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Early 20C Architecture began to place what it called a 'Service Core' in the centre of the floor-plan of its buildings. The story given out was that this was in order to 'free' the external walls to be made of glass. The 'Service |Core' solution to a building, plan has now become so normal, even so 'old', so 'traditionally modern', as to seem entirely correct. Today, also, after decades of costly, capital-intensive development, the all-glass suspended curtain wall is, while still expensive to buy, a technical practicality.

The unspoken corollary, or 'hidden agenda' of this seeming 'liberation' from encasement in stone was, however, socially oppressive, if not Tayloristic. For the effect of the Service core is to deny the spatial centre of the building-plan to its normal use.


This had been, for the 9,000 years since the invention of Architecture back in Catal Huyuk, the creation of a social space inscribed with views into the transcendent region of 'reality' that lay behind appearances. Every institution, from the blood-group of a family, to a tribe and up to the more artfully, and artificially, constructed social groups that are the building blocks of societies, had, for thousands of years, been able to inscribe the walls, floors and ceilings of its focal (meaning, in Latin, hearth) social space with varieties of inscribed 'decoration' that in their most effective forms, provided them with a shared view of 'reality'. The 'focal space' was a place in which such groups could congregate, very typically to share a 'sacrificial' repast, of the kind that represented the key political ritual of the Greek Polis. Eating together, 'at the centre', in view of their 'view' of the 'true' reality, was the main 'function' of these spaces in the centre of the plans, or 'building footprint' of the everyday building, from Megaron, to Church, to Manorial Hall, on which was built the Architecture of the West.


Yet, by the beginning of the 20C, this 'transcendent reality' had become clouded and essentially 'invisible'. One may conveniently chart this process, in its final stages, upon the ceilings of the Vatican Library. Here the pink-fleshed embodiments of 'Antiquity', mythological supporters of the Ideal State, change from the fleshed-out creatures of the 17C, animate with life, to the wooden dolls of the 19C, via the loss of all of their blood during the elegant grisaille of the 18C. The 'Western Interior', whose character I describe in "Act of Foundation" took a few centuries to die. But, at the beginning of the 20C it had become useless for its original purpose, charted by Bataille as conceivably datable to the Caves of Lascaux and Altamira, which was to delineate, in whatever way the culture found plausible, what the mind knew, the imagination could conceive, and the naked eye not see.


At the same time as this strategy of social manipulation was instigated, contingent, upon a profound 'failure of vision', the building-user was obliged to turn his gaze outwards onto a putatively 'true (and therefore beautiful - or was it the other way around?) natural view'. Yet the typical building plots of the early 20C city, were far from offering the wide views over "rolling fields and rushing rivers" required by the 'city of glass skyscrapers' proposed by the New Architecture. Drastic action was called for.


Beatrice Colomina has quoted Rasmussen's understanding that Corbusier conceived of the all-glass walls of his skyscraper apartments in the same way as a mural painter. Only instead of, as in the past, painting a view of a reality that was conceived as truer than that lying before the untutored 'natural' eye, Corbusier reversed the polarities. The view upon which Corbusier's eye gazed, revealed before the domestic wall of glass like a cinema-screen, had to be that scene of savage and primordial 'truth' which Corbusier himself described, in a revealing passage (when he was depressed by his lack of commissions during the wartime Vichy regime) as "The Golden Age, before man's avarice began".


For the Architect, and Urbanist, there can be no more chilling scene, nothing more premonitory of the Holocaust of the '39 war, and its terrors, than the determination of Corbusier's Eye, which he actually drew like the lens of a Death Ray, to raze everything that the patient labours of his forbears had bequeathed, and plant their graves with the giant forest trees which he illustrated so obsessively, in page after page of beautiful drawings, in his ironically titled "Home of Man". Nothing was to be left except his huge glass towers, the primordial forest, and those monuments which Corbusier conceived of as 'canonic' to the cities he eyed with such malevolence, such as the Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame, in Paris, and the Casbah in Algiers. The Cities of the West would be represented, as they mostly were in the advertisements he so assiduously collected, by Touristic Photographs.


Corbusier chose Rome to stand for everything he hated. He called it "The Rome of Horrors". Yet it is precisely this city which is the urbane key to the most brilliant city planning ever invented by the West. I have called its urbanistic technique, and that of the Italian Mediaevo-Humanist city: "Alberti's Golden Bomb". It is deciphered in my "Act of Foundation: "The Poetics of Practice". Corbusier remained blind to the fact that the true horror was that the West's view into a transcendent reality had collapsed - the 'screen of the 'picture-plane' had gone black. God and his Angels were no longer transmitting. Even the mythic Olympians of Hellenism could no longer mediate any of the subtle narratives - that, even at this late hour, still remained accessible to the painting of Picasso and the Literature of Eliot. It is clear, today, that the crisis that overtook the Architecture of the early 20C was not only one brought on by an access to new powers, but by an even more massive failure of the old ones. Architecture no longer 'worked' as a medium capable of accessing a 'view' into a 'truth that lay beyond appearances'.


From this devastating conceptual thrombosis the crippled Medium, no longer the fertile Mother of the Arts, but their Forest Lawn Memorial Garden, has only been able to stagger on (largely supported by a brilliant remedial 'engineering') while mumbling the incoherent nonsense that has passed its lips in the 20C ..."truth to materials"..."truth to construction"...."form follows function"..... all notions of some trivilaity when compared to Architecture's previous intelligences.


If Architecture was no longer a medium capable of revealing a 'hidden' truth, open only to the 'inner eye' of the imagination, then there was no purpose in building the 'focal' chambers in which the view of this truth could be obtained. It may strike the Reader as extraordinary that so seemingly 'metaphysical' a matter as the 'death of transcendent reality' should invert the spatial topology of the Western lifespace. Yet what was the effect of the 'death of Architectural Painting' (which Loos described as the proper punishment for the Crime of Ornament) but to deny the Institutions, that were the warp and woof of Western Society, a central space in which to meet and share a view of the 'really true' facts. So ontologically embarrasing was this 'blindness' that everyone's gaze had to be turned away from the 'focal hearths' of previous association and re-oriented outwards. Like inmates of the reforming panopticons of Bentham, explored by Foucault, the entrants to the 20C had look away from each other, each one participants in the recent 'crime' of a transcendent ontology, and gaze, each one alone, so as to be reformed, upon the 'new Reality' - that of the mega-death of Culture, and the triumph of (a pre-planned) Nature.


The central social space was scrubbed clean of its 'scopically-defunct', picture-plane, walls and ceilings. It was divested of its, obligatory, picture-framing, trabeated architecture of big columns and beams. Then it was plugged-up solid, like some conduit to a forbidden world, and ceremoniously defiled with the sordid little cubicles of toilets, janitor's sloprooms, elevator shafts and fire-stairs that constitute the 20C Architectural 'Service Core'.


Finally, in order to 'build' this new 'external' prospect for the conceptually 'unsighted' West, all of the civic construction that it had laboured for centuries to create was consigned to the holocaust of demolition that was, in short order, released upon Europe by the 'Modernising Radicals', of every party, during the War of 1939-'45.

I remember, at the Frankfurt Book Fair of 1999, seeing a photograph of the centre of Mediaeval Frankfurt after all of the bomb-rubble had, with, can one continue to say 'typical German efficiency?', been cleared away. Nothing remained, not one stone or sign of street-line. All was a perfect, calm, sea of grass. It was if the Flood had passed and the fury of God had erased all of Man's works. Was this the Golden Age or was it the vision of a Corbusier, freighted with ideas that drove him mad until he obtained the surgical release of a lobotomic loss of memory. Perhaps the surgeon's knife overshot and achieved decapitation as he sank beneath the sea to his actual death 'while swimming'?

The 20C glass-walled, skyscraper Service-Core plan, common to Corbusier, Mies, Aalto as well as Lloyd Wright, though less in the case of the latter two - but none are guiltless - hang together in a way that has yet to be unmistakeably revealed. These things have become so deeply ingrained into the 20C psyche that their part in the West's 20C urban suicide can not be clearly faced-up-to by many in the Architectural Profession.


A reaction to the 'invasion from outer space' by these holocausting glass towers set in during the 1960's - powered, it must be said, mainly by the Public who saw no reason to erase the cities of the West any more than had all ready been achieved by the rain of fire and bombs only recently arrested.


The oddly-named 'Groundscraper' was the result. Louis Kahn can be credited with giving this type of building its first canonic form. He proposed that the 'Service Core' be dislodged from its central position. He suggested that the building machinery, which was far more advanced in the wealthy, sub-tropical USA than in poorer, temperate, Europe, be placed entirely outside the external walls in towers that he called 'Servant Spaces'. This solution was easier, also, to propose in the USA with its tradition of timber-clad, detached, 'villa'-style houses and buildings, separated from each other in order to encourage the flow of cooling night air.


Having banished the asphyxiating thrombosis of the mechanical 'core' from its space-clotting centrality, Kahn struggled with the 'void' opened by its extraction. He ruminated endlessly upon the previously tabooed idea of "the Room". One has to remember that, at the time, the flabby felicities of the Open Plan were the 'correct' way to lay out a plan - 'Rooms' were considered regressive, divisive, reactionary and altogether atavistic, a sure sign of an Architect's inability to embrace 'the future'. Kahn's writings on Architecture, so intuitive, so compulsively lacking in clarity, yet so brave, are hard to read without a sense of his will to rebel and reconstitute some kind of sane response ot the civic destruction raging all around him, in the 'futuristically disurbane' 1950's and 1960's. But the times were not yet ripe for the reinvention of the 'picture plane' that is the 'viewing screen' into a consensual transcendency which was the ultimate architectural justification of the regular, even domed and vaulted, 'rooms' that Kahn projected.


His greatest buildings, such as the Kimball Museum, turned out to be the 'ruins' that he, maybe only half in jest, maintained were the ultimate measure of all great buildings. One must wonder, however, whether such a test needs to be judged when the building is brand new! The stripped concrete, sawn stone and raw wood all attest to the loss of any veneer or surface that might have been, at some 'earlier' time, flushed with the animation of colour and decoration. Kahn was a Prometheus, bringing a fire that however hard he blew, and he blew harder than anyone at the time, could not kindle the fire to trick Zeus and release Mankind from the lithic prison of the 'Antiquity' he so clearly loved and studied.


High-Tech Architects like Rogers took over the 'groundscraper' project. The silver-grey aluminium skin of Lloyds of London is similar, in its its bleached-out grey 'Antiquity', to the silvery concrete of Kahn. Rogers elaborated Kahn's cubic 'servant space' towers away from the idea of a megalithic monumentality into a confusedly animate vocabulary of suspended 'pods' fed by an immense profusion of pipes and ducts. Kahn constructed the ruins of some 'civil architecture' whose internal decorations, and external ornament, had all been stripped away, leaving just the raw cubic masses of 'the built'. Rogers re-clothed his Antique Ruins in the viscera of a new electro-mechanical civilisation whose febrile technical vitality crawled all over its cubic surfaces. One must, again, recall that this was in the 1970's. It was before these surfaces had received the 'Vitalising Charge' that has jolted the hitherto inviolate, Antique, cubic, body of rooms into the supplication to St. Vitus that they were taught how to dance by the 'deconstructive' Bricoleurs of Beverley Hills.


The interior of Lloyds, as with the interiors of Kahn's beautiful ruins, were not the parts on which lingered the photographer's lens. The exquisitely-crafted overhead lighting, in Lloyds, pumps down into a dark blue carpet and vanishes, leaving an ambience of dismal gloom that no excess of photonic energy will ever dispel. The owners brought their interior with them, panelling out the meeting room of the 'Court' in the usual City of London livery of polished hardwood with assorted classical mouldings. It was not an inventive idea, and left nothing for the adult mind to conjure with. But what hope was there for Clients when the brightest architectural intelligence of the 1960's, Peter Smithson, had admitted to my cohort of the AA, of whom Rogers had been a member, that "In Modernism, the Great Interior is impossible".

One wonders why Architects of the Smithsons' ambition and acuity troubled to work at all after coming to such conclusions. It is like admitting that one will never outperform one's Mentor, except in candour and honesty concerning one's own inadequacy. It is all very charming, very British, very gallant, and very pathetic. I could never bring myself to talk to Smithson again after that. What was there to talk about?


1960's and 70's Post-Modernism always had this air of 'the Problem' laid bare in agony. How could there be a more fantastically febrile and profuse crop from 'The Problematic', than the wildly ornamental'technicity' of the Centre Pompidou. Everything could be seen to be 'working like a machine', yet nothing was designed to function usefully. The whole structure, and its cladding, and its servicing, all corroded terribly. What else would one expect if painted steel was left out in the rain and fashioned to collect festering pools of rainwater for decade upon decade. The same sort of thing happened in London, at Lloyds, except it was under the sleek aluminium skin, costing the Insurers several millions of pounds of repairs. Never was there any sense of the beauty of a Solution that left the 'question of technique' unasked, so conceptually, that is to say intellectually and imaginatively, rewarding was its self-imposed 'solutioning technique'.


But then Architecture, to the British at least, has never been a department of the Arts and Humanities. The stock question has always been, to the revelation that one was an Architect: "Oh, are you very good/ you must be very good/ at mathematics". This near-universal illiteracy concerning Architecture as a metaphorical medium, like literature or painting, is the main reason for the final establishment of High Tech as the British Establishment Style. There is a magical excess of mechanical massage combined with a wholesome absence of cerebral animation. It is as if the body-mind connection has been severed. One looks into the animate, open-lidded, eyes of High Tech and sees, as was said of Senator Huffington, all the way to the back of the head.


Today, the Pompidou is being reconstructed so as to 'work properly'. And how is this being done? Why by the simple expedient of opening up the centre of its plan as a 'social space' in which the main vertical circulation of visitors will take place. The famous external escalator was merely a moving scopic staircase, a cinematised viewing-platform for the imaginatively challenged, iconically subliterate, 'out-and-away-gazers', to which the citizens of the West had been reduced by the ontological malfunctiong of its 20C culture. The original vertical circulation of the Pompidou did not 'work' to 'empower' the building's 'social' functionality. Nor did the escalator 'work' to 'empower' the building's 'conceptual' functionality. Who bothered to look-in on the 'Art' after the mind-blowing 'escalation'? It was a substitute for the 'visions' that the Art Gallery itself contained, leading the mind away from them entirely. How could a mere splodge of abstract colour, on a square of canvas, improve upon this giant survey of the whole of Paris, reinforced by being performed in Public, with hundreds and thousands of other participants in the 'scopic rite'. Yet this circulatory event was 'built-into' the 'architecture' of , in its day, the most ambitious iconic laboratory/library in the World!

Need one say more?


Even today, in the dawn of the 21C, instead of inventing a solution to this pathetically incompetent Architecural inadequacy, the Profession has decided to replay the radical '1920's, but without, as yet, the prospect of a Third World War to clear away a few more building sites. The glass-walled skyscraper has been got out of its decent retirement and is being paraded about as the 'image of a New Britain'.


The design device of the Basilican Core, as one may imagine from the foregoing, has three aspects, each of which meet the three dimensions discussed above. Firstly there is the problem of distributing mechanical and electrical services. Secondly there is the problem of the view 'out' and what one sees as the prospect 'from' the building. Thirdly there is the 'view in' or rather the view into a 'transcendent space' from the interior, 'social spaces', of the building.


From the viewpoint of distributing services the 'basilican core' may seem to be conceived as merely a half-way house between the 1920 Service Core skyscraper, and the 1970 Servant Space Groundscraper. For it is nothing more exotic than a ring of "Service Columns" (inside which are secreted one or more 'service ducts'). these are distributed regularly, as is the tendency for columns, around an open central 'Atrium' or 'Gallery' inside which one may find vertical circulation in the form of "Social Stairs". The idea of placing services inside a column is not common. But neither is it original.


What makes the Basilican Core new is that its "service columns " are part of a 'trabeated' "Service Order" whose further purpose is to carry the 'surface-scripted' Iconic Engineering of a "Talking Order". One purpose of this Architectural Order, the Working, or Robot, Order, is to frame-out the picture planes of the floor, walls and ceiling. The columns and beams of these Trabeated Orders then project them, as they have always done, into the 'perspective' of picture planes. These are then surface-scripted to carry the Iconically-Engineered concepts that will ultimately compose into the desired terrain of a Landscape of Ideas.


One may see from this little 'formula' that I describe a 'chain reaction that leads from the seemingly innocent, but perhaps over-contrived, idea of putting services inside a giant column, to the conceptually inconceivable intention to restore the entirely dead medium of Architectural 'Perspective' Painting!


I must ask my reader's indulgence here, for not only have JOA entertained this ludicrous idea, JOA have also done it and succeeded in our enterprise, and not five minutes drive from a great monumnt to the end of western painting, after whose composition the Painter is said to have taken his life. It seems he thought that he had painted the painting to end painting - a seemingly life-long ambition, after which there was nothing to do but end a 'Painter's' life. Is there anything more stupid than Fine Art?


But let us approach this final achievment in stages. Let us examine, to begin with, one of our most highly-developed 'Basilican Cores' that in the Judge Institute.


Central Mechanical, electrical, fluid and data supplies enter and leave the Judge Building by a tunnel crawlway large enough, as the name reveals, to crawl down. Part of this has been retained from the original tunnel that served the old City Hospital which is incorporated into the new building. (This peculiar habit, of obliging all new buildings to 'respect' what has been built before is a development in British Architecture that dates from the revolt against the peculiarly total illiteracy of Post-War Modernism.) The tunnel is formed into a ring that passes under the feet of the Service Columns that surround the central space of the Gallery Building. From here the services rise up some 80'0" (26M) inside the hollow interiors of the columns. They are not only accessed by full-height doors at each floor of the Service-Columns, but, in many cases, by hinge-down ceiling hatches along the full length of the Robot Beams that spread out from them above each room.


The ring of Service Columns can be conceived to be a 'decentralised' Service Core. They are effective enough as a way of distributing services. I make no claims to the effect that they are the absolute optimum for 'Services Enginering' design. I can however, say that JOA have used the Service Order, now, for nearly 30 years, on many Projects, in many Continents, and never experienced a single technical problem with it, or received a single word of complaint about it, from anyone - be they Design, Installation or Maintenance Engineers.


What they do achieve, however, is the reclamation of the social centre of the building footprint to the 'citizens' of the building. In addition to that, because they house so much of the mechanical services in the walls, and not the ceilings and floors, they lower the floor to floor height. This makes the "Social Stair" a practical way of circulating vertically. For the same reason they liberate the ceilings of all rooms, and especially the great ceiling over the central, focal, 'basilican' space, from the burden of carrying pipes and wires. So these precious ceilings are liberated from the defilement of shoddy 'fibreboard' tiles and can receive an iconically-engineered inscription. Not only this but these same ceilings 'painted' or not, can be made, as they are in the Judge, of plastered concrete, so acting as 'heat sinks' to equalise the temperature of air-changes during the day.


The generous girth required to house the building services, as well as the tanks and machines they serviced, encouraged us to provide vertical crawlways up some of the columns and along the horizontal crawlways of the Judge's high-in-the-sky Robot Entablature. In the Judge these serviced lamps as well as the window cleaning gondolas. In Duncan Hall this became a whole walk-in 'Robot Attic Floor' located behind the Entablature, to house Houstonian Air Conditioning Plant and the Laocoon of entwined data-cable needed for the Faculty of Computational Engineering.


The huge footprint of these newly-authenticated 'trabeate' columns offered the possibility of recovering, by ingenious formal sleights, the amazing possibility of 'humanising' the vast vertical spaces which humans now occupy with such technical ease and comfort. This 'humanisation' could be achieved not by the puerile devices of merely veneering surfaces with 'homely' wood, or painting plastered walls the beigy-creamy colour of 'stone' (as advertised in the paint catalogue). Both of these expedients were carried into effect, the wood in a singularly vulgar Bierkeller Brown, in the Judge Interior by the 'Committee of Taste' who came in at the end of this project, to alter my design and finalise the colour-scheme.


When, all the time, as the percipient critic Rowan Moore remarked, the huge columns 'humanised' the 80'0" space with the most direct and profoundly 'architectural' of methods. By being 'columns' they merely, and in the most empathetically direct way, imitate our own upright stance. Instead of humans standing in the usual 'unheimlich' glass box, all 'wired-up' together with spindly sticks of steel and cement, and feeling like specimens, as Eliot says, "on an operating table", we could sit in the outjutting 'boats' of our 'Seminar Balconies' and be made welcome to the 'open vertical theatre', of the Management School, by a 'grove' of great columns, standing around us, as plump, sleek and as well-formed as Burkean infants, half-way between pubescence and sublimity.


Perhaps it was hardly to be expected that anyone would 'see' that this was what had been achieved in the Judge Interior, when not even the Architectural Juries who visited it could grasp the fact that an authentic, novel, "Architectural Order", of the kind that was killed off and properly interred by the Modern Movement, was now born, fully formed and functioning, into the real World. What had been banished as a merely superficial, decorative dressing to loadbearing masonry walls now returned, in the Judge, as the highest 'trabeated' temple in Britain, with the biggest diameter columns of any 20C Architecture, at least in Britain, Polychromatic and filled with machines like lithic robots, they seemed invaders from some Architectural culture whose genetic code remained undecoded (and to many Architects, best kept that way). The Professionals gave the Judge a minor prize, explaining that it was mainly for its 'chutzpah' .


I searched, in vain, for this fraction of Formal Composition in my Dictionary of Architecture. I came to the conclusion that it was a compliment. At least it was Yiddish and could be balanced again the accusation of 'Fascistic' leveled by the panic stricken Professors of Rice University Architectural Faculty. They banned their Freshmen from entering my new building - which was filled with Engineers, ironically amused that they had a more 'cultured' building than any Faculty of Humanities. The Architectural Professors, furious at the new building's civility and popularity, so contrary to their own barbarous 'contra-formal' and 'counter-functional' agenda, waited until the dead of night to flit silently about my gigantic, polychrome, Texan Interior like Gentlemen creeping around certain streets where they would rather not be seen. Somewhere between the freely-flying epithets of Fascist and Jew (architectural discourse is full of verbal felicites these days), one may find the gentle, extended, laboured, wisdom of Filosfia.


Duncan Hall, where the 'Working Order' appropriated even more of the threatened territory of 'Functionalism' by extending its Empire to include the ultimate refuge of the 20C Modernist - hitherto thought to be inviolate to any form of formal order - that of Space Planning - has not yet been published in Britain. I do not have the heart to explain the consequences of the invention of the "Walking Order". What would become of High Tech if all of its territory was consumed by giant polychromatic metaphors? Is this what Lacan meant when he talked of "the cure as the return of the symptom as benign?"

The Basilican Core is a solution to the problem of distributing services in which, like all civilised practises, the material practicalities function as well as they need to (and better than most) while the imaginative, intellectual and cultural aspects of the 'design device' come into the foreground. The only thing inhibiting its wider use is the incapacity of the Architectural Intellectual Culture, as presently constituted, to take advantage of this 'foregrounding' of the metaphorical, the iconic and the narrative powers of the medium. Only the Public can invoke the changes needed in our architectural culture to bring this legitimate, and functionally essential, 'foreground' to life. The Profession, for reasons too enervating to examine, seems determined to resist. It will continue to refuse to educate itself until forced to do so by Opinion.


Two: "Claude's Key", and Duncanology Three: "Cram's Plan".






End of "Basilican Core ",

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