DUNCAN HALL, Rice University, Houston, Texas

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The collected works of this greatest of landscape painters were exhibited in London in 1968. There was something peculiarly consistent, repeating itself again and again, in these bewitching pictures. I can recall no other Exhibition, except one on Picasso's small abstracts, consisting of multifarious spots, that cast such a spell on me. 

It became clear to me that they were united by a consistent iconography. Claude painted from two main viewpoints: the head of a valley, and the quay of a Seaport. Speaking generally, his view is into the Sun, a dangerous and difficult painterly technique for which he became renowned. He views, in some part of both genres, a tower and a bridge with a span that arches over water whether it is the sea or a river. This can be read as a Sea-gate in the case of the harbour scene. In the valley-genre the bridge is normally bracketed by two towers that, speaking naturalistically, guard the approaches to the bridge. Thinking iconically, they can be read as congruent to a "city-gate". 


The 'city-gate' is a very ancient fragment of Architectural Composition that achieved an 'iconic' status as long ago as the middle of the 3rd C. a.d. in the Temple of Zeus in Djmer, Syria. C. Baldwin Smith, in "Architectural Symbolism in Imperial Rome and the Middle Ages" argues that Djmer embodies the figure of a palace precinct guarded by four corner towers. Smith claims this figure originated in Mesopotamia, and then continued through Assyria and Persia, to become fused with the Hellenised Roman temple that he illustrates. 

This inner figure of four towers was later 'telegraphed through' the facade of the temple to stand in front of it. It became the 'westwerke' of the cathedrals built during the Carolingian Empire. This end of the church placed the Emperor, together with his Court, silhouetted against the bright nimbus of the Western rose window, at a higher elevation than either the Ecclesia or the throne of the Cathedra itself. 

V.D.Atroshenko and Judith Collins argue, in "The Origins of the Romanesque", published by Lund Humphries in 1985, that these, virtually freestanding, twin towers "defending" the Western Gate were first used in the 6th century at the church in Tourmanin, in Syria. 

This understanding of the iconic congruence of the river that passes under the towered bridge and the road that passes through the towered gate, allows us to interpret Claude's towered bridge as a "gate" separating the upper from the lower valley.   


Claude looks down upon this gate from the head of the valley. The viewer stands amongst goats, cows and their keepers. A rustic plank bridge conducts the herd over the infant rivulet. The foreground is dark, both because it is bracketed by beetling rocks but also because the tonal contrast with the bright horizon increases the illusion of dreamy depth and infinite distance. 

This "pastoral" zone is the main locus of the action from which his compositions take their title. It was said, by Claude's contemporaries, that he could not draw the human figure. Their evidence were the attenuated bodies of Claude's protagonists. Even if this was so, Claude's anatomical draghtsmanship suits his purpose, and the elegant, misproportioned beings seem as if refracted through the lens of mythic nostalgia for the lost world of Classical and Biblical literature that provides Claude's iconography. The rustics dance and play high up in the valley, far from even the arable zone lower down and clearly separated from the delta-towns and cities beyond the mouth of the "towered gate-bridge". The heroes and heroines of Mythology can be discerned, frozen in some almost inconsequential moment of their history. They are always diminutive, as if it was necessary for Claude to show that they could only exist, in his exquisitely fresh, and compellingly credible, terrain, drawn from first hand sketching in the Roman Campagna around Tivoli, if it was almost impossible to find them, hidden far away from the level plains of the new world of Reason and Science being created by the 17C.  


Yet it is this very "Nuova Scienza" that is providing Claude with his vision. For, in our opinion, he is "unpacking the cargo of the Navis, the "ship", of the Christian Cathedral, newly landed on the savage Ararats of the uplands, and the Americas, of the 17C. He is infusing its dessicated pagan cargo, long hidden in its dark hold, with the clear sunlight of Reason that shines from a new, secular, confidence in Nature. His "river" springs from the dark cave of the Apse, which lies behind the viewer. It snakes its way down the valley like the swirls of the Cosmatesque floors in the early Roman Basilican churches, passing between the columnar forests of the Nave. 


The mountains to each side, with their caves for the "hermits" (which cultivated landowners would subsequently install into their Hellenised country estates!) are the buttresses and chapels of the Cathedral that bound the "valley" of the ecclesiastical interior. The divisions of the fields, which would, in time become the building plots of city "isolae" are imitated by the marble bands which panel the floors of churches, extending the bases of the nave columns into the floor of the hypostyle forest that once covered the whole valley "in illo tempore". 

The space of the Nave flows out through the Western door between the towers of the 'city gate'. This is imitatated naturalistically by Claude's towered bridge. Beyond the door lies the infinite net of city streets. Beyond Claude's bridge lies the marshy Delta and then the Ocean, often signified by the figure of a snake turned in upon itself. The figure, here, of the Delta, whose name derives from the Greek letter "D" is positively corroborated in the Site Planning practice of the period, where it was commonplace for the three streets to fan either out or in towards the Front, or Western, Door. 


The tridentine figure is called, in the French Town Planning tradition, the "Patte d'Oie". This translates as the Goose's Foot. Perhaps it derives from Egypt, in whose myths the primordial island emerged to the cry of a Goose, known as "the Great Cackler". This goose was congruent with its egg, the whole of created space. 

This egg, when it is called the "egg of Osiris" is surrounded by the serpentine icon of time. This interweaving figure is one of the oldest 'architectural' decorations ever to be found, lying at the lowest level of Jericho, carved into limestone floor slabs. It gave its form to the mathematical symbol of Infinity. In Sumeria two such serpents were shown interlocked with each other, forming a net with their bodies. In Egypt two copulating serpents, locked together in the primordial chaos, or 'nun' were one of the many alternative cosmogonies. Whether this is why the covering of Roman roads resemble the scales of a giant snake, as do the streets in Rome today, albeit paved with more precisely cut grey tufa blocks. For when polished by wear and wetted by the rain or the waters of the Tiber that used to rise periodically like the mythic Flood itself, this humbacked 'infinite net' gleams as black as the scales of a knotting of serpents. 

The Delta-Forecourt, forked like the emblem of the ancient sky-god Poseidon, demoted to his watery element by his brother Zeus, leads outwards to the unstable, wavy, horizon, the equivalent of the zoophoros, or frieze-belt, beyond which everything dissipates into the infinitude of the Ocean. 

The Egyptians called the Hypostyle halls, that were the antechambers to their Temples, the "Field of Reeds". These were the thick forests of Papyrus in the Nilotic Delta. The Delta was the locus of the Flood, with its sequence of erasure and re-emergence. It is where the Ocean and the land, or the Earth, alternate, overlapping. The figure that unites them both is the Hypostyle-Forest of Water-plants that, curiously, also provided humanity with its first writing-paper, made by beating the skins of the plant unrolled like the scrolls they became, in alternating directions. We will return to the figure of the hypostyle later, when we explore the idea of Time. 


This decipherment of Claude's iconography can be pursued even amongst the ruins which he disposes, with an apparent artlessness, around his paintings. Their seemingly "romantic" inconsequentiality (that proved as appealing to their English collectors, as it did to Claude's many intellectually unrewarding imitators) masks a more muscular conceptual structure. It seemed to me also, at first, that although he replicated every part of a Cathedral in his "landscape" one, very important, component was missing. This was the central, vertical axis of the "crossing" itself, the very locus of the ritual meeting of Ecclesia, Cathedra and, along up the vertical axis, the Trinity. Where was the ruined, or rusticated, or "naturalised" refiguration of this focal point,descended from the blackened hearth, the 'focus' of the Megaron, ancenstor to the Hellenic and Roman Basilica? 

There were, in Claude's paintings, often a major ruin, close by the central "rustic, or mythic, theatre". This ruin tended to have no door, or to have a door that had been walled up, and to be a building like a Christian Baptistery, or the "Tholos", the Classical Tomb from which the form of the Baptistery derived. This type of building has a "centralised" plan-form which accentuates its vertical axis. The mind runs up and down the vertical axle of energy projected by its centralising architecture. Was Claude, here, depicting the central place of the Cathedral, where the two horizontal axes of nave and "crossing" intersected with the vertical axis up through the dome, as a closed ruin, impossible of access? Mindful of this possibility, I called these cylindrical, doorless ruins, the "displaced crossings". 

Then it became clear why this Architectural figure was deliberately placed adjacent to the open-air theatre of the Protagonists. It was proof that it was now Nature herself who provided the stage for the rites of the New World. It was Nature's inexorable, palpitating, spinal axis: the whole water-carved magnificence of the River-Valley, that, when "crossed" with the Sun-drenched dome of the Sky itself, provided Modern Man with the theatre for his new Natural Science and the cults of Technology and Progress that flowed from the new dispensation.

This is the scene of the encounter between the Mythic Protagonists and the Rustic Dance. It is the locus of an event that Claude had to set amongst the ruins of a lost world, distanced far away from the mundane horizon of the sea and the city. The evocation of a sacred moment, a new beginning clothed in the primordial, natural, violence of the Golden Age of the Noble Savage is an ecstatic ceremony whose analogues are the confluence of waters, swirling into a whirlpool ring of dancers. This is the gyratory focus of the circle of the seasons, and the wheel of the Zodiac. It is the ground of the "Chorus", the "Xoros" of Dionysus.  


The part of this whole proposition that remains curious, and which needs a separate decipherment, is the self image of this "Man" himself: that of the curiously distorted, shrunken, figures of a Mythic Antiquity. We know that this invention of a "noble savage"garbed in a mythic Hellenism, was the disguise that the Renaissance found necessary in order to introduce the project of a rational politics. We also know what happened when these aetiolated figures were immersed in the Fountain of Eternal Youth that is Scientific Technology. But that history had to wait until our own Century.  


Meanwhile, Claude can serve, without diminishing the imperishable magic of his paintings, to illustrate, and articulate, a canonic taxonomy for the 'Republic of the Valley' that we find repeated time after time, and in culture after culture, when Architecture is used to institute the lifespace of what I describe as the 'Natural Community'. One can contrast this idea, especially today, with the Virtual Communities brought into being by the multiplying forms of communicaiton, of which the Web is the latest. The Natural Community is by contrast, as we can begin to see, extremely 'primitive', and extremely old. But this is not to say that it is no longer intellectually subtle and socially effective. Indeed my own experience is that it is in the USA, the place which has travelled further down the route of forming 'virtual communities', that the Architecture of the Natural Community, whose Architectural tools JOA have perfected over thirty years of work, is most clearly understood and desired. This is, perhaps as one would expect. But it is a relief to find it all the same. For I have found this prrimordial, and indispensable role for Architecture, understood so clearly nowhere else. 

One may isolate Twelve 'Event Horizons in this this 'Watershed Narrative'. 


These are: 

Firstly, the Source, in a lightless (apsidal?) cave, and

Secondly: The Rivulet, or upper river, tumbling like a staircase down a rocky incline, and bridged by a rustic plank, and

Thirdly: the Confluence, where the tributaries meet in a pool that is also congruent with the "Crossing" which is the Theatre of the Mythic Protagonists, and

Fourthly: the Trees of the Forest that flank the River like the columns down each side of a nave, and

Fifthly: the Mountains that define the space of the valley, and the Caves inside them, like the vaulted chapels that are bracketed by the thick walls of the outer buttresses, and

Sixthly: The River that winds lazily down the centre of the Valley, like the mosaic whirlpools of the Cosmati Family of craftsmen laid into the floors of ancient Cathedrals, and

Seventhly, the Plots of the arable fields that lie on each side of the river as it reaches the plain. These become the squared 'island'-blocks of a city, and

Eighthly: the Open Gate, the 'Porta' that, like the word "portus" itself, opens the way up to the sacred space of the upper valley, admitting the storm-tossed souls coming into the Ark-Navis of the Church, and

Ninthly: the Twin Towers of the Western portal which mark the Arched Bridge as a City Gate, and

Tenthly: The Balcony of Appearances that tops the Bridge which is also the City Wall, marking the 'place of power, and

Eleventhly: the Delta-forecourt whose radiating, tridentine forks mate with the Hypostyle of formal trees, recalling the Papyrus forests of the Flood and Infinitude, and

Twelfthly: the Serpentine Coils of the Ocean and the endless, interlocking, net of streets of the city as they lap around its "isolae", its island-blocks.


If we continue to treat this stage of our analysis in a purely formal way, without asking how any of this can be put to use, I can briefly indicate where this formal sequence is to be found in the History of Architecture, and not excepting the 20C.  

We have begun with Ancient Greece, and Claude Lorraine. We referred to Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals, the Egyptian Temple and to Rome. It is clearly figured in the Country Palaces of the Renaissance, and in the secular and sacred compositions that follow on in the 18C. 


But this is not to say that one does not find this formal sequence outside of Europe. Chinese and Korean cities and palaces are laid out to face South towards the sea with their backs to the Northern mountains. Hindu temples form the "sikhara" as a closed dark mountain which is mediated by a "city-forest" giving on to a balcony that overlooks an "oceanic" tank filled with water. We find these sequences created, with a realism that is more to do with Gardens than Buildings, in the summer retreats of the Moguls, along the mountains and lakes of Kashmir. It is beyond a coincidence that these disparate cultures share architectural sequences having a formal congruence. 


Our "fluvial figure" continues on, flowing even through the modest terrace houses of London, grouped around garden squares. Neither is it arrested by the 20C, where we can find it, all unannounced, in the work of its greatest, and most cultured, architects. We find it for example, in Le Corbusier's, "House of Dr. Curruchet", in Buenos Aires, and in the late James Stirling's Frankfurt "Staatsgalerie". 


Another reason for the ubiquity of this 'valley figure' in planned lifespaces may be that explored by Gordon Childe with his "hydraulic cultures" of Mesopotamia, Egypt, the Indus Valley, the North China plan, or the Maya. For these denote at least five of the seven autonomous points, marked by Paul Wheatley in "The Pivot of the Four Quarters", as spots where urban cultures may be argued to have originated.  


I will argue, later, that there is, apart from its 'justification' in the history of the Medium, an explanation for the ubiquity of this morphological narrative in its ability to figure the phenomenologies of our human embodiment in space and time, and to strike some deep chord within our own Being. For it is, rightly, no longer enough to argue for a procedure that 'it was always so'. On the other hand the ultimately subjective grounding of all phenomenological argument has led one, after the excesses of the 20C, to need to temper all a-priori argument by reference to History. What we receive from the past, and most especially in the primary Media of culture, is not to be taken as holy writ. But neither is it to be despised and discarded merely because it comes from outside our individual will, or to put it another way, the 'soul of the Artist'. 


Yet I will not deny that the purpose of 'formality' is to empower 'Art'. It is the only persuasive reason for it. Art is both its splendour, its danger and the reason why 'formal architecture' was proscribed at the beginning of the 20C. I can explain this by quoting the playwright karl Kraus, a member of the celebrated Vienna Circle of Freud, Adolf Loos and Wittgensteain. He is said to have remarked, presumably at some formal public event: 

"If anyone has anything to say please step forward and remain silent". 

His meaning, which may seem paradoxical, was transparent. It was to proclaim that in the Mass Culture of the 20C, with its newspapers and advertising campaigns, its universal education, suffrage and demagoguery, any public culture was best silenced and suppressed for its utterances would be painful to an educated ear. Kraus was proposing what we call, today, a Public Minimalism. 

We can see that what this 'educated circle' were really proposing was that they entirely lacked the means (knowledge, invention, imagination, technique) to refigure their own, inherited culture, and could envisage nothing but its disappearance. Which is exactly what happened, for it to be replaced by the sturdier, and as they predicted, stupider, cultures of Fascism and Communism. 


Loos and his circle were failures, seen in hindsight, monumental failures in that they left no persuasive monuments to Modernity. Nor can I deny, from my own experience, that our time has progressed beyond the cultural conditions which jusified Kraus's advice, or, later on that of Clement Greenberg, of New York. The Public Culture remains comprehensively subliterate. 


What has changed, I will maintain against all comers, is the ability of the cultured media, to take it on, in the street, on its own terms. My buildings can both dominate a burger bar and jam with it too. JOA proved this by placing a MacDonalds, the purveyor of the most excrecable cuisine on the strip, into the arcade of the facade we exhibed in the Venice Biennale of 1992. Nor was this done in any spirit of submission to 'Pop Culture', as one sees in the work of Will Allsop or Rem Koolhaas. My Architecture remains true to the most arcane of its iconologies, and yet allows the grease-bars to surf at its feet. Nor do I have to banish, prohibit and suppress advertisements and neon, as does the culturally oppressive (because so visually fragile) architectural cadaver of 'grey high-tech'. JOA's candlepower can easily be stepped up to match and improves, like the Parthenon, with turtlewax polish. 


For those with no confidence in this strategy, I recommend, first of all, the study of Ancient Greek Temples in their authentic (new, shiny, colourful) state. This must then be followed by Hindu Architecture. In order for the chaste Western sensibility, as yet still unweaned from milksop 'Antiquity', to survive this experience it will be found essential to develop what one might call an 'iconic athleticism'. Knowing the meaning of the symbols out of which Greek, Hindu, and any other Architecture is constructed (I use this verb deliberately) allows one to enjoy the vitality that is given to their forms by colour. The Student will then be able to turn to our version of Modernism and 'read it' without pain, enjoying its vitality in equal measure. 

I suggest such a course of study without irony. 100 years is long enough to tolerate the idiocies of Popular Culture and the pathetic incapacity of the so-called 'Arts Establishment' to gain some 'Street Cred'. To misbehave in public, as do the dancing dinosaurs of Decon, amuses the cultured because it is even uglier, grosser and more idiotic than anything the commercial sector could ever do. But, in offending the Public, Decon merely offends the Public, who expect better things of their Arts Establishment, and think less of them as a consequence. No one rules today as of right - especially clever people spending Public funds. 


I also speak from the recent experience of seeing one of my major interiors, to a new building which is the most 'monumental' in Den Haag, hijacked and destroyed by a combination of a too-reticent, and very cultured, Developer, and an iconically aggressive, but anti-literate, Tenant. The Developer backed-off the chance to inscribe a great, arcanely-structured ceiling, in a Public Place. My design was made. The technology was proved in Texas. The iconography focussed on Man, rather than the Cosmos, this being the Netherlands, not the home of NASA. It was costed and ready to be done. 


But what European of culture takes any interest in Texas? The Dutch learned nothing about my work in the USA. Nothing at all. They did not even learn anything from my work in England, a mere 30 minutes away by plane. They did not even learn how to build efficiently, from the top down, without scaffolding. I have never had a building constructed in such an amateurish and laboured way. Nor was I ever so disconnected from the Contractor. The project over-ran by six months on a twelve-month timeline.

As a result of this, coming straight after being built in Texas, which was technically brilliant by comparison (cruder, cheaper, quicker), I wrote my paper on Project Management. FAQ#2 Q.V.


In it I distinguish between three projects, all using the same technologies and the same architecture. They were built in Britain, the USA and Continental Europe. I call these, respectively, "Flatpack", Rock and Roll", and "The Scenic Route". In Britain one issues a Total Instruction Set (screws included) and the technical result is good. But technical progress through co-operative learning is only possible outside the contract, rather than within it. In America everyone learns the new tune and jams together. The Texans ended by knowing my music as well as I did. Americans like to understand the 'Design Philosophy'. This is a totally neglected tool in Britain. Which way up does one hold 'philosophy' over here? Even Rock and Roll has a Score. Also, one makes friends doing "Rock and Roll" Management.


In the Netherlands they built, very carefully and expensively, a surface copy of my design. There was more defective work erected in the Hague than on any other building and it over-ran on both cost and time. JOA never chose the Contractor. Nor were we allowed to brief him, or meet him formally at any time. It was, as a form of management, grotesquely bound by a paranoid view of Contract - 'buy a picture and send away the 'Artist' while someone else paints the best 'fake' you have ever seen'. Who wants to be an 'Artist' anyway. Certainly no Architect should!

I believe that there is a special reason for these peculiar events. It is that in the Netherlands, and maybe especially in the Netherlands, the 'Production Team' regarded the JOA design as clearly 'from another age'. They entirely mistook its pedigree, which, back in the 1970's were steel-framed warehouses, with corrugated asbestos roofs, costing £11/sq.ft (£110/sq.M). These won every prize a cheap shed could win, and began JOA's career. We have never departed from the constructive principles learned from these early successes. They are outlined in FAQ No 2:"Your buildings look complicated and difficult to build". The Hague Team thought their cultured, Art-Collecting Patron had gone and bought himself a Greek Temple for his 'front garden'. Den Haag is the home town of MAB, the Owner and Developer of the Groenmarkt Project. And so they whistled-up a Dutch concrete prefab and then, very carefully, constructed the best 'Greek Temple' they could manage, which, apart from the materials, was very well-made, all over it and around it, little bit by little bit.


Most people have to do a 'double-take' with my buildings. But the Constructional Team would have been specially prone to the common mistake (which is to assume our architecture is 'old-fashioned') because the Delta of the Rhine is one of the places in which 'Modern Architecture' arose, became autonomus, and now, arguably, leads the world. The places where the dominant 20C style (the one now judged 'canonic' emerged) were all small states. Some of them had become smaller than they once were. The Netherlands was one of these. Vienna was another. Others are smaller states with big neighbours. The Netherlands was one, Czecho-slovakia was another, so was Catalonia. 

Modernism, contrary to popular Modernist Mythology, never arose in the USA. The USA is the home of cheap, quick building. Art Deco, in which I include Frank Lloyd Wright, is the authentic U.S. 20C Architectural Style. The early Modernists, like Loos, from Vienna, went to the USA, found some cheap, moneymaking, cement boxes and blew them up into a cult of Popular (but very arcane) Reason. Loos real ambition was to disguise Central Europe's nihilistic arrogance, ignorance and lack of invention- all well catalogued by Spengler. Then Philip Johnson and Henry Russell Hitchcock imported this cubic miasma (via MOMA) as merely a 'new fashion' (and a cheaper style than any other) back to the USA. The craftsmen who made Art Deco marched, demonstrated and protested in the streets of New York and 'American Architecture' died.

Gordon Bunshaft took his ideas from Mies. In Mies eventually, everything died, burnt to a cinder by light. Every Architectural strategy was reduced to its feeblest idea, mere disembodied tricks of the trade: grids, planes, materials, surfaces and so on, capable of being understood by the most illiterate of mechanics. It is fitting that Mies' greatest site, IIT, is being trivialised by Koolhaas. The Grid returns as farce.

The Netherlands has, arguably, the oldest history of hard-core, radical, 20C 'Architectural Modernism'. In essence, I read this as an attempt to invent an architecture (any architecture) that avoids the canonic roots of Western Architecture in Greece, and then Italy. I read this as a desire to reinvent a supremacy that the Netherlands once enjoyed through a peculiar conjunction of free trade and loose political structures. Ironically, the Netherlands seems to associate 'Classicism' with the oppressive weight of its powerful, centrally organised, militaristic neighbours of France, Germany and, further afield, Spain -oh - and not neglecting Britain. Classical Architecture is seen to be associated with the theory and practice of the 'Absolute State'. 


This betrays a most peculiar understanding, for there was no politics more like that of the Netherlands, in the 17C, than the Greek City States who canonised Classical Architecture back in 600 B.C.. The same could be said of the intellectually and politically (and this time financially) briiliant, anachic and inventive statelets of politically downtrodden 15C Italy, who revived Classicism in ithe somewhat over-antiqued form that it came down to most of Europe. Classicism, in its vital origins, is the architecture of small 'open-society' institutions who are trying to 'stablise' their deliberately loose, free and unstable constitutions by building what is properly called a 'Microcosmic' frame in which to fix their being and embodiment. I have called this, in this Paper, the 'framework of a 'Natural Society'. We will see, in "Duncanology Four", how this relates to Classical Architecture, as such. 


I find a widespread, because fundamentally wilful, ignorance of the basic archaeological and political facts constituting the origins of Classical Architecture in Greece. I, who am married to a Greek, find its chaotic and brilliant culture associated with the plodding bureaucrats invented by Europeans to straitjacket their own forelock-pulling citizens. I who was brought up in India, came back after the '39-'45 War to find the brilliant sophistications of Vedic Iconography polluted by the eugenically-corrupted savants hired by Himmler. The Architectural style that truly reflects the ignorance, arrogance, provincialism and uninventiveness of Continental Europe is the one invented by it:- the illiterate, ugly, and nihilistic 20C cult of cement, glass and steel boxes with which it continues to pollute its own lifespace and now (due to some wholly misplaced awe of 'the European Heritage') to pollute the Globe. The civic sadist Ludwig Hilberseimer is the true Oracle of the Spirit of Continental Europe. Co-op Himmelblau is merely a frantic reaction against its doom-laden utterances. Decon proves nothing more than every one already knew: that something died in European Architecture, a long time ago.

One peculiar quality of Europe's 'death' is the proliferation of a Machiavellian bureaucracy. This is, however, denied its guiding 'Prince'. So the bureacracy circulates a vast 'dead culture'. This has the advantage of preserving Europe, rather than allowing it to be demolished-as the USA was in the second half of the 20C. But the effect is increasingly strained. The German Opera Houses do not have to make money. So they can put on inventions that please only the 'bureaucratic' class. If they wish to attract a larger public they must stage American Musicals like the brilliant 'Lion King'. Europe is like the sleeping princess, immobilised in a forest where time stands still. But at least the ruins remain inhabited.

One must give the Netherlands credit for 100 years of sustained energy in pursuing this ambition of a New Architecture. New, or at least 'different', it certainly is. Architecture, in the normal terms, it was never intended to be.

But then they would agree with that. 


My problem, less in Britain, and more in Europe, (but in the end in both of them) was that an Architect does not 'do ceilings'. I was not an 'Artist'. And in 'Old Europe' Artists (presumably with paintbrushes and neckbraces) are still supposed to do buon-fresco ceilings. The Cultured Establishment faltered and the Tenant seized my 'Robot Tempietto' with both hands. He spent four times my budget on a stained glass dome (which he admits he first saw in a Pub) that would have pleased Himmler (who did something like it in the Teutoburgerwald). The shop (indeed the whole chain of shops) is named after a famous filmic Putsch (the Sting) and sells 'combat clothing' (blue jeans). The parallels to inter-war Vienna conform to Hegels "Third return of History as Farce", but are nevertheless peculiarly exact. The World changes, but none of the Players ever die. They leave the stage to return as comics.


I usually like to return to my buildings after they are completed. I have no desire at all to revisit the Hague. It is a living proof to me that Loos, the Vienna Circle and Karl Kraus were right when they said that in the new 'mass culture', the only cultivated speech is silence. Many cultured people worked for six long years to bring the triumph that is the urbanism and the architecture (but not the building-technology) of the Groenmarkt into being in the oldest part of Den Haag. Its centrepoint is a round temple, descended from Tholos tombs, Baptisteries and 19C Dancing Halls. The temple was built on a piece of land,that had belonged to the Public Realm since the last war and that was graced by a Naum Gabo-like statue to a hero of the Dutch Resistance. In fact the piece of land was a left-over from the usual grey cement social-democratic bulldozer-architecture and the statue looked like a branding iron. But it was open land. The interior of my Rotunda belonged, morally, to the Public. It is useless for shopping, anyway, and merely contains two escalators!

If London had a bureaucracy like that of any of the excellently-run cities of the Netherlands it would be far larger than my erstwhile employer, the late but (by me, anyway) unlamented GLC. Yet neither this amiable, cultured and intelligent City authority, nor my Art-collector Client, whose determination to make things better is unquestioned, had the ability, or the will, or the whatever, to discern that what they were getting was an unprecedented object, a real piece of Architecture, of the old kind, yet genuinely modernised. They seemed as if transfixed by the horror of the fruition of a nightmare: the birth of an authentic contemporary monumental urbanity. So, unable to decide whether it augured good or bad, they allowed this toilsome womb to be impregnated by an interior whose shopsoiled pedigree, as openly boasted by its inventor, the genius of combat clothing, "was first conceived in a (british) pub" - a stained glass K.O. punch costing £300,000.


Mainstream Modernism has many grandparents. A very close relation (with an especially aristocratic lineage) is its horror of 'interior designers', 'artists' and 'artist-craftsmen'. Architects of Taste and Judgment know that such people have the power to arrive late in the day, when all the really hard work has been done (and all the hard money spent), and cream off all the glamour of their building while charging an utterly outrageous 'fee' for spraying a spicy sauce called 'Art' all over their delicately dull, greyed-down, monochrome, constructions. The Mainstream Modernists response is either to consume the building in Technology, of which Pumping Iron High-Tech is the result, or to make it into a work of 'High-Spice' itself, of which Counter-Formal, Contra-Functional 'Deconstruction' is the result. Both produce buildings of ludicrous muscularity, pea-brained dinosaurs whose massive antics are designed to avoid this feared confrontation with only one thing: the conceptual brilliance of 'Public Art'. Yet even when the equipment for an Architecture is laboriously invented, over thirty years, by JOA, and perfectly proved in action (albeit in faraway Texas - faraway where?), whose purpose is to empower 'Public Art', the 'powers that be' have not the guts to respond by welcoming it and taking the responsibility of using it for the purpose intended, to make a city a proper place for an intelligent, cultured, thinking being.


The history of the Rotunda of the Groenmarkt proves that there is nothing wrong with real Architecture. It works. It encouraged a shopkeeper to spend a fortune debasing its interior because he immediately understood that Architecture empowers the space of vision we call the 'camera lucida'. His own vision was that every one of his shops had a stained glass sunburst skylight. While this was a way of enlivening a rented shoebox slot in a high street, it has proved catastrophically inadequate to a latterday 'baptistery'. Yet his was an act of 'Patronage'. He made a piece of Public Art.

The defect is in the massive superstructure of enlightened planning control and patronage. It is not Architecture that is at fault, it is the High Culture that is inadequate. It is unconfident, defensive, and obsessed with 'private taste' (promoting, for example, far above Public Art, the tiresome nonsense one finds in Art Galleries). The only reason for this is the iconic illiteracy that has spread, like a cancer of the brain, over the High Culture of the Text during the 20C. The centres of iconic literacy today are not Banks, or State Bureaux, or Opera House Audiences, or Universities, or top Dinner Tables, they are the workshops of Pop-Art, Advertising, T.V. and it must be said, Disney. The best the Textual Culture can muster is to bleat that "Loos was right - the 'Modern' Public Realm is a country of aggressively dimwitted louts".

I have proved, in the USA, that Architecture can, once again, embody ideas of subtlety and humour manifested as a 'painting' of ravishing beauty. Perhaps it needs a culture of straight-talking Texan Millionaires to strip away the dirty veils of dissimulation that bandage the European corpse. Certainly one can not rely on a nerveless picking at the shroud by queasy little bureaucrats with an eye on their pension and a rustic rabbit hole to vanish into. If the Public Realm can not yet be taken back under the hand of the Text , in 'civilised' Europe, then so be it. If Co-Op "Heavens Blue" is what Europe must do do to 'lay its ghosts' and 'keep its skeletons in their cupboards' then that is Europe's problem. It is to be pitied, not imitated. But let no one pretend that it is the fault of the Architectural Medium as such, or that a cultured, sophisticated, contemporary Architecture, of suffieint power to dominate 'Pop-Art (and so allow it to flourish on the streets, rather than be everywhere suppressed) is 'impossible'.


Yet one cannot help admiring the Netherlands. A country won back from the sea is heroic. Their engineering is magnificent. Why is their Architecture such tonky junk? Why is it so folksy and funky, on a site that is totally planned, rectilinear and flat - a site ready-made for a formally planned 'engineers architecture' of cosmic splendour. Even the new stuff is one long look up the skirts of the Old Dame.What are their Architects running away from, if not themselves? For my part I find that the Lowlanders have yet to find a 'voice' that truly represents their real spirit. A people that has done what they have done should not have the architecture they have got, and continue to get.


We can conclude, from this, that the effect of the type of architectural formality that I advise, is to bring 'art' into existence by empowering it through the deep-structure of the architectural narratives which I have reconfigured from the received Medium. JOA's fixed policy here, which is no whim, being founded on many bitter experiences, is to totally control any 'art' that enters the spaces that our architecture empowers. We will sign no contract that does not reserve these powers to us. We will not have our work ruined and hijacked by the mere 'laboratory workers' who exhibit in Galleries. Nor will we tolerate Artist-Craftsmen or Craftsmen- Artists. All such epithets fade to insignificance when measured against the things that Architecture can achieve. The role of the Artist in Architecture is no more essential than that of the Plumber. They are all players in the orchestra. And no one makes a sound until they can read music. What Major Artist either knows, or cares, about Architectural culture? I have never met one of any use to my project. 

I asked David Hockney. He refused, preferring to do opera scenery (less real, less demanding, less important). Which is the Artist, anywhere in the World, who, today, can even imagine the conceptual capacities of Architecture, let alone invent new ways in which these intellectual powers can be put to use? Which Artist of note could afford to lose their reputation for 'lonely genius' by taking an iconic text and even understanding it, let alone merely 'speaking to it', like a properly professionalised Orator. No, the contemporary Artist is mainly useless to Architecture, destroying everything that he is allowed to touch. 

This is why I refuse the title 'Art' to our 'decorative' work. I term it 'iconic engineering'. It breaks all of Clement Greenberg's rules anyway, and gets away with it. I have left Houston with its biggest 'painting'. It was done for a derisory fee, and a derisory cost per square foot (when compared to Art-World' prices). Yet my ceiling has taken its place on the Art-work circuit for visitors to that City. If Houston were to build fifty more such 'iconic ceilings' who would trouble with 'Galleries'?


(Courtesy of a mere space-plumber) 

It is five minutes drive from the Rothko Chapel, where eight black canvases hang in a dismal little tholos-tomb of a building. My ceiling announces the re-birth of 'painting' back where it began, on the surfaces of the 'camera lucida', powered by an exculsively civic, social and conceptual project. Rothko's walls (his ceiling died long ago) mourn, and demonstrate, the death of 'painting' conceived of as 'Fine Art'. Clement Greenberg's thesis, that Art should avoid all intelligible content, proved to be the poison-pill that finally killed it off. 

Why not 'clever' content? Why does content always have to be 'dumb'? Lots of people, in our age of electronic information, are getting much less dumb than they were. Exhibiting a non-painting like a white canvas (guaranteed to make the headlines) is a way of saying "Hey! Either you know nothing about Art or I am a completely useless Painter. If you guess the right answer you pay me $500,000, become an Art Conoisseur, and keep this piece of limp cloth as a testimonial to your promotion to the Cultured Classes". 

Anyway, my huge, monumental, ceilings are pretty. So who cares what they mean? 

I am still not going to come to the final point of this explanation of Duncan Hall. Iconic Engineering depends, for its real, skull-lifting kick, on being linked to a literature. Iconography goes with iconology.

So let us get on with an analysis of another uniquely good thing (in our oeuvre at least) about the Duncan Hall project. This is its situation and exact congruence with the design of the whole of Rice's great (and refreshingly new, less than 100 years old!) Campus. 








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* JOA can be reached by E-Mail at anthony@johnoutram.com , by telephone on +44 (0)207 262 4862 or by fax on +44 (0)207 706 3804. We also have an ISDN number : +44 (0)207 262 6294.