stone building. They stand on their own as monolithic accomplishments.

I've read a great many books, I hope to read many more books, and yet there are still so many books out there that I don't even know to seek out. I have always wanted to read Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and this week we read the second chapter. I'll have to run out to Strand and buy a copy because the chapter we read was simply fascinating. Hugo talks about architecture as the great art of mankind prior to the invention of the printed word, which he goes on to say will "kill" architecture. Now he obviously doesn't mean this in the most literal sense, but I find his argument distilled in the following quote:

The great accident of an architect of genius may happen in the twentieth century, like that of Dante in the thirteenth. But architecture will no longer be the social art, the collective art, the dominating art. The grand poem, the grand edifice, the grand work of humanity will no longer be built: it will be printed.

As we have seen through our study of architecture and media, Hugo's prophecy has more or less come true. Architecture in the 20th century focused almost exclusively on the private home and the corporate headquarters. With a few deviations here or there this is pretty much the rule. Through media like magazines, radio, television and now the internet and beyond we have cultivated an architecture which is infinitely more personal than the classical architecture Hugo calls "the great book of humanity." We no longer create great buildings to awe and inspire, we create buildings to turn a profit or show off our wealth. As Hugo says, the most inspiring works to come out of the 20th century were "printed"...or I would also argue photographed, recorded, filmed and programmed.

We have been somewhat removed from the arduous work of building the monument, the temple, the castle and have internalized our collective aspirations, dreams and beliefs. Instead of experienced them in the Parthenon or the cathedral we want to see them on the screen, listen to them in a song or read them in a book. Architecture was not killed in the strictest sense, but it was all but rendered impotent to move and inspire us. We will see great buildings as long as we still have great architects with us. They will remain works of art, but as Hugo says, never again will they be "the total art."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Media & Architecture: Reading Response for 4/15

I began this week's readings with the McLaren piece on importance of publication to the history of architecture. As examples he looked at two pre-war Italian publications, Casabella and Architettura, comparing their differences in philosophies and aesthetics. The former, the more modernist and avant-garde, the latter the fascist-aligned and conservative, McLaren takes a look at how they covered an event, the Mostra della Rivoluzione Fascista. I thought it was interesting how he was able to draw parallels between the representations of each publication and their political bent. Architettura presented a stark and straightforward documentary overview of the exhibition, with more classical photos of exteriors that presented a strong "modern militaristic aesthetic." In contrast Casabella ran coverage which used close-cropped and angled photos which were more avant-garde and disorienting. He claims that this latter approach allows the reader of the article more leeway to make a decision about the exhibition, while the Architettura piece is trying to display one interpretation to the reader. In this way he argues that the reproduction of these images is architecture in itself in the case of Casabella, because they are trying to recreate the experience of the exhibit in the mind of the reader. This was an intriguing reading. I found it more accessible than the Wright reading, which is to say I could more easily tie McLaren's positions to the blogs and modern-day architecture publications I am more familiar with.

The Mumford reading on the "Paper Dream City" gave me a chuckle. Living in the modern city of the future like I do it's hard to think that at one time the city could have been so strongly related to paper. Although we've recognized that the idea of the "paperless office" and all-digital communication is a joke even in 2009, paper just doesn't factor into my day as much as it did in Mumford's I guess. This is Plato and the Phaedrus argument all over technologies will poison our minds and make us less potent, less real, dilute us to the point that we are ghosts inhabiting a dream world. It hasn't happened yet, but with Web 2.0 funneling us ever faster toward the singularity you don't have to look very far to see the gray goo on the horizon I suppose.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More Halping

I'm helping Ben and Matt again. This time with something that will end up on RealTube(TM) aka the TV. It's a lot of fun learning to do something that a) I like and b) is actually kind of useful. Plus I get to help my buds who are hella busy and have a lot on their plates.

Fun times!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Media and Architecture Response: Chicago

I was in Chicago this past weekend visiting a couple of good friends of mine. Being influenced by the readings in architectural photography, and looking through that massive tome Building With Light, I was inspired to try to create some architectural photography of my own. Although I am not strictly an artist or photographer, I think the weather I was blessed with gave me a distinct advantage and I was able to get some "okay" pictures. Enjoy.

Frank Gehry's Jay Pritzker pavilion. I think this photo was able to capture the way this oddly-shaped structure rises out of Millennium Park in the revitalized heart of downtown Chicago. Too bad I wasn't able to catch a free outdoor concert, but I was able to see how using techniques we read about in the Radio City Music hall readings this massive metal net carries a network of monitors all the way to the cheap seats. I would imagine the sound is pretty impressive if a bit unnatural for an outdoor venue.

Anish Kapoor's "The Bean." Oh, pardon me, I mean "The Cloud Gate." But here we have yet another example of people naming a structure for its shape. The prominent and unmistakable landmark of the AT&T Plaza (mere feet from Gehry's pavilion, which is reflected almost perfectly in its surface), this giant steel coffee bean is the new, hip place to snap a tourist shot or meet up downtown. Unfortunately for the artist, unless on a guided tour it will probably never been seen as a cloud.

Adventures in Babysitting anyone? The Smurfit-Stone building stands as obviously in the Chicago skyline as the Sears Tower or the John Hancock building. With its famous gashed center and diamond shape it can hardly be missed. What is missed, however, are the days when this building was considered a "smart" building, meaning environmentally friendly and high-tech in 1984. (Hey, it's as old as I am!) It would be interesting to see how it measures up now during the current green craze, especially to that glass monstrosity next to it.

Buckingham Fountain, or that fountain from the opening credits of Married With Children. The sun was really giving me a hard time with this one, so I took about 20 photos trying to capture exactly what I was seeing. Now I know how Le Corbusier felt, but I think I got the weird texture that was being created by the reflection of the light on the water. Sadly I wasn't there for when the fountain blows its top once an hour, but I'm sure I would have missed the shot messing around with camera settings.

This old stately gal is Lake Point Tower. Built in the 60s, I think its style and appeal still stands up to modern scrutiny. Plus it's the only building east of Lake Shore Drive, so if you want to pay to move in I bet you have an unparalleled view of both city and lake. And hey, with neighbors like Sammy Sosa, Alice Cooper and Oprah the price may just be worth it. I intentionally cut out the rest of the skyline and the lake for this shot to show the building's isolation from the city. Did I do a good job, who knows?

Last but not least, it can't be Illinois without McDonalds. Here is the famous Rock N Roll McDonalds in its shiny, new incarnation. Rock N Roll McDonalds was famous both as a MickeyD's location and rock n roll museum, as well as for appearing in a ridiculously entertaining song by outsider artist Wesley Willis. In the photo I caught the glint of the sun on the exterior to emphasize the controversial newness of this building over the more traditional McDonalds exterior of the old one. Part restaurant, part museum, part publicity stunt...but most assuredly all-American, this is a perfect place to leave off with my Chicago trip.

So anyway, I hope this post worked as a "creative" response submission. I enjoyed taking these photos and hope to take more on future trips. Buildings are just so darn photogenic. Most information in this post was either from my friend Pat (a Chicago resident) or the architecture foot tour we took downtown.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Media Practices: Reading Response for 2/27/09

When I was younger my father used to buy the family sets of radio dramas on cassette tape. I think a lot of these programs had just fallen into public domain and you could find nearly complete collections at your local bookstore. (This is to say nothing of, but that's another story) The Shadow, Suspense, Sherlock Holmes, I was introduced to all these radio dramas at a young age. My family would gather around the fireplace and pop them in the stereo or listen to them on long car trips. The Arnheim essay immediately reminded me of this time in my life. As someone who had grown up with an overabundance of television and radio simply as a means to listen to the Top 40, talk radio or baseball games, it was both frustrating and intriguing when I encountered tales constructed solely for the ear.

Arnheim raises the point that when we listen to the live broadcast of a real life event we often feel left out. There is a “happier audience” somewhere out there that isn't us. That we feel we are being led through the events as if by a seeing-eye dog. It's funny that I've never really thought about how true this is. But as a child when I was more or less forced into a situation where I was exposed to radio dramas, I slowly came to understand what made them so unique and special. I think I was most compelled by the series Suspense with it's Twilight Zone-esque mysterious story of the week. I never failed to be drawn in completely to the story with their expert crafting of sound and dialogue. This is the type of show that Arnheim says needs to visual accompaniment, because it drops you right in the middle of a world it has expertly constructed for you.

The things Arnheim says about news and music are also quite interesting. As for the news, he draws a line in the sand between say, talk radio and programming like This American Life. The talk radio show is done for hours at a time on a daily basis and probably for that reason has an “off the cuff” feel to it. You hear multiple announcers and you imagine the room they're sitting in. You can hear their chairs and their body movements. These are all things Arnheim says should be avoided. However with a well-produced radio-journalism show like This American Life you get a much more accomplished stab at the form. Pieces are expertly recorded so that you experience just the voice of the narrator or other important sounds.

So I would have to say I agree for the most part with Arnheim's characterization of “good” wireless broadcasting. It should be timeless, deliberate, and executed with a certain amount of clarity in order to paint a special picture which can only be enjoyed by the ear.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Halped

Ben has been teaching me how to drive yourself crazy how to animate. I did some very basic scanning and photoshopping on the most recent Ronin Dojo cartoon:

It was a lot of fun and only a little bit frustrating. But then again, I only did a very small amount of the actual work. What I don't understand is why Ben and Matt aren't in the nuthouse.