"RAFT OF FIRE - MOUNTAIN OF WATER"
THE "ACT OF FOUNDATION", AND AFTER - A DECIPHERMENT OF 'WESTERN' SPACE..
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In "Empire of the Forest, Valley of the Republic", I dealt with the inscribing of the Time before Time, or Infinity, and I introduced the concept of the time of the living, or Somatic Time. In this second section,"Raft of Fire, Mountain of Water" I deal with the Time of Inception, and with the Ontogenetic and Phylogenetic temporal narratives.
THE NEW GENERATION.
There comes a time when the city grows too large, rich, comfortable and secure. the old men do not die and the young women must take old husbands to secure the preservation and preferment of their young. The young men must look elsewhere and a new beginning must be made.
In such cases one must construct a vessel, originally a 'trabica' or raft. This will be lashed together in the form of a lattice of 'trabes' or wooden beams. Onto this Ark will be loaded some ashes from the civic hearth of the mother city, some seed corn, and as many of the texts, laws and sacred objects as may be deemed necessary to ensure that the New Foundation has within it the genealogy which gave it the cunning, strength and success that has led to the situation in which the young now find themselves. For there would be no 'problem' if the city was poor, hungry, and powerless and the old men dying from their own incompetence.
LOST AT SEA
A raft may seem a strange choice, when a boat is more capable of both speed and direction. But this inadequacy has a virtue. It means that the voyage will be directed by fortune, or to put it another way, by the gods. They will take the craft wherever it pleases them. Besides which the raft is more original, and so more authentic. When making a new beginning, one should always begin at the beginning in order for the story to be wholly true.
One can be sure that if one sails on a well-provisioned, well-governed, happy, raft, that, however long the voyage, and it may, indeed, take many, many, years, the final landfall will be as it should be. If one then gives sacrifice as one's first act upon landing, igniting the fire with some of the ashes from the Civic Hearth and burning the proper fraction of the best things that one brought from the Old City and those which one has obtained from the site of the New, one may be sure that the gods will note the new arrival and oversee its prosperity.
Every year, on the date of the founding sacrifice, or first 'social feast' of the newly-constituted Foundation, the hearths and 'foci' of all of its newer, and subsidiary, Institutions will be extinguished. They will be cleaned of the ashes of the old year and re-built with ashes from the 'first hearth' of the founding landfall, whose fire must never be extinguished, for it came directly from the Old City.
THE 'LANDING OF THE FIRE'
This history narrates the 'original' of, for example, the ritual carried out to this day, millenia after the 'ancient history' described above, by the Orthodox Christians at the hour of the 're-landing' of the 'founder', Christ, after his voyage through dissolution and death. It is the rising of the Sun, at Easter, after the 'darkness' during the Winter of Lent. The lights in the 'city of god' - the church, are put out and darkness falls. Then a 'fire' is brought by the Priest, who announces the 'coming of light' and the candles of every member of the 'ecclesia' are lit by passing the flame from hand to hand. Each of these 'fires' is taken from the church, the 'navis' or 'ark' that brought the 'original founder', back to rekindle the 'hearths', the 'foci' in each 'subsidiary institution'. In the case of the Orthodox Christians, this takes the form of the 'iconostasis-corner'.
FOR THOSE IN PERIL ON THE SEA
We may conclude from this (always accepting we are persuaded of its plausibility), that the original 'history' whose 'form' is preserved and re-presented far older, tens of thousands of years older, even, than, to continue with our example, the advent of Christianity. This is not to criticise Christianity for being unoriginal. It is, rather, to commend its Rites for being true the origins of Culture itself, and therefore for being, in so far as Culture can be, 'native' and 'natural' to Mankind. To 'perform' this 'rite of the renewal of the Foundation is to recall events that are 'true to their original'. It is to 're-set' our minds and attitudes by reminding us of one of the 'true stories' of how we came to be where, and how, we are today. It is also to remind us of how it is that this story goes on repeating itself, generation after generation, with old Foundations continuously launching new ones. Finally it gives us a public, ritual, form, hallowed by ancient, original, truth as well as millenia of real, as well as symbolic, rehearsals, in which to celebrate and cement our own, living institutional fabric, today.
But what has this to do with Architecture and City-Planning? Is it just a matter of spring cleaning and building barbecues?
Before answering, let me come forward to today. In 1997, when Duncan Hall, in Rice University, was finished, the Board of Governors decided to have a fundraising dinner in Martell Hall, under the Shaper Ceiling, on the Founder's Day of the University. Circular wooden tables were laid. Each had a floral centre arranged around a candelabra. One might think that there was nothing very 'artistic' about this idea, in the sense of it being, in some way provocative, or profound. Yet when they were seen under the Shaper Ceiling, it was clear that they precisely mirrored the iconography of its huge, new, polychrome vault.
The event was choreographed by Donna K. Yeager, Co-ordinator of Special Projects and a graduate of Theatre and Dance. She had let the Caterers arrange the tables, and the flowers, and the candles, "as they normally did". So we can say that the 'laying' of these tables was, in some way, a 'given' ritual in the catering trade, a branch of culture not normally considered to either bear or sprout from the family tree of philosophy.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING OUT THERE?"
Yet the wooden table is precisely an 'entablature', which relates to the Latin tablatum, or 'planked surface', the tablinum, or room in which the pictures, painted with hot wax onto wood, mainly of the genealogical predecessors, were stored, as well as the 'tables' of written records of posessions. The 'entabling' surface is supported on a framework of columns and beams which in English might be called a 'stead', as in 'steady', bed-stead, and home-stead. In Latin, again, an Architecture of 'framed-up' columns and beams is called 'trabeated' a term that is still in use today and which we contrast with, for example 'mural' (walled), or 'arcuated' (arched) architectures. A trabs is a column, a club, a tree-trunk and a beam. A trabica is a weaving together of trabes into a raft.
The 'planked' entablatum, as the 'roof' of a trabeated architecture can be seen to be congruent with a trabica-raft. The wooden table tops were circular. They were made from planks and supported on a square of trabes-beams. These, in their turn, were supported on four 'trabes-columns. The 'raft' held a central heap of flowers pierced by the candles, an axis of fire. Onto the raft was placed the food for the commensual ritual of eating-together.
The whole construction, and the ritual of the 'political' dinner, (in the Ancient Greek sense of the Polis) can be seen as the re-enactment of the carrying, on the Raft, of the 'fire' of the Mother-City, surrounded by the fruits, seeds and flowers of the Parental Culture. The food that is eaten by the present incumbents are the fruits of the New Foundation.
The 'flowers' can indeed, in that they are the nearest to the axial fire, be seen as the portion of the meal that is dedicated to the Gods and 'consumed' by them. Flowers fade and die, and produce food for neither man nor beast. A field dedicated only to flowers, by the New Foundation, would have been a field which grew 'food for the gods', alone.
What we seem to have here, laid out and used as the 'conventional' place-setting, is both an imitation of the 'original' Raft of the Founders, and an imitation of the Altar-table, or the Civic Hearth, on which the 'fire of sacrifice' was kindled, the 'portion of the gods' consumed and the commensual repast 'cooked'. But then why should not that be, bearing in mind the primal status of food, cooking and the hearth in the origin of culture and the extension of its social rites? Perhaps all that is novel is the 'decipherment' of these things within the hitherto 'materialist' culture of 20C lifespace design.
"JUST LAYING THE TABLE"
Huge changes have taken place, during the last century, in the 'chain' that links the origins of food, on the hoof and in the field, to its human consumers. Is it not interesting to compare these with the extreme conservatism that reigns over the way in which 'food' is eaten, especially in public, at the more 'formal' dinners? Nothing seems to have been altered. The passage of years, and even thousands of years, seem to have made no difference.
Yet it is true to say that there have been attempts, notably at the dawn of the 20C, to rationalise feeding - even to propose that food should be changed into small packets, like pills, and entirely downgraded in 'importance'. Yet at the end of the 20C a 'cult', or 'culture, of food, and drink, has never been pursued so enthusiastically, and by people who are free to spend their time and money in other ways. It would be unwise to denote any 'cultured' human activity as immutable, but social eating has a better claim than most to that status.
FROM HEARTH TO HOME
Why can we not, then, also extend to Architecture, and perhaps even more to City-Planning, the expectation of deciphering a similarly 'immutable' dimension to these media as well. Why not? Domesticity is arguably not as prime, that is to say as old, as cooking, dining and sacrificing but the first space enclosures, when they rose beyond cattle-pens, centred around the tribal and familial hearth.
The movement of a social group from one place to another involves the setting-up of a new-found hearth - involving, if 'done properly - ashes from the ash-cone of the familial, tribal, and ultimately civic, maternal original. Why should this not also hold a lesson from which we may, at the very least, decipher our Architectural inheritance?
A 'BIGGER' HISTORY: THE ARK AND FLOOD.
There is a well-known variation of a myth, or rite, of 'founding'. which does include an object that is undoubtedly a 'building'. Certainly variants of this myth stress the fact this item was built, going into considerable technical detail - and all on the Orders of the Almighty. I refer to the 'Flood'. In the Christian variant the Ark is normally drawn as a boat. However Athanasius Kircher, an unreliable 17C authority, but a powerful visualiser, draws it as a great, boxy raft in all things congruent to a fast-track Tourist Hotel. As an Architect, my intuition favours his design. This was not a contract that could over-run and claim an extension of time due to bad weather!
The technical detail in the Biblical version of the 'building of the Ark' is as little help to architectural theory as the Book's equally sketchy description of the Temple (of Solomon). Yet they are mines of information when compared to the oblivion that greets the Ark upon its landing. The Greeks are not even sure which mountain received Deucalion and Pyrrha, the Hellenic equivalent of Noah and Leah, offering one of either Parnassus, Aetna, Athos or Othrys. Kircher shows Noah busy with his first commensual, sacrificial repast - sending plume of rich fatty smoke up into the clear blue sky of the brand-new squeaky-clean Earth. The Ark perches disconsolately on the steep side of Ararat, its joints 'lozenging', soon to collapse, under the strain of being 'beached' on a hopelessly uneven foundation. Architecture does not even have a second hand-value in the Christian version of the 'Re-founding'.
RAISING THE STAKES
It is all a bit of a picnic. It is not something that one could take at all seriously as a Myth of Foundation in our own, Big Bang, days! If, however, we travel East of Mesopotamia, where we may suppose all Flood-mythologies originated in the story of Tiamat, we find a Flood-story that not only has an 'architectural' plot, it has a splendour, and a grandeur, that is altogether lost in the Christian and Hellenic versions.
In the Vedic version of this 'Myth of the New Foundation' the Ark is a "nest of twigs bearing a cone of ashes". This 'matted raft' (the product of even more aimless chance than the carpentered raft of the Bible) floats aimlessly upon the Flood, or the Sea of primordial Chaos. Indra, a deity akin to Apollo, (in that he also promotes a New Dispensation by killing a feminine serpent - Python - using an arrow, or rather 100 arrows), spears the raft to a submarine mountain with a column of fire, energy or 'un-nameable' power. The raft 'shatters'.
This early dissolution of what can be called the 'Ark' is not in vain. The 'spear thrust' opens the interior of the mountain, breaking it into quarters and loosening the submarine coils of the Serpent Vrta. The 'dark sun', hitherto locked inside the petrified interior, enclosed within an Infinity of silent immobility, rises out of it to becomes the 'Lotus', which floats upon the flood. The 'new sun' continues, rising up the vertical axis of the original founding strike. The 'floating earth' of the Lotus becomes a new 'central mountain' out of which flow four rivers to the cardinal points, articulating as well as fertilising the newly-solid surface with an orthogonal geometry that speaks of the human orders of agriculture and urbanity.
This is a 'speech' which flows out on the liquid medium of this new upper region, namely Air, the carrier of the voice. The ocean of the air is veined by the rivers of speech that, compartment the new earth. They flow out from the originary central mountain, the 'Tower of Babel-Babylon'. The 'waters of the word' plant themselves and multiply , never to return to their unitary source. The 'sun', rising more, becomes a wheel of uncountable points of illumination. This is the 'cakra'. It is the realm of images, things seen first by the newly opening infant eye, and then fabricated in the darkness of the mind to be illuminated by the inner eye of the imagination.
THE ARCHAISM OF SCIENCE'S EPISTEMOLOGY OF 'EXPERIENCE'.
These four chapters, are also those of the 'classical physics' of antiquity: water, earth, air and fire. One can compare them to the Newtonian states of liquid, solid and gas, together with the energetic entity congruent with their transformations. More interesting, for Architecture, is their congruence with the Phylogeny and Ontogeny of our own species, which has evolved, and is individually conceived, in an Ocean, born onto the 'dry' and 'hard' Earth, where the first intake of breath is immediatly followed by the first act of interlocution. This floating out of the word, upon Air, is soon followed by the entry into the 'envelope of Fire' that is sight and the Light that permits it.
THE EMBODIMENT OF THOUGHT
Some Oriental narratives include a fifth chapter, that of the abstraction of ideas, as such. It is arguable as to whether this is a 'real' dimension. Can ideas be said to exist in a specific dimension free of the other four 'sensible elements', especially those of the airy-word and the idea-image? Many would say no. It is the 'uncertainty' of this which has led, amongst other things, to the demise of the Architectural Capital - chief upper terminal of any 'Order'. In JOA, we 'solve' this conundrum by making the Capitals of our 'Working Order' gloss-black and curved like the infinity of Space. For if ideas ever achieve an autonomous existence, free of the minds that conceived them, it will be in the pointless vastness of Nothingness that they will find their 'happy home'. This is to say that we eagerly look forward to the day when JOA can invent a persuasive capital and bring ideas back 'into being'.
But for the time being, JOE erect giant polychromatic, five-stage-exfoliation columns, in public places, such as on the Groenmarkt in the Hague, smaller six-stage ones in Wadhurst, in the Millenium Verandah, and even simplified, but nevertheless exemplary 'vertical narratives' at Sphinx Hill and Welbeck.
It is true to say that there is no history, in this Vedic Version, of the Flood being a punishment intended to erase a sinful mankind. This was a later, Yahwist, vesion. The 'crime' committed by Humanity in the earliest recorded version of the Flood Myth, that of the Sumerians, is that of making 'too much noise'. But then their succesors, the Babylonians described the Ark as being a cube 120x120x120, seven stories high and with nine rooms on each floor - which is, more or less, the 'ideal' building.
But the Vedic version, which is also the story of a 'cosmogenesis' - a first-of-all of Foundations - does have a Flood, an Ark, and a Grounding on a mountain top. All that it lacks are the history of genocide, the gendered pair, chosen by God, and their achievement in propagating a Master Culture and a New Mankind. Possibly a rite of foundation no longer needs this chapter.
Once we enrol the Vedic version of the 'Raft of Foundation', we are able to provide an iconography for the 'Hearth Fire' that takes it beyond even the large events of a New Beginning seen in tribal, civic and social terms. Indra's 'candle' lights-up more than the human histories of great migrations and the foundings of new cultures. Indra's 'bolt from nowhere' pins that which 'comes from afar' to that which was 'always there'. It destroys both of them. But out of their ruin and sundering rises a magnificent new beginning homologous to our own human embodiment in such a way as to provide an 'iconic emplotment' capable of representing the cosmogenic Big Bang itself within the puny 'Architectural' scale of the human lifespace.
LOOKING AT WHAT CAN NEVER BE SEEN.
The Architectural Interior was invented, as an intellectual medium, so as to represent what could not be seen 'outside' with the naked eye. Given this historic fact, which is incontrovertible (descending from Lascaux), I should not have been surprised (and therefore remembered all this time) when Peter Smithson said, back in 1959, that "the great architectural interior is impossible in Modernism". One can argue that a main reason for Smithson's pessimism was the conceived impossibility of depicting the 'primum mobile' at that date. Firstly, God, as Nietsche advised, was 'out of the picture'. Secondly, Science was still unsure, relatively ill-provided with facts and divided between various scenarios. Thirdly, 'decoration', especially symbolic, legible, decoration, had been tabooed since Adolf Loos and even more so since Adolf Hitler.
Today, and certainly in the Home of NASA, Houston, none of these inhibitions reign. So we have installed the Steve and Sue Shaper ceiling, which is an Architectural Microcosmos, in the vault of Martell Hall, the Main Hall of Duncan Hall, the Faculty of Computational Engineering at Rice University.
The tables for the Founder's Dinner, when set under the Shaper ceiling, become 'iconically reconfigured' to embody not only the idea of the Hearth, and the Altar, and the Raft of the Founders, but the Big Bang itself. All of these ideas become embodied, cascading into each other like a neatly-opening and closing telescope. They pass in progression from the littlest, cosiest, fireside grouping, to the 'Big One', from which we, and everything in the Universe, descends. This is Metonymy, where the Part stands for the Whole. As we sit and eat, gazing into the candle-light, all of these ideas actually 'come into being' in the flower-bedecked flame. This does not happen individually, but for everyone at the same time. All share in this 'embodiment'. This is an unique ability of the Architectural Medium. It can be reproduced in no other. This is something that no video, no text and no musical instrument can even begin to 'mediate'. This is Architecture, raw, total, massive and breathtakingly subtle.
A VERY 'ARCHITECTURAL' ONTOGENESIS.
Let us now return to the Oriental, or Vedic, Ark and Flood narrative. We can equate the Christian Ark and the Hellenic Ark with the Vedic raft of reeds carrying the germinal fire, or cone of ashes. The hearth is the primal symbol of the genetically oriented human family and clan whose 're-founding' appears to be the main point of the histories that stress the erasure of the 'old' humanity. What is interesting to an Architect, about the Vedic Version, is the that the first act of the 'unfolding of the new' is the opening of the interior of the mountain and the germination of the 'dark sun' that has lain dormant within it, 'for ever'. From this cataclysmic cavitation there then unfolds the process where from the whole of exterior space, earth, mountain river and sky, is brought into being and ordered. The creation of 'interior space' out of the 'Mountain', the most characteristic natural analogue of, and monument to, dark, heavy massive solidity, is a precise analogue of the process whereby an Architect of the Western Renaissance 'made space' by carving it out of a notional solid block. As Sebastiano Serlio put it, somewhat cryptically, "columns are born of pilasters and spheres are born of cubes". Renaissance perspective drawings showed how they conceived the vital medium of space to be contained within a lithic armature formed by the 'eternal' solids of Plato. Geometry was the 'solid earth' from which the Renaissance Architect reamed-out his spatial 'texts'. During the early Renaissance they flowered inside the rigid confines of the cubic 'mountain' of simple stereometries. Come the Baroque, and like the exfoliation of the Vedic 'historia', Renaissance space unfurled, like the flowing out of the four rivers, to quarter the Ocean of Speech, and Civic Law, up to the horizon.
In the Christian and Hellenic versions the founding pair simply walk off into the distance and get on with populating and tilling and multiplying. In the Vedic version we read the history of a process of 'lifespace construction', upon a cosmic scale, that corresponds exactly to the processes that an architect recognises as that of his own Medium.
THE SILK ROUTE.
In 1997 I travelled to Uzbekistan on behalf of the British Council in order to chair a town planning seminar. While there, I visited, as everyone does, Bokhara and Samarkand. My interest were not entirely those of a Romantic. I wanted to examine the columns of their Mediaeval Islamic buildings. I knew them from the illustrations in the mainly Russian publications in my library. They turned out to be everything I had imagined them to be. But what was unexpected was the confirmation of their iconic origins. The deities on the coins of that area, in the 6C a.d. turned out to be Hindu, that is to say Vedic. Islam, like Christianity, replaced the ideology of the cults they superseded without erasing and replacing their iconic form - especially when highly abstracted, and embedded in a whole culture of complex and costly crafts, like construction.
This is why destroying the craft base of the building industry, an act of cultural vandalism pursued with self-righteous enthusisasm by the powers- that-were during the 20C, is just one more index of that period's incompetence, illiteracy and lack of architectural invention. Forms, understood 'iconically, often outlast their 'given' content, their iconology, and their roles in a culture.
Rites persevere, ideologies come and go. As Beeching, in the 1960's, said, "In Britain ideas are cheap", before going on to physically destroy the feeder network of the best off-road transit network in the World. Now, when British roads resemble linear car parks, and we must lose our sovereignity in order to export Japanese cars to Europe, the country is obliged to reinvest billions into a rail system that will never ever work as well as it did forty years back. We will be in the same position, in twenty years time, with the building industry - re-training craftspeople and paying them a fortune to do jobs which they once did well because it was part of a whole 'construction culture'. There is no need to deliberately destroy a craft culture. All that is needed is an effort of invention whereby it transforms, of its own accord, into a practical contemporary usage. But what would all the unemployable B.A.'s do in such a world regulated by 'insider technicalities'? What would all the Advisory Committees discuss? How would the vast EEC funds for 'technical progress' (in reality better termed ideological restructuring) be spent?
In Uzbekistan, the very forms of the glazed brick medrassehs and mosques descend from the millenial mud and woven reed originals of the Mesopotamian Delta. One of their oldest buildings, the 9C tomb of the Samanids, is a 'woven' architecture, albeit of brick instead of reeds. The tiled covering of the mud walls, pointed arches and minarets imitates the dazzling complexity of a woven surface. The original Mesopotamian temples were finished with ceramics and will otherwise have been plastered or painted with coloured stuccoes. There is no way the ancients would have exposed the 'honest baked mud' of their buildings! I found it startling that a culture could have built structures, as recently as the 19C, with a direct line of descent to the earliest known Architectures of History (with a capital H). We are talking maybe five millenia in a single, unbroken genetic line! It makes 'antiquities' in Britain look parvenu. What is this 'heritage' of ours compared to a bloodline of such magnificent antiquity?
But to return to more recent and less incredibly primal models!
OURSELVES AS COLUMNS - A VERY 'PUBLIC' EPIPHANY.
The 'Vedic' iconography of the Central Asian Architectural Order is extremely patent. The bases are frequently of stone. But even when of wood are invariably carved into the form of a pyramid that is squared on base. Occasionally the square is rotated 45 degrees into a typically Islamic geometrical elaboration. This is the 'submarine mountain'. Poised atop of this is a full-bellied form, carved out of wood, called, in Indian Architecture, the 'khumba', which means water-pot. This is the ocean that covers the mountain. Above the khumba there are carved the large petals of a flower - the 'Lotus'. This folds down over the mouth of the water-pot to allow the shaft of the column called the 'stambha' to pass upwards. This shaft is frequently etched with a diaper pattern, the image of the four-square-flowing-outwards and of the surface of a 'river'.
The capital on top of the stambha explodes, like a firework, into a jagged frenzy of polychromatic geometry. This is not only patently a 'cakra', but is named as such.
THE "FOREST OF THE OCEAN"
Better still, even than this, was the peculiar fact that these columns, in all the better Monumental ensembles, rose from a paving made from large hexagonally-cut and jointed stones. This surface of sinuous, undulating, lines so perfectly imitated the skin of a snake, or the sea itself, that it could be no accident that these forests of columns, descended from the Hypostyle Halls of the Persian Empire, also rose from an icon embodying the infinitude of the Ocean. The Architects, and one may presume the Courts, of Central Asia had once understood the iconography of Infinitude, the Time before Time, that I explore in the "Empire of the Forest".
Here, then, was a 'built-out' proof that the Vedic narrative had had a direct architectural embodiment, not in some relatively alien Hindu Architecture (although the links of that to Gothic will one day be revealed), but in something very easy to assimilate to a trabeated, cubic, 20C sensibilty. Why, I was almost looking at Art Deco!
But, given that this 'emplotment' had been used in an architectural device, and was therefore qualified as part of the Medium (albeit somewhat remote from Britain. But so what? London, JOA's City, is the least parochial spot on the Globe. The 'Empire', though no more, will vanish from London's culture only when the weeds grow through our abandoned pavements. Nothing the human mind has ever thought is alien to it. So what did this 'architecture' mean, and how was it relevant to the syncretic invention that should be Modernity - rather than the limp, unambitous, illiteracy that reigns today?
THE 'FIRST TOOL'.
For the answer to this question let us examine the narrative of 'Indra's Act of Inception' more closely. What is it but the story of some kind of 'nail' (which is how we, brutish Architect - mechanics, now describe it!) being driven into a lump of rock. The rock splits and the 'locked-in Dark Sun' emerges, like a germinating seed, rocketing upwards as a four-stage column. There is a sense that the vertical strike joins the 'fire above', which is the cone of ashes on the raft, to the 'fire below'. The fire above is 'light' and that below is 'dark'. When the dark emerges out of its submarine imprisonment, changing ultimately into light, it leaves a trace of its history as it forms the successive sequences of its phylogenetic ontogeny.
In order to do this the mass of the 'mound' which is encircled by the serpent, always an emblem of the 'endless time' of Infinity, is 'opened by the nail'. A space has to be formed around the 'dark sun' for it to 'germinate and flower'.
DIGGING-STICK (AGRI) CULTURE.
We are arguably dealing, here, with an analogue drawn both from sexuality, which is obvious, but perhaps more specifically, from an agriculture practised on mounds drained, or irrigated, by canals in which the seeds are planted with digging-sticks. One such agriculture that comes to mind is that practised by the Pre-Columbian Olmecs on the gulf of Mexico. It is also congruent with that of the Mayans and the Aztecs. All grew corn without ploughs on small plots situated in a 'ocean' of freshwater canals designed to regulate the water-table. The lowest social rank lived on the lowest such 'spoil-heaps. the Nobles were elevated above this level, requiring a far more laboured site. The highest 'spoil-mounds' were still only topped by 'primitive' rounded-end thatched huts. But these were the dizzily precipitous abodes of the gods. Their upper platforms, reached by stairs whose risings exceeded their goings, soared high above the forest canopy.
These last were attended by the Priests, who, instructed (one may assume, post-Marx) by the Nobility, mediated the 'God's decrees' to the People. Pre-Columbian culture had all the systems of coercion and cunning governanace of a high culture, with none of the benefits such 'empires' can bestow upon the ordinary people. It was, and remained until its end, technically primitive and conceptually subtle to a most striking degree. As proof of this is the collapse of the Mayan cities around the year 1,000 a.d., when their population walked off, voted with their feet, and returned back into the jungle to live a simpler life, freed from the collapsing 'high economy' of the ordered cities, with their oppressive cultural superstructure that gave little back in return.
To this day their descendants leave their 'western' jobs and commute, on scooters, to their dwellings in the 'campo'. Today no-one disturbs their rustic existence. It was not always so.This was revealed to me when I perused the 'job-descripton' of the Spanish governor of Merida, the colonial capital of Yucatan. He was obliged to despatch his small garrison to pursue any citizen that escaped the ordereed gridirion of the city for the tropical comfort of his 'primitve hut'. He was enjoined to bring the errant native back to a life ordered by white clothes, Catholic Sundays, the Zocalo, the Paseo, the regular grid of urban plots, child-bearing and the profitable labour from which the Governor must draw his taxes to pass onwards to the Centre.
The 'rustication' of the Mayan culture was only 'rescued for civilisation' by the arrival of the Aztecs. They took much of the sophistication of the Maya and then overlaid with a cult of terror of epic dimensions, repopulating the 'cities' but violently sacrificing tens of thousands of victims in a single 'civic ceremony'.
We may ask when examining this civilisation, what was it that 'held them back', in comparison with similar 'hydraulic cultures' in Mesopotamia, Egypt and the Punjab?
THE CORE OF THE MATTER.
From the viewpoint of Architecture the peculiarity of the PreColumbians is the lack of interior space in their monumental stone buildings. Even the palaces of the nobility are hardly more than crests, like coxcombs, on their enormously 'mounded' bodies. It was as if they never succeeded in reaching the 'buried suns' inside these pregnant hills but merely piled mass after mass of encumbering rock, entombing them further still. Whereas in India, even through their temples seem, on the outside, to be massive heaps of rock, one finds that one can enter deep into their innermost core, which is a void called the garba-griha, or 'womb'. The 'dark sun' and indeed the garba griha, is totally dark. But it can be directly libated, activated and germinated. There is, in this Vedic embodiment, the penetration, by some 'agent', to the very innermost core of the 'existent'. There is a laying bare, in the Vedic rite - a making utterly clear and naked of the fundamental motor and agent of exfoliating and emanating Being.
In the Pre-Columbian there is, it seems, a profound reluctance to go to the heart of the matter - the core of the great soft mound. There is, instead, an endless (and extraordinarily decorative) elaboration of the mound-surface itself. One senses the huge futility of their cult, a suicidal inadequacy before the laconic visage of the cosmos and the seemingly inexorable unrolling of a story which, by all accounts, they had already charted up to its last stellar turn, and their own cultural decline, overthrow and dissolution. Ultimately, running short of effective cosmic waveband, they unveiled to the eyes of the Milky Way a sight of their own most precious treasure, covering the stony texts of their cosmological transmitters with rivers of human blood.
Was the difference in these originally similar cultures some quality in the 'Western', if we may assimilate India to the 'West' (pace Gothic to which we must one day return,) that enabled the West to 'blast asunder' the 'mound of resistance' and its 'guardian serpent of infinity' creating, in its place, a space out of which could rebound the 'new sun' - like Jack climbing his Beanstalk up to slay those mute, unresponsive, stellar Giants and sieze the world for Mankind?
ONE SMALL SPACE FOR MANKIND
For when we look at Western Architecture, prior to the 20C, we cannot help but be struck by its concentration upon forging a variety of 'interior space'. Even the Hellenic temple, frequently extolled as a free-standing object situated in a conceptual relation to the wider landscape, was originally its 'cella', a mere windowless chamber. More money was spent upon the cult statue it contained than upon the colossal peristyles that came to advertise its status. If the function of this 'wider landscape' be properly understood, rather than misread by a 19C pantheism, the Temple worked within the peculiar 'interior space' of the Greek Polis, which I have always argued was congruent with the 'social theatre', or 'Republic of the Valley', fronted by the sea and backed by mountains, that Gustave Glotze describes as the physical embodiment of the Hellenic City-State. The Temple on its Acropolis was designed to attract, by the beauty and refinement of its furnishings, the god or goddess to his or her civic abode. It was raised on high, and coloured and burnished, so that its presence radiated outwards, over the cockpit of the Polis, like a shining star for the 'Starry' presence that it aimed to accomodate.
What distinguishes the Parthenon from the temples of the Aztecs is that it shone for the Citizens of Athens. It did not address the configuration of Orion. The Parthenon operates, by comparison with the supernatural equipment of the Pre-Columbians, or even the Indians, on a much more 'human' scale. Hellenism was humane, but to us, today, who really do have the Cosmos in our scientific sights, it can also be stiflingly suburban. If we are to lift the Parthenon out of the slough of Alpine Hut carpentry to which it was reduced by 18C Positivismm, we must conceive of it as the bearer of an Athena, lured by a surface wealth and beauty to anthropo-morph into the gold and ivory body crafted by Phidias. From this unseen 'control room' she could fly, like a trireme, to the aid of Athens. The Parthenon, as described by Indra Kagis McEwen, in her "Socrates' Ancestor" published by MIT in 1993, flew on the beating eagle's wings of the pediment-aetos, and the rhythmic 'oars' of the peristyle.
It is shocking to compare the Parthenon to a five-star hotel for latterday 'superstars'. But their semi-nudity, golden tresses and open-mouthed 'glamour' does strike a chord of congruence. In order to imagine what the Parthenon was really like, and especially its pedimental sculptures, it is necessary to surround it with the sights and sounds of a Bollywood epic.
Leaving the archaeologically ignorant misconceptions of Greece that have supported 20C Modernism, and travelling either to East or West, backwards or forwards in time, one finds only 'interiors'. The 'exterior' of all of these Architectures were designed to relate this 'interior' to the world at large. One thinks of Egypt, of Rome, of the Buddhist temples literally excavated from cliff-faces, and after them their Hindu successors, like mountains to which one passes through the 'mandapa' - a mountain on pit-props. The secular buildings of the Moguls often achieved a direct relation to the surrounding horizon. But they nevertheless constructed their ceilings as microcosms, as one may see in the Hall of the Ambassors of the Alhambra.
It is striking how some of the greatest works of a culture are built at the extreme limits of its extension. I think of the Classical perfection of Latin Edinburgh, built on a valley that Hadrian never colonised.
Coming to the more familiar West, the Mediaeval Cathedral needs no introduction, a more 'internalised' Architecture can hardly be imagined. I have argued for the idea that the 'classical landscape', first given canonic definition by Claude Lorraine, is an 'unpacking' of the 'Republic of the Valley', a cargo carried by the Cathedral from the Classical World. The fact that this is a huge 'interior' can be discerned, once we have the 'emplotment' of the 'event-horizons of the valley', when we study Renaissance and Baroque 'palace-villa-landscape' projects from the Villa Aldobrandini, at Frascati, to Le-Notre's Versailles.
The 'collapse' of the 'Western' ability to forge this 'inner space', such that it provides the germinating-chamber out of which springs the 'Novel Being', is one index of the sense of the 'end of history', the sense of a story that keeps repeating itself, yet with ever less vitality, that has afflicted Europe since the mid 19C.
THE END OF I-CONTACT.
Today, this 'Western World' is gazed-upon from vast glass walls. Either its sight is too dismal to bear, or the Horizons must be 'rebuilt' by some giant mechanism of utopian 'planning', some huge engine that, should it really pass along, like Ron Herron's Walking City, would one fears, leave only the giant turds of Deconstruction. The spring is broken and the secret of the 'fertile interior' seemingly lost. Whether it really is, and whether the Decon of Gehry and Liebeskind is a symptom or a cure, only time will reveal. For the moment, at least, let us continue, like botanists searching the tropical jungles for some useful fungus, with our decipherment of this lost phenomenon of the 'interior' that is so characteristic of many ancient cultures.
150 YEARS OF BLINDNESS
When we enter into this 'architectural interior' excavated out of the core of the dark matter of the 'mountain of pregnancy, or 'coil of inertia', we do so consequent to an act of violence recalling the cosmogenesis itself. What we find, very often, is only a record of these 'events'. It is as if it had been thought necessary to authenticate the interior space by rehearsing the evidence of its 'Architectural' manufacture. Yet what building is built without the purpose of creating its internal space? Why is this elaborate rehearsal needed? Leaving the answer to one side, let us first examine the evidence for this design ritual of 'justification'.
Were we to look upwards to where the 'flaming spear' of Indra pierced the darkness, we would see, framed in an endless series of small pictures, the golden flower of his invading fire. We find 'rosettes' (as they are conventionally named) painted onto the stone coffers of the Athenian Propylea. Hittorf published them, in colour, in the 1860's. Corbusier also photographed them and published them in black and white.
Needless to say, Corbusier totally ignored them. He preferred to write a fantastical paragraph about the "Parthenon of polished steel" which he compared to a Bugatti engine. But he saw the coloured starbursts on their ground of night. He was merely blind to them. Today they reside in some lithic 'deep-freeze' while the muddle headed World ponders what to do about this raddled corpse of a once unbelievably flashy building. It is abominable to expect the Greeks, more than anyone, to live in the shadow of a ruin whose continuously falsified 'Antique' miasma obscures all that is most illuminating in Western Architecture, substituting a fog of reactionary nonsense. As the eminent Art Critic Herbert Read said, at the time of WWII, "Examine an assassinated country and you will find a Doric Column in its back". He was referring to the predilection of Hitler's architects, Troost and Speer, for a bleakly lithic Doric that no Hellene would have countenanced. One creates cultures and countries with polychrome Architecture, and kills them with the cult of ruins favoured by the Fascists.
THE REALITY OF 'ICONIC ENGINEERING'.
It is essential to move architectural theory beyond the conversations about 'statics' and 'tectonics' that have occupied Post-Enlightenment architectural philosophers from around 1730 to the present day. If the coffered ceiling is a 'structure' it is certainly not one designed to hold up the roof! Plenty of constructional drawings exist from the period of the building as well as more modern surveys, that clearly show these great gilded grillages, with their deeply-recessed 'cassone's' and 'coffres', were hung down from the triangulated timber trusses that spanned over the rooms below, resting on their thick stone walls. If the iron loops that hung the gilded ceilings would have broken they would have gently slid down, like a well fitted piston, until they had squashed their congregations flat. It is easy to see, when looking at the vast sheet of moulded gold (the first shipload from the 'Indies') that is the ceiling of Rome's Santa Maria Maggiore, that this is an object that is 'held in place' by a 'conceptual' support. By the same token it, in its turn, gives support to a conceptually-structured interior landscape. This is what I term 'iconic engineering'. Such things cannot be 'explained' by recourse to its useful, but very 'other' physical counterpart.
AN 'ENLIGHTENED' CULT OF INHERENT INSTABLITY.
One only has to look at the constructional drawings of Soufflot's Neo-Classical St. Genevieve, where almost every stone is fixed to its neighbour with iron hooks, to realise that Buckminster Fuller at least performed the negative service of conclusively proving that the cubic structural frame, the universal 20C tool of building statics, is the least stable structure imaginable. The reason it exists at all is because human beings buy space in cubic chunks and arrays of cubic chunks. The striking failure of Fuller's ideas is not due to his statical engineering, which was brilliant, but because humans do not want to live in Pixie Domes and Pyramids. If they did the profession of Structural Engineering would effectively cease to exist, for all and sundry would design, as they still do 'up country' in Africa, with structures that were automatically stable. We need good Engineers precisely because the cubic lattices of 'architectural' space would collapse without ingeniously-engineered joints to hold it stiff and rigid!
BEAMS OF LIGHT AND FIRE.
The golden beams of these ceilings are not beams of matter, but its very obverse. They are 'beams of light'. Pliny uses the word 'trabs' from which we derive 'trabeated architecture' to describe the 'fiery tail of a comet'. The 'trabeated' robe of a Senator alternates bands of purple and white like day and night and light and dark. The trabes is a rod, beam, or club of strength and power.
The Germanic word 'beam' is congruent, with the Latin 'trabs' to mean 'tree'. We have Whitebeam in English, 'boom' in Dutch and 'baum' in German. But 'beam' is also congruent with the verb 'to be', and so with 'being'. The two words can carry the meaning of a beam, like a beam of light, but are better understood as of some 'ultimate force'.
This is the meaning that is 'carried' by the gilded 'raft of beams' that is the architecturally-coffered ceiling. This a raft constructed from some 'ultimate' power. It is even reinforced in the dark depths framed by each beam intersection, by a 'view' of the gilded lower points of the vertical dimensions of its cubic lattice of energy. They whirl around, with the motion of the contra-rotating screws of a vertical lift engine, on a dark blue ground. I confirmed that the ground of the 'rosette' should always be dark blue when inspecting the restoration of the Palazzo Massimi by the team who had just finished the Sistine. It is the colour of the 'darkness' that was before the blast of light from the cosmogenesis. This is not, as conjured by Theodore Dresser, the late 19C decorator-naturalist, a poorly copied version of the botanical Sunflower! It is, rather, the 'flowering of the Sun - and even more than the Sun - a minor star, after all, but important to us Earthlings nonetheless.
SPACE BORNE BY TIME
The 'power-beams' around each coffer are moulded with varieties of 'iconic objects'. Without deciphering them all, we can stress their serpentine aspect. They sport the 'guilloche', a wave pattern. There is also the 'meander' named afer the river, now called the Amu-Darya, on the edge of the Hellenic World in central Asia. These wavy figures circle each coffer and its 'point of energy'. They embody the icon of the 'serpent' (as in the Vedic Vrta), the endlessly circling Time that encloses the base of the 'mountain' of the 'always there'. The 'point of light' of the cosmogenesis is situated on the lightless Ground of Nothing and surrounded, like some one lost in a snowstorm, by the Infinity of Circularity. The vertical blast of the whirling, spiral 'strike' is what is held in each Coffered 'chest of valuables'.
The 'raft of power' carries a cargo, revealed in the apex of each of the 'evacuated mountains', like the empty shells of snakes, up into which the 'privileged occupier' of the 'empowered interior' can gaze. It appears to repeat endlessly as if in a mirror, the singular valuable of the penetrating vertical energy. Or is it the end-view of its repercussion? Is it the view up the 'tailpipe', of the 'rising into being' of the what was conjoined by the 'fire from above' and the 'dark sun' below'?
THE 'RAFT OF PROMETHEUS'.
Prometheus was a Titan, the 'first race' created by Uranus and Gaea. That was in the 'golden age' when gods and men ate together and lived in harmony. Uranus, the starry sky, was blamed by Gaea for inseminating 'monsters' within her. she sought another sire, choosing ultimately, her youngest son, Chronos, or 'time'. We can decipher this as the failure of a 'stellar cult', such as satisfied Mesopotamia, or Egypt. Chronos fathered excellent children, but fearing that one of them would supersede him, always ate them. Gaea had not connived in the murder of one husband just to provide cannibal provender for another. So Chronos, in his turn, was tricked. She engineered the survival of one of her sons: Zeus. When he was grown to manhood, he drove his father into the underworld, keeping him enchained there.
Zeus now put down first a 'revolt' of the Titans, who disliked his upstart rule - that of Olympus, and then a second rebellion f from the Giants. Prometheus, the 'fore thinking', though a Titan, preferred to back the winning side. Even so, he never forgave Zeus for almost wiping out his Titan race. Nor did he like the downgrading of Men to such a low status, compared to the convivial equality, that Men, Gods, Titans, Giants and everyone, had enjoyed in the Golden Age.
After the final victory of Zeus and the Olympians over all prior Powers, a meeting was held in Sicyon to determine the proportions of meat due to Men and Gods in the sacrifice. These were to be the terms of the Peace Settlement. It was to embody a contract laying-down the level of 'tribute'. It was a meeting of Tax Accountants. Zeus put Prometheus, the Titan who had been faithful to him, in charge of the arrangements. The well-known story recounts how Prometheus put, one on side, the rich fat of the Ox over its bones. On the other he placed the good meat. Zeus seeing the rich fat chose it. Upon uncovering the trick, he punished Men by forbidding them the use of fire.
The Titan, however, still harbouring his grudge against Zeus, went to the forge of Hephaestus (the Roman Vulcan) and carried fire to Mankind hidden in the tubular stalks of fennel - a practice continued, until recently, by the Greek mountain-shepherds of Cyprus.
Here we have another conjunction of a ' carriage of fire', and inside a tubular structure, subsequent to a sacrificial meal, from which Mankind was banished by a superior power. This is one more example of the 'New Raft of Old Fire' (a cone or tube of glowing embers) on which the rebellious, New Human Foundation, had to carry its valuables to an enhanced state. Only in this case the Agent, Prometheus, of this voyage to empower and liberate 'mankind' was horribly punished by the Gods for his duplicitous act.
His liver, which is the organ the Romans used to divine the future, (Prometheius means 'foresight', or 'forethought' in Greek) was devoured by an eagle - one of the embodiments of Zeus.
We have recorded this variant of the Raft of the Founders, which we can call here, the Raft of Prometheus, in the red-cored green tubes of the shattering reed-boat on the Shaper Ceiling. We also embody it in the 'cooling embers' of 'blitzcrete' that always appear protuding from the tips of the 'cloud-marked', blue and white-spiral, 'canonic logs' out of which the entablature of JOA buildings is often made. These hollow tubes are cored with the mythic, cosmogenic, fire of Indra, but also with that of Prometheus, stolen from the Hellenic gods. They carry other literary baggage. There is an etymological 'power', which Pliny metaphorised as a fiery beam, that they carry by virtue of their Latin name of trabes - trabica, and that English gives them as 'beams' of light.
The Raft of Fire is a singular icon whose guises are supported by many convergent histories.
FLYING ON RUMINATIVE POWER.
So also, is its 'cargo'. Especially is this the case when 'viewed from inside. For the rule seems to be that, on the whole, nothing can be seen of what 'lies above' except these omnipresent clues of the brilliantly glowing, rotating, 'points of light'. The cargo, like the hidden instruments of some powerful cult, is 'imaginatively enlarged' by this fertile imprecision. The 'attica' as Bachelard argues, is a region of some conceptual import. It forms, for example, an important 'event horizon' in the 'near-death experience'. The disembodied self 'floats up to the ceiling'. They look down on their dying corporality, later recalling things which they could not have 'seen' while unconscious on the operating table. One patient reported the ceiling as a barrier which constituted a plane of no return. Others travelled all the way down the 'white vortex', up to the 'gate' before 'turning back'. For we only know the stories of those who did not die, or permanently leave their bodies, such was the pain of occupying them at that moment.
NEW ICONICS FOR OLD TECTONICS
Another clue as to the nature of this 'attic-cargo' can be found in the areas where the contemporary, 'Neoclassical-Modernist' Critic has most difficulty with the archaelogical 'facts'.
Lawrence (1957) and Tomlinson (1983 & 1996), in "Greek Architecture" (Yale & Pelican), were able to explain everyting in the Doric Temple with their tectonic aetiology - except the 'pediment' - the triangular 'billboard', as Venturi would accurately call it, that housed the sculptural marvels of Ictinus. Lawrence and Tomlinson saw the pediment as a tectonic aberration! How can one call something a 'design aberration' when it displays the Civic Superheroes and the Narratives of Foundation and Protection with which the Polis is called into being'! Compared to this, one might, with reason, call the array of pillars with their pegs, exposed trunnions, and so on, an 'iconic superfluity'. After all, it is the Billboard that has survived until today, not the superhuman 'pseudo-carpentry'of 'Tectonic Architecture'.
The dismal heaps of browned-off lithic dung with which this book illustrates the 'Greek Temple' should, alone, consign it to the status of a Student's doorstop. One must, in the 21C, reverse the futile injunction, amongst Academic Archaeologists and Historians, against publishing 'reconstructions'. If they do not, who will - Dorling Kindersley and Disney? No one is better placed to guess at the truth than an Excavator who has heard the language, seen the 'successors', and been into the site itself. If he or she will not, then some illustrator-scribbler from Hollywood will flood the world with lies, and very persuasive one's too.
PARTHE - OUI OU NON?
The Panavision, Technicolour, line-up of 'Bollywood' superheroes is proof that it is not carpentry that validates Hellenic Architecture, but Iconics. 'Building' is merely the means to this intelligible end. Humans are not molluscs in need of shells. Not one square centimetre of the Parthenon's marble (merely a good local supply) was uncoloured, unpainted and unwaxed. No Westerner (including Corbusier, with his poem to 'steel castings') has been able to accept these undeniable facts for the 150 years that Archaeology has known them. The Parthenon was an iconic construct from beginning to end. Its building material could have been of cast plastic providing its iconography was 'working'. Only an illiterate 'Varvaros' would ever think otherwise -such as the vandal (White Supremacy) 'art expert' Duveen, whose men, in the 1930's, wire-wooled off the remaining colour from the Parthenon Sculptures in the British Museum.
These heroic, flashy, full-frontal nude athletes were the 'cargo' carried by the 'aetos' or the eagle's wings, as the Pediment was called. The entablature of the Temple was an Ark, recently flown-on and landed onto its array of 'bearing beings' - the coloured, waxed and polished Columns, glistening like the oiled bodies of Athletes, whose naked olive skin their towering shafts were stained to exactly match.
Even to this day, Italian craftsmen put olive oil on polychrome marble columns, like bodies to prepare them for tanning in the summer sun, as they did to those on the front of the British Pavilion in Venice, when JOA were representing the UK in 1991.
The only way to understand the Greek temple is by considering it with its glistening raiment of waxed, oiled and polished pigments. The so-called 'wooden nails' in the beams were coloured blue, like drops of water. the names in Greek: stegones, and in Latin: guttae, both meant what they are called in English, which is "drops". The ends of the so-called 'beams', were called triglyphs , in all three languages. Clearly they were untranslateable. But the meaning, in Greek, is 'three chops or three cuts'. It is for this that Professor Hersey argues that they are three veal chops, and that the Greek Temple is a reconstruction of a giant, civic, meat sacrifice.
I myself am satisfied, at least for my own, 'restorative and inventive' purposes, with them being 'beam-ends'. But I will not accept them as being built merely to promote carpentry as a religous cult (the 'profession' of Jesus Christ notwithstanding). 'Techne' is a means to the end of forging instruments and tools. The tool here is the 'metaphorein', the 'raft of power' , like a magic carpet, that can carry the civic Deity hither and thither. These blue'painted beams, with their cargo of red-grounded icons, dripping with azure blue, is some kind of vessel, as Indra Kagan McEwen also argues. Flying craft carry cargoes of gods and super-heroes (or they did in times gone by, before Coach Class), which explains the structurally redundant 'pediment' on which they are, rather awkwardly, displayed. But then the pyramidical form of the pediment derives from the conical 'pyra', or sacrificial fire, carried by the Raft. It is the iconic form of Hestia's 'cone of ashes' that confirms the shape of the 'structurally redundant' gable. What did the Hellenic City pay for: iconic punch or fretwork frivolity?
PERCEIVING ILLUSION IS CONCEIVING FICTION.
We have 'read', earlier, of the 'dining table' as an 'entabled altar', embodying the hearth fire that was brought over by the 'Raft of the Founders' from the Mother-city. 20C Cubism, and Wittgenstean, teaches us that the 'view' of a thing is best 'modelled' not by perspective but by some means that sees all sides of it 'as they really are'. This is because the naturalistic cast of 19C thinking misconceived Perspective as a technique for 'viewing reality'. It was, instead, and as a proper understanding of Alberti reveals, a method for making the fictive world of Antiquity, 'come into being'. Perspective is Illusion, not Reality. But it 'works'. It is powerful. Today, with post-cubistic 'iconic engineering', it is no longer necessary. It remains an optional technique, usable only in the manner of a patent illusionism. Perspective naturalism is kitsch.
AFTER THE WRECK ON A PROMISING SHORE
I have described one of the qualities of the Time of Inception as being its arbitrariness. It seems that to 'go too far' is an inseparable part of executing the first act of all acts, the act of the new beginning. The quality of this act, therefore, is not so much the time that preceded it, but that which followed it and to which it served as the chronometrical zero. The role of the Raft follows this rule. In the Oriental flood history the raft is destroyed entirely, smashed and thrown aside. In the Occidental it lies on the dessicated peak, of no further import in history. Why then does it remain in the form of the Entablature?
Is there something more to the Entablature than its semantic role as Raft of the Founders? Does it continue to have a function within the semiotic of space-forming. What is the role of the raft after it has 'landed'. Does it act within the Grammar of Exfoliatioin, which is the history of the unfolding of the architectural narrative itself?
HEAVY WITH IDEAS, PREGNANT WITH POWER
Our understanding of the Raft is like a view of it 'from above', heaped-up with 'cargo' - even if it is only a cone of Hestia's ashes like a grey slate roof pierced by tall Edwardian chimneys, columns of fire, banded with red brickwork and white stone. But this is a music heard mainly by birds. It is peripheral to the major chords of Architecture. The view up into the ceiling of 'gilded coffers' is the view seen by Humans. This is the view from below the raft. One may say argue the gilded rosettes are a 'view' of the Hearth Fire, 'from underneath', that is carried by the 'trabica' to the New Foundation. But what of the rest of the Cargo? What of the seed corn, the laws, the myths, the texts, the rituals, the symbolic objects, the cult figures and so on and so forth, from the Mother City, all of which will link her, genetically, to the New Foundation?
Here we begin to see the golden florets more as 'points of light' that glimmer, as the sun seen from underwater, shining in the ocean of ignorance. They are like pinholes shedding their golden glow from that greater 'illumination' above which is the 'cargo' of the Entablature, or Raft. The convention that we seem to inherit from ancient practice is that it is possible to cut away this veil of the ceiling with the coelum, the sharp chisel, to reveal the vault of the caelum the 'ciel' or Sky. The Old English word for roof was Heofon, the same as vault of Heaven. Yet this view of the heavens, or the 'ciel', is no gaze upwards into a dumb glass roof, that corny refuge of the 20C iconic illiterate. This is no veil of water-vapour screening the human eye from melting in the solar furnace.
By the same token, if the cargo of the Entablature-raft was to be as powerfully-charged as the flaming pinholes of the coffer rosettes appear to promise, might not the sight up into the glowing heart of Hestia's cone fry us all alive? If the ceiling-raft is removed, then must not the 'force' of these ideas be transmuted from the raw violence of Indra's 'strike' into a coherent iconic speech that can render the 'powers of the vault' capable of being viewed, and comprehended, by mere mortals?
ACHIEVING 'CRITICAL MASS'
The Orient never solved this problem. The Occident did. Or to put it more exactly, the Orient was unwilling to extend the power of their inseminating ideas to something that could be seen, and be used, by the populace at large.Perhaps the Oriental ruler wanted to restrict access the theatre of these awesome events, thus securing priviledge. For it is only on the West that the phenomenon of the architectural interior developed to the point at which it not only stripped the veil from the vault, but allowed all to view the glory that was revealed.
My own understanding of this breakthrough, for such, when seen within the history of Architecture it must be judged to have been, is not to be understood as some advance, some laxity, some permissiveness in voyeurism. This was not some Tourist's view upwards into the cargo of the Entablature. For this was an active burden, and as effective in colonising the chosen shore as the cargo of any Invader. The key to the Western interior is that the glory that is revealed in the Architectural vault is not, as we are used to today, a mere passive gazing, through glass, upon a view that already exists 'outside', but a projection outwards upon the giant picture planes framed by the Architectural Orders, of the ideas of the Institution that was born of the 'Advent of the Raft upon the Mountain'.
The fabulous development of the Western Interior that was not only its greatest glory, but the aspect of it that was most suppressed and tabooed during the 20C, is the result of the creation of 'Architectural' space. If this event can be deciphered, in some way, from the clue of the 'Raft' landing on the 'Submarine Mountain' then the event was akin to the achieving of the critical mass of the two segments of the sphere of uranium which detonated the atomic bomb. The Western Interior was never engendered by a merely haptic, 'craftsmanly', process of tectonic manufacture. The explanation of Western Architecture as a Watteauesque labour of rustic hut-crafting is an idex of the dumbing-down of architectural theory found necessary by the Abbe Laugier as he wrote a version that would not disturb the Bourbon Court as it pic-nicked its way to the Revolution.
The 'view' that is unveiled by the 'architectural' machinery of the interior projection is as invented, and fictive, as any fabrication of Hollywood. The mystery, however, is not that it was so constituted, but why it was, and what was its narrative intention. The intellectually, as well as the politically, flaccid age of the 'picture window', that we inhabit today, finds it as hard to imagine living within a such a garden of imagery as it would be challenged to invent an iconology for today.
CONCEIVED RATHER THAN PERCEIVED
What we have in the Western Interior is a space, created as the result of a cataclysmic conjunction between 'raft' and 'mountain' that, in its ultimate Architectural manifestation, is not only a record of this peculiar process, but a synthesized novelty, whose most telling items are its 'projected' ceilings, walls, and floors that, all together, bring to the mind conceptions that travel far beyond the boundaries of mere material construction! In order to understand this phenomenon, as a strictly architectural operation, constrained within the proper boundaries of this medium (even if its results over-step them) it is necessary to examine its 'workings'.
A PHENOMENOLOGY OF MEDIA
All media 'come in between', for that is what 'median' means - "in the middle". Those who control them, such as Professionals, like them the most, because they are the 'middlemen'. Those whom they serve, such as Clients, like them so long as they feel 'at the helm' . Those whom they 'control', such as the Public, dislike them, for they seem to keep them away from 'reality', which is, etymologically, 'Royalty', or power. Human intercourse is 'mediated' by speech, by facial expression, by body language, by clothing, by money, by law and custom and ritual and so on. Nothing fundamental can be done to alter this. To be be 'entirely free' would live detached from others, as do those who suffer from Autism. Even they, it can be argued, need the mediation of 'media' to relate to themselves. How does one think clearly without words that one has lelarned from others. How does one dance without ordering a sequence of acitons? Rather, as we get older, and more expert, do we understand the efficiency of a 'medium' in allowing a closer, more intimate and more 'true' contact with others. The key here is 'expertise'. One feels happier in a 'mediated' world if the 'mediating' is carried on with skill, tact, judgment and 'honesty'.
There is no way that two people can communicate 'operatically', unless they do so within the 'medium' of the Opera. That is why the conventions of Opera have been invented, and remain in practice. Not that they always 'work'. But when they do, passive spectators will pay large amounts of money to merely sit and listen to the 'conversation'. If two people just start shouting at each other one may not be able to sell many tickets. But with practice, and around five centuries, they may get around to inventing the medium of the Opera.
The quality of all media are their ability to relate incompatibilities. The ultimate Medium was the Big Bang itself. It 'related' negation to creation. A medium is, as its name implies, grounded en meson, in the middle, but it extends to opposing extremities. Its tool is Metaphor. In the heat of summer, the tanker-lorries of Cyprus bring the mountain water of Pedhoulas down to the seaside tourists. On their sides is painted "metaphoron neron" - carriers of water. The Metaphor carries an idea to where it is not and could never be without its help. The lorry has a driver, a steering, a road, wheels, an engine and a big metal bag. The linguistic metaphor is much the same, requiring navigation, impulse and cargo. Why should not the Architectural medium be ordered by a similar natural (or rather unnatural, because cultural) anatomy?
THE NATURE OF CULTURE
It stands to reason that the most important parts of any Medium are those that do not come to it naturally. For it is only by mastering these that it transcends itself and becomes universal - capable of the 'conjunction of opposites'. Space, material, structure, light, are the banalities of Architecture. How could one say anything more of them than that they come to hand the moment one begins to compose? Nevertheless, though one should always progress beyond them, if we wish to acculture Architecture to some purpose beyond a merely artisanal level of 'best practice', or neat juggling, then we can not neglect to found its technique upon these 'given facts'.
But how, then, can we work with, and upon, these patent mundaneities of Architecture, such as 'space', in such a way as to move them out of themselves and operate at levels that lie outside their given and natural 'reality'? How, in fact, can be 'bring them to mind' in such a way as they can make the trasition to the level of universality required to engage with media that lie 'out of themselves'. The way Architecture does this solves both of these ambitions with the same technique. For to bring anything to mind is never to manifest it in its median banality. It is always to show it as having a being that is extended to the points of its extreme existence. By the same token, this embodying of an entity as consisting of a 'conjunction of opposites' extends it out of its existential sphere into that which lies beyond it.
SPACE AND ANTI-SPACE.
The extreme states of Architectural Space, which we have stated is always to be restricted to the 'natural' space of human embodiment, may be described as a space which entirely excludes the human body, and one that admits it so absolutely as to absorb it wholly. A perfect solid would be the first and a perfect vacuum the second. A specifically 'Architectural' rhetoric can be conceived as mediating between these two mutually exclusive extremes.
As we argued in the 'Empire of the Forest', for an idea, such as 'space' to become 'embodied' in natural space, it is a powerful conceptual advantage if natural anologues of its various 'states' can be identified. We showed, in describing the method we called 'Kant's solid' how such easily conceived embodiments could be evoked, and then denied, leaving their presence in the form of a specific type of space that 'appeared' in natural space in the manner of a virtual or ghostly form. 'Kant's Solid', is an effective way of reifying an idea as an 'impalpable presence'.
What we are describing here is the unique ability of Architecture to make a lifespace in which we live with ideas which have are as embodied as our own bodies. In Architecture we can literally live in ideas. These can be as numerous as one desires, or needs. For in that they are all impalpable, the only 'body' they can overcrowd is the imagination! And as to that , overcrowding, as always, is a function of the size of one's Estate. Those with a large iconic domain can entertain a more numerous party.
WIDENING THE 'NATURE' OF EXPERIENCE
Here, because of the nature of the idea that we are considering, we must be prepared to enlarge our definition of the Natural Estate to the 'experience' of Nature of our post 20C-generation. For just as we have penetrated to those areas that older times might termed spatial regions of the fire, and the void, and lived to tell the tale, so we must now seek into these prevously superhuman dimensions for the natural analoges that we need to 'experience'. Rather than polarise the middling ground of human space between a mere mountain and the 'fiery sky' we must have recourse to the globe itself.
We must imagine the inner mass of the planet as the 'space of the anti-space of matter', and the almost absolute void of the space beyond the atmosphere, as the 'anti-space of the vacuum, or void. For, as we now know, a mere human placed in deep space would literally explode, before freeze-drying into crisp fragments. We would physically disperse as if disarticulated by the atomic blast itself. For all practical purposes, and bearing in mind our 'familiarity' with the fact of 'outer space', this can stand for the real, Natural, analogue of the 'anti-space of pure void'.
Besides which, as must be becoming clear, while in the Republic of the Valley and the Empire of the Forest, we can easily experience the natural analogues of these Architectural devices, a real, bodily, immersion into 'anti-space' at either extreme, is fatal.
The nuclear explosion might appear as congruent with Indra's Strike, were it not that the bomb blast is its opposite. The cosmogenesis described in the myth 'describes' a process which results in life as it has evolved, and how it has evolved, over millions of years, while the bomb is just a big bang that models nothing except a cosmic camp fire, shooting its poisonous soot into the sky.
There is, in the distribution of our contemporary natural analogues of Anti-Space, a congruence in their location. For they lie above and below the Atmosphere and Biosphere, the 'middle earth' of Architecture and of Man's natural dwelling. The ancient cosmogenic myth of Indra's Strike 'mediates' between the 'upper and lower extremeties'. The antique rituals by which the reification of 'Western Interior Space' was accultured, can be mapped onto this new 'naturalisation', and made to serve their original purposes in a contemporary guise. The 'cosmogenesis' which grounds any 'architectural microcosm' can be situated both in the small space for human kind - which is architecture's 'domestic' sphere - as well as in the Cosmos itself, out into which Man is now physically extending.
MEDIATION OUT OF THE ABSENCE OF SPACE..
The Mediation between opposing Anti-Spaces, that is effected by Architecture, can be said to begin, phenomenologically, by cavitating the solid, on the one hand, and filling the vacuum on the other. The solid begins by 'bubbling' with a random porosity. The vacuum swirls with a first few wisps of a formless 'gas' or 'liquid'.
When these abstractions are rendered into the proper 'scale' of the architectural medium, which is that of our own bodily being, the cavitations become a matrix of 'rooms' divided by thick 'walls'. There is here a literal congruence between a phenomenology of Architecture and its actual phylogenesis. For we can find such 'cavitated solids' in certain ancient Neolithic communities, such as that of Khirokitia, in Cyprus, made up from circular dwellings walled in such thick armatures of stone that they seem as if carved from one extensive mass of concretised rubble.
The history of settlements shows that these earlier 'built caves', like solidly-compacted cylindrical dwellings, are followed by cubic cabins which eventually aggregate into larger settlements and institutional complexes. Certain of these develop into larger rooms and spaces which are either lined or supported, internally, by columns. There is no need to labour a congruence between the phenomenological and the phylogenetic histories of the medium. It is enough that one can be claimed, without excessive invention, for the one to 'support' the other. There is a transition from a solid mass into a lattice of cubic spaces whose physical definition has been refined into a mere armature of verticals and horizontals.
Professor George Hersey, in "Pythagorean Palaces", published by Cornell University in 1976, describes Sebastiano Serlio, writing in the 16C, as advising that when beginning an Architectural composition, it is necessary to imagine a field of closed rooms between which there are no doors. 'Redundant' walls are then removed from rooms which are needed to be larger than the 'given' cubicles and doors opened through the walls where needed. Serlio advises, somewhat cryptically, that 'pilasters'; will be discovered at the intersections of the primordial walls, whenever they are 'removed'. Although Hersey does not make the fact completely patent, it is clear from other advices and illustrations in his book that this is the 'aboriginal Hypostyle' that is buried inside Serlio's 'cavitated field'.
THE INSEMINATING ROLE OF THE 'RAFT'.
Here we may conceive of the Post-Apocalyptic role of the Raft in the genesis of Architectural Space. It is the ancient and originary agent of that rite of design which Mies van der Rohe admitted as his first act of determination: the "divining of the grid".Just as the grid itself is the 20C ghost of the original, concrete, architectural figure of the Hypostyle, so the trabeated Raft of the Entablature is the agent that brings the Order of the Hypostyle to the maternal Mountain. It is the semiotic impregnation of the Mountain by the reticulations of the Raft that installs its mass with that grid of pilaster-columns to which Serlio refers. It is as if the Raft, that 'tangle of twigs' which was pinned to the mountain by Indra's columna lucis, was a well-made trabica of luminous trabes, each of which thrust a spear of energy down into the mountain, forming one of the serried ranks of the hypostyle under each of its beam-joints.
This interpretation of the ancient rite of Architecture is precisely what JOA have built inside Duncan hall, at Rice University. Here, for the first time in the Architectural history of the West, the column as columna lucis is built in such a way that it can be walked through, as a corridor, and experienced as the embodiment of the primordial event of the 'cavitation of space'. It is a prime example of how the a technique can draws its culture from that of the tabooed 'high' Architectural tradition, yet is able to put it to mundane (yet by no means lexically insignificant) uses.
THE 'HIGH TECHNIQUE' RECOVERED
We may 'recognise' the typical 20C 'building built of matchsticks' as a merely pragmatic framework of 'columns' and beams'. But it is to 'lose the plot' to remain bound by that interpretation. It is also to open Architecture to erasure by Engineering. For, as Fuller proved, matchstick houses fall over. The Sixth Order design culture has recovered the original meanings of cubic space and the trabeated Architectural devices which governed 'high architectural' practice from which the banalities of the 20C descend. By achieving these decipherments we have been able to 'refunctionalise' the original design strategies and bring them back into practical employment. In so doing we have found them to be not merely adequately practical but of a usefulness that invests an Institution's lifespace with an uncanny power and force. The mystery is why anyone should be surprised that the refunctionalisation of the old, high architectural, design entities, unleash huge and unfamiliar powers. Why else would they have survived, for thousands of years, in use in so many disparate cultures?
Why, continuing on from this, should these powers not continue in use now and into the future? Why should we continue to assume, as was done during the 20C, that any effective and urbane future can be created without the devices of the 'high architectural' technique? Indeed, there is a prima facie case, to be answered, that it was their lack of employment during the 20C that was the reason for the urbanistic disaster which that century bequeaths to its descendants.
MEDIATION OUT OF THE SPACE OF ABSENCE.
We can reverse the analysis of the reaction between the 'Raft and the Mountain' by asking "if a phylogenesis of architecture can be argued from a Phenomenology of the Cavitation of pure Mass, then what of Architecture can be reasoned out of its inverse, whose original extreme would horizon in the Vacuum?"
What is the least substantial of substances but a wavy flux of 'pure' energy? We, with our human organs of sense, would observe this directly, that is to say at the bodily scale of Architecture, as 'light'. The opposite of the dark impenetrability of absolute materiality, is the plenum filled with that absence of mass that are the waves of energy we see as light. Light is, especially today, in our age of glass walls and floors and roofs, much in the thoughts of Architects. But the commonly conceived understanding of this is as naturalistic as it is ideological, a lethal combination in the hands of the technically adept. It is guaranteed to erase all iconic discourse and the high level of intellectual activity which it can engender. The contemporary cult of light shines into the eyes of the devotee which, if pursued, may be found to beam, without discernible interruption, all the way to the back of the head. Unmediated, raw, light, is as lethal to the imagistic mediation of conceptual discourse as its opposite, blind darkness.
But how are we to modulate this unsubstantial agency. For although our practice, above all, argues for a project that will transmute brute building material into a landscape fit for a thinking, imagining, creature - a landscape of embodied ideas and narratives by which to link them, JOA do recognise that the built world is grounded in physicality, not imagery, or vocality or any of the less substantial media.
It is for this reason that JOA have, more than any other Practice, developed and perfected, over a long period, a range of materials that, of themselves mediate between 'flux' and mass.
MATTER STAINED WITH LIGHT.
Concrete is a material that began the 20 C with a promise to Architecture that here, at last, was the 'material without qualities', or whose qualities could be synthesized to be anything the Designer required. For this was the Holy Grail, sought by Engineers, and many Architects, especially those ambitous for a 'Modernity' which escaped from the restrictions of the 'given', whether historical or natural. Today, this promise has largely faded. First made to solve the problem of a cement that would set under seawater, commercial concrete was revealed, during the 20C, as a material which revealed its origins in volcanic Pozzolans. Cement is a powder ground out of cinders. It has all the qualities of a mud made from cigarette ash - dirty, grey and featureless. Persuaded of this dismal aspect, Concrete Engineers, during the mid-century, acid-washed it, pounded it, hammered it and smashed it. It was as if to punish it for its recalcitrant slothfulness and refusal to get spruced-up. Then they discoveed that one could coat it with slices of stone cut very thin. Masonry wallpaper was born. Concrete lost all of the curvaceous, 'fashionable', quality of a cast material. It had to hide its face.
Then came JOA. I describe, in FAQ#3 "Why does almost nobody use coloured concrete except JOA? Is there something wrong with it. Will it last?", how all of the Architecural Professors who taught "Concrete" received their very costly teaching packs in 1994, at Cambridge, and then realised, after being shown around the Judge Institute, that their teaching aids progressed, technically and design-wise, no further than the 1960's.
Yet, as one of them correctly divined, the reason for this was nothing to do with 'Concrete Technology' as such, because even if they learned how JOA made our 'Blitzcretes' and 'Doodlecretes', their use could not be ordered and controlled without JOA's Iconic Engineering. What was the use of through-coloured and deep-patterned Concretes if the Designer did not have the faintest inkling, which they freely admitted they did not, if what colour and pattern to pursue?
I now travel to international conferences of the concrete industry, showing slides of what JOA have done over the past 20 years to develop a product that has now fallen out of use as a "cladding" material, into the 'facing material of the future'. I usually come-on last, something like a 'cabaret of colours', to put everyone in a good mood after a day discussing heavy-duty technology and abstruse science - but all made from the grey dust of cindered stone. I show the delegates how JOA have proved that white concrete can be both powerfully through-coloured as well as inlaid, like pietra dura or marquetry, with both regular & randomised materials and colours. This is not surface paint. This is solid, all through, 'deep colour' with modern pigments that are durable in both sun and rain. It will neither peel nor fade.
One can see that no one really knows why we do this!
Then I go on to show that JOA's recipes disguise the poor weathering surface of concrete by focussing the eye on the coloured pattern rather than on the material. It is also 'ecologically green', because concrete is cheap and made from commonplace materials. It is also extremely beautiful, which is also very 'ecologically green', for it makes people happy with the place they live in. So they 'live locally and love their own locality' - in body as well as spirit. They travel less and burn less energy, using fewer resources and polluting less air. Because of its design flexibility 'Scripted Concrete' can be used symbolically, so people can share a 'public opinion' that they themselves create locally, instead of having it forced onto them by the central broadcasting of the 'mass media'. This strengthens local institutions.
A LABORATORY DEPARTMENT FOR METAPHYPHYSICAL CEMENT.
But the real kick in the tail is Ontological.
I conclude by advising that a Cement Company, if it wishes to enlarge its market for coloured product, must instigate a new focus of laboratory work devoted to 'iconic engineering'. I am, of course, as my Readers will guess, dead serious. But I fear that my Engineer-colleagues do not credit me with giving them yet another territory to take away from 'arty' Architects leaving them with even less to determine and even more idioticially committed to the pursuit of Unreason, in order to justify their continuing utility.
The virtue of being colourable all the way through is that the solid material of concrete is capable of being saturated to its physical core with that antithesis of matter that is 'light'. For colour is an attribute of light. Colour has no palpable material imperatives. There are no coloured nuts and bolts. Being scriptable takes coloured concrete even further into uncharted territory for Enginers. For it aims concrete fairly and squarely into the mind itself, and so into the imagination and the 'spirit'. The colour- saturated 'heavy structural body' of their artificial, uniquely technified, material is capable of carrying narrated concepts in iconic, 'picture-written', form. What a come-down! To be reduced from Physics to 'Picture-Language'! At this point my engineering audience is released and retires to the Bar for a stiff one!
THE ONTOLOGIST'S ORE.
It is plausible, because of the total interpenetration of light and matter, that an idea can be fully embodied in chromatised, scriptable, concrete. Can one say that, for the first time in the history of Architecture, one can make an idea fully incarnate? The effect of this could be to decisively loosen the 'materialist' taboo on the employment of Architecture as a medium capable of embodying a metaphysical project. 'Chromatized masonry', or what I prefer to call it, using an Hellenic etymology - Photolithic Architecture - is not a decorated surface in the sense of being merely skinned-over with an iconic cosmetic. It is the total synthesis of matter and idea. This is, almost literally, the Epistemologist's stone, the Ontologist's ore.
WHEN ALL THAT IS SOLID MELTS INTO MIND.
It is also the specific material required to effect the device we describe, in 'The Empire of the Forest' as 'Kant's Solid'. The process that JOA use is to cast the 'idea' in chromatized masonry, or through-colour concrete. The idea is inscribed into space via 'doodlecrete' or blitzcrete' or any of the available variations. Then certain elements of it are absented, after the method of the Kantian Solid. This process of absenting, leaves its record, as traces around the voided 'space'. The 'absented object', because of its total ambiguity, being composed of both a flux of colour as well as solid, impenetrable, matter, remains 'in place' as a palpable idea. The chromatic 'body' of the Photolith, being from the beginning impalpable, can not be physically displaced. Certain techniques, which use lighting, as well as graphical surfaces, augment this effect. But the result is strikingly 'real'. A presence can be manifested. An epiphany can be Engineered, that is to say guaranteed.
In short, to re-write Corbusier, and recall the project of Alberti, "Mind is inscribed in the Lease".
FLUX AND MASS, THE KEY TO AN ANCIENT URBANITY.
We have now examined the idea of a phenomenology of Architecture argued from the two extremes of flux and mass. From mass I articulated an argument that led me to the Western Interior. From flux I arrived at a 'photolithic' material capable of fusing ideas, as images, and things, as material. Space was born of its 'other', which is Mass, Sculpture was born of its contrary, which is Flux. What is it that the Sculptor releases, enfleshing from the stone, if it is not the light of an idea, an image. The mother of Space is the Mountain, and its father is the trabeated semiotic of the Raft. The flux of colour, pattern, and lexicality pours its lively scripts into the forms engended by the semiotics of space. It is the flux of photolithic light, like the blood that flushes the face, that scripts the 'deep surface' of the Architectural body.
Both of these understandings come into play in, of all things more than any other, the planning of cities.
THE POETICS OF PRACTICE.
The importance of these 'Sixth Order' techniques will be in no way apparent to a Practitioner working within the mainstream 20C Modernist ethos, so devoid is it of any knowledge of urbanistic subtlety. However their utility will become apparent when we examine the functioning of the 'golden bomb', the town-planning technique of Leon Battista Alberti, and the Mediaevo-Humanist city that Sitte described so well, yet failed to decipher. Before explaining this, it is necessary to say that we do not advise using the technique of Alberti today. In fact we advise employing its diametric opposite. But to properly understand the 'Reversal out of Antiquity' that Modernity entails, especially a Modernity capable of making, rather than destroying, urbanity, it is necessary to become more 'cultured' in the history of Italian city-building - something that is certainly too clever to leave in the charge of latterday 'Rationalist' Italians like Gregotti and Aldo Rossi, as one may learn from his incoherent writings on Urbanism and see from the brutalised corpse of an Opera-House in Genoa.
A Practitioner does not proceed to his understandings mainly, or even primarily, by books. Work comes first, and after that, the direct experience of cities and buildings. We can say that, in this approach to 'understanding', the Practitioner becomes what Aristotle argued was his opposite, that is to say a Poet. For the Practice of a Medium, especially one so arduous, tedious, and financially unrewarding as Architecture, could never be undertaken for its own sake, like a sport or a manual art. I know of no architect of repute who works merely for the sake of achieving a state of 'expertise'.
The role of books, that is to say discursive writing, is to confirm 'poetic' intuitions. Writing develops and articulates these hazy ideas, genitive as they are in a marriage between the body of a City and the body of an Architect. The final, and most potent state of 'understandings', are in the form of 'iconic drawings'. These can never be 'drawn from life' whether it be from buildings or anything else. They come only from a Text. For these small and intense delineations are rather precisely, the visualisation of a metaphor. 'Architectural knowledge' cycles through the three media of building, writing and iconic drawing. Ideas acquire autonomy as well as 'depth' as they develop networks of attachment while passing through these three media. Nevertheless the final testing and proving, and the most critical decisions, are always when an architectural idea is built.
This is why, as an Architect's skills and capacity increases, it becomes ever more difficult to surpass old achievments. This is not because the Architect does not how to to surpass his prevous achievements, but because each new Client has a longer road to travel to accompany the Professional to the point he has already reached. The career of an Architect of advancing experience is a case of never reaching the point of departure, which was the previous point of arrival, let alone achieving the next destination. One can say that the moment an original Architect begins to repeat himself is the moment that he is already a generation ahead of his time. This is the time of the Rip van Winkel experience - when his youthful world is repeated all around him by infant novices who can not 'read' his achievements and feel they must travel his path all over again!
A PRACTICE IN POETICS.
Although confirmed by the scholarship of others, experts in their textual fields, my own understanding of the city-planning methods of the Renaissance derives from a struggle to articulate the experience of Rome. I was fortunate to land on a moonlit night, after a charter flight, at the military airfield. I drove into the city by the old, narrow, and thickly-vegetated Via Appia. Ruined tombs filled the fleeting view from the car window, followed by the floodlight vaults of the calidarium of Caracalla. No neon signs or other marks of 20C life disturbed these monstrous apparations. That night, under the quiet sky of the Campo Marzo, across which no aircraft ever flies, I dreamed.
As I explored the city I became siezed of the peculiar idea that the abundance of 'Monumenti' carved from marble and gilded and painted, had been buried at some time by what I came to call a Cataclysm of Domesticity. I read later, in Christian Elling's "Rome: the Biography of its Architecture from Bernini to Thorwaldsen", how he shared this impression. I mention this here because this is the most delightful book on Rome, more especially because of its black and white photographs taken on still, hot, empty, mid-days, just after WWII, are the pages from my dreams. Wherever one walks in this city one can only see, as does the camera, the 'faces' or facades as they are technically termed, of its 'tempio'.
These public buildings of Rome are unimaginably large in scale. I remember as a student being surprised, when looking in 'Banister Fletcher', the bible of architectural educators, to calculate that a two story suburban house, of the kind in which the English live, fitted entirely inside the front hallway of a typical Roman palace! The tiled roof did not even puncture the painted ceiling, of this mere ante-chanber! As to the front doors of churches, they were even higher, stretching above the second story of even these giant palaces! This was a landscape, built over its 'seven hills', which must have originally been constructed for the Giants, Titans and Heroes of the Golden Age.
If one climbed one of these hills, one saw the only other visible part of the 'buried temples'. Standing at the level of the 'cornice' of the city, a regular feature clearly imposed by its building regulations, thankfully still followed up to the present day and one must pray for ever, I saw that the domes and pinnacles of the Temples and Palaces rose above the general level of the roof tops. These were covered in gardens called 'altane' a word that merely means 'high place'. Other more revealing names are bel-vedere (good-view) and, more mysteriously: "Attica".
OLD ATHENS AGAIN
In fact, the Roman roof is required, by law, to be reserved for clothes-drying. I have been told that 'raids' by the Municipal Inspectorate occasionally check that this function is not usurped by anything else, like a roof garden for instance. As with so much in Italy, this 'illegality' of the roof garden only adds to the conceptual power it exercises. For the fact is that its name of 'Attica' denotes its 'infantility', in the Freudian sense of being 'natural' and prior to morality.
As I described in "Empire of the Forest", whenever the Architectural Theorists of the Renaissance wanted to denote an architectural device as 'original' and therefore 'canonic', primordial, and 'of the Golden Age', they gave it the Greek name it once had before Latinisation. If it was a later invention, that the Hellenes had never used, like the balustrade of the 13C Venetian and Lombardic Renaissance, they found a 'new' Greek name for it - which in that case was the Byzantine one of balaustion. They provided the Modern instrument with an anachronistic, falsely 'Antiqued', pedigree.
In naming the roof-level, or topmost floor, they could not have been more candid. It is simply named 'Attica'. This is the ' Floor' supporting laundry, potted plants and oh! I nearly forgot, the Greek province of Athens herself, the fount of all 'true Architecture', mistress and touchstone of Antiquity! Who are these Italians tryiing to kid! For what is this floor? In Northern Europe it was the floor on which one kept children and maidservants. It was rented to the poorest Students. It is named a Pent-house, meaning the room with the sloping walls, under the 'pente' (French for slope). Perhaps if the Attic is the 'original' floor than it is not inappropriate to keep the young and innocent upon it?
CLIMBING BACKWARDS IN TIME...........
One must go to the South, and a city like Rome, to discover the original, true, meaning of the 'Attic'. For there, standing in a garden, far above the street, flanked only by pergolas, open summer-houses, huge statues, palm trees, and fountains, and with a level prospect over similar terrains, as far as the eye can see, out onto the surrounding hill-tops, one seems situated in the 'original' Land of Gold. The city falls away to become the invisible murmurings of an acoustic surf that beats gently upon the thick stone ramparts of the island-blocks below. One looks up at no other buildings except the giant domes and pinnacles of Temples whose bodies, as with all of the other buildings, have sunk out of sight. One stands in a landscape surrounded by giant windowless constructions, like huge tombs, and naked people striking 'heroic' attitudes.
..........TO THE FIRST EARTH TO EMERGE
Climbing up the Spanish Steps , in the early morning, one mounts one of the hills of Rome upon which stand the Gardens of the Pincio. One can obtain, from this point, the impression that the ground-level extends onto the planted roof tops and that the streets of the city have been cut, like canyons, deep down into the earth. The still, bright, air of the Attica-level is populated by statues with waving arms, rearing winged horses, other composite beasts and sundry mythical inventions. They move dreamily, that is without ever altering their stance, in a verdant field dotted, every now and then, by a giant dome or a polychromatic pinnacle. These are the only objects, more akin to 'sculptures' than inhabited buildings, that one can see. These 'personifications' need no 'houses'. They live, like the gods, giants and heroes of old, under the sun and air that one feels upon one's own face.
From the Pincio, one looks over a real view, that of Arcadia. An urbane and cultured construct has become, through the contact of one's feet with the warm earth, the sun and wind on one's face, the solid body of the city humming with an obscure yet lively breath, and the huge discrepancy between the scale of its statues and houses, and the Romans of today, the incarnation of a conceptual landscape we can call 'arcadia'.
RITES OF FLOOD AND FOUNDATION.
As the sun rises, casting its rays into the deep, dark streets, it is as if the ocean of the night ebbs away. When the light, but more especially the sparkling air, voiced by an increasing clamour, flows back into a city 'drowned in sleep', it is as if her streets begin to pound with a surf that rolls from the Ocean of the Voice. The waking householders of each stony 'isolae', the island-blocks of the city, each marooned with its little thatch of primordial earth upon its 'Attica', begin to wash their marble floors, sending water scattering from clanking buckets over the edge of balconies into the street. The emerging islands run with the last drips of the departing Ocean of the Night.
Looking up from these deep streets, as in Vie del del Governo Veccio, one often sees a record of this event - the birth of the Earth from the Sea. The Guilloche-moulding, as it is called, is a band of waves. It courses along the eges of upper floors as if to note the fact that, like the Ark itself, they once floated free before coming down to earth upon their high mountain, in order to 'be fruitful and multiply'.
The 'Attica' is the 'landing place' of that primordial terrain, the Raft of the Founders, with its 'small square' of the originary landscape, its verdure, its animals, its fires, its earth - and the spirits of the Ancestors - those powers that one must escape yet never forget. Seen from the street, the branches and leaves of the roof gardens of Rome, peeping, however slightly, over its beetling cliffs, are a constant reminder of the 'Attic level', from which we have all descended, or even 'fallen', into the infinite labyrinth of the City.
A 'HEIGHTENED' AWARENESS
I used to walk along the streets imagining that the top of my head was 'open', almost like a small door - akin to the tonsured pate of Friars. Through this 'aperture', it would be wrong to call it in any sense an 'eye', I was continuously aware of the vast 'landscape' which hung above the City. I could walk around it and have access to it, as if it literally hung in the sky like some invisible presence, entirely covering Rome. This was a very gratifying 'way of being', one could call it, even, the Roman Lifestyle.
One's body existed in the busy, noisy streets, fragrant with the smells of choice foods and carbon monoxide, whilst one head seethed with all the magnificent metaphorein of Hellenic Mythology. For the first, and arguably last time, in my life, I was in a place where I felt entirely 'whole' that is to say firing on all cylinders. One's head and body worked as they should, specific to their needs and desires, but joined together in the one place. This is so different to the way in which our human qualities are obliged, in the Modern Metropolis, to wander around from suburb to suburb being satisfied only in part, in each of its fragmented 'special centres'. Urbanists should recognise the truth that the word 'Sports Centre', or 'Cultural Centre' means that the City, as the only place in which we, as social and human beings' can 'centre ourselves', has ceased to exist.
Architects, also, should recognise that even on the small scale of a Building, 20C spatial composition is 'disurbanised' to its roots. Even if designed as a 'Centre' a 20C composition is incapable of achieving this sense of 'being centred'. This may not even be for want of trying. It is just that the means were tabooed, discarded and jettisoned at the outset of the century. 'De-centralisation' may be a legitimate political, or managerial, ambition. But it depends on its success by the rise of subsidiary 'centres' each of whom has developed the ability to work with the other. The question is how many centres there should be, one or many? It is not whether there should be no 'centreing' at all. For an established ethos to espouse such a policy, as seems increasingly common at the end of the 20C, is for it to abdicate its claim to legitimate power.
THE 'CENTREING' EFFECT
Later I worked out how this 'centreing effect' was built-into Rome. It was the result of the ceiling paintings. Every public building in Baroque Rome had a painting, on its ceiling, whose 'locus' was this 'sacro-idyllic' landscape of the Golden Age. Neither the specific mythic event delineated, nor the artistic quality of the painting, was relevant to this mass bombardment of the sky, this firework show, this 'projection' of a view up into a mythic arcadia. Ancient Greek optical theory did not believe in a merely passive reception of visual data. The Hellenic Eye throws 'sight' like darts at its target - which is why the upraised hand, with an eye in its palm, wards off this unwelcome gaze, mirroring back the 'Evil Eye' to its human projector.
INVERTING THE CIVIC 'ID'.
The Roman ceiling was a battery of Projectors, and it was numbers that counted, as well as consistency of iconic 'text'. They had achieved critical mass. They coalesced over one's head, joining up each of their separate 'window-beams' into a continuous canopy of images which together constituted a vast, extensive landscape over which the figures of Greek Myth actually walked, flew and performed their variously incredible histories. It was a superstructure that made Freud's 'unconscious' look like a dirty postcard. Not only was it all fully conscious, it was all out in the open and entirely Public! One can only stand amazed at such an achievment and become conscious that, in such matters, we 'Moderns' have sunk to a level of such urbanistic incompetence and stupidity that we do not even know how low we are.
THE BLUEPRINT OF ALBERTI'S 'GOLDEN BOMB'.
Slowly, as I grew used to Rome, I found myself walking around it with two notions of its Being simultaneously present. I had the city as it physically was, the city of stone and traffic and people and shops, the city I knew with my feet, hands, body and nose, and the City as it was to my mind, the Ideal City. Perhaps especially because I was an Architect (but I am sure everyone feels this), I developed a desire to see more of Rome's beautiful Monuments. By this I mean see them in the round: complete and whole. I wanted to 'dig them out' of the pleasant soft, amiable houses that pressed in upon them from every side. I wanted to stand back and admire their magnificence. for when one is inside the great volumes of her temples, her churches and palaces, one naturally assumes that the beauty of their interior would result in an equally beautiful exterior. But, of course, baroque Rome being what it is, and not Versailles, one can not see the external walls as they were all 'buried'. The imagination is then seized by an involuntary energy. It excavates the Monuments of Rome. The 'mind's eye clears everything away, rendering the city exactly as it has, peculiarly enough, been frequently drawn, over the ages, as a bucolic landscape dotted by great, free-standing, buildings.
Then the level plain of roof-top Attica descends, like a tablecloth fluttering down onto grass, set for an alfresco repast, to clothe the newly denuded earth with the pre-existing Landscape of Classicism. The Altanes come down to Earth, complete with Greek statues, their well-rehearsed, yet inscrutable, mythic scripts, and everything required to set the whole 'scene' into powerful and fascinating motion.
The mind's eye, without any instruction realises a compelling idea of the city, and idea that will not depart from my mind, at least, even in the busiest street. It is the vision of it 'in illo tempore' as it was in the mythical Golden Age - at the 'beginning'. I am continuously refreshed by this powerful vision, for it brings to mind peace and calm, as well as Nature, and also all of the emotionally and intellectually rewarding mythologies of Hellenism, albeit 'Romanised'. In short it is that most peculiar of phenomena, a conceptual landscape that is mapped one-to-one onto a functional, real, physical, natural landscape: that of a bustling 'city-machine'. Moreover, and this is of course the most rewarding aspect of it for Architecture, the mechanism is precisely the Monuments, those seemingly useless, over inflated giant, monocellular 'houses for giants'. For it is these that exist in both worlds, registering, the one exactly over the other like the tracings architects use to draw their buildings. But further also than this is the fact that the mechanism does not 'work' if one merely puts up large buildings in a 'park'. One must also bury them in masses of rentable space!
The 'mental mechanism' does not work unless the 'urge to view' is frustrated. It also helps to screw-up the street-plan, denying long views so that once again the inner eye of the imagination is favoured over the easy optical route to environmental comprehension and lifespace image-building.
A TECHNIQUE TO DIE FOR.
I mean, how clever can one get? 'Best Practice' in Baroque Rome combined a lack of orderly street-planning, massive over-building, and the construction of truly magnificent Monuments - to create the most conceptually sophisticated system of dense city-planning ever invented, so far as I know, by any culture, anywhere. I know of no other system capable of making the dense city the main motor and engine of its technique. Most other site-planning strategies, Chinese, Hindu, Mayan, Beaux-Arts, Cubist, and so on, are far more literal-minded. They use only 'Monuments' and can not accommodate masses of 'housing' in-between them. 20C 'Decon' is a conceptual failure - in the sense that it fails to 'work'. The proof is that it now needs to be 'explained' to the world with 'architecturally applied captions' fixed to its inarticulate flanks by 'Critical Theorists'! Can a medium sink lower than having its 'meaning' tied to it with a label?
The name that I have given to the Monument in this technique is the Occluded Temple. The city-planning strategy I call "Alberti's Golden Bomb" - because it 'removes whole cities' leaving only the Monuments: the 'buildings' of the Golden Age.
AN EXTREME LEVEL OF FUNCTION FOR 'WESTERN SPACE'
It is perhaps the most extreme example of the operation of what I have been describing as 'Western Interior Space'. For the experience of the Interiors of the Temples of Rome, when conjoined with the remainder of this carefully planned and minutely regulated city , has the effect of conceptually 'blasting the City away'. How hopelessly wrong was Sitte with his feeble recourse to the 'picturesque' - standby of urbanistic illiterates everywhere!
The 'prising-open' of the soft, earthy, indigenous dwelling-mass, by the insertion of the cut-marble, painted, gilded temples, has the effect of setting in train a 'phenomenological narrative' of a scale which, through clearly subjective in motivation, is 'virtually objective' in its scale and dimension. Rome is only a tiny piece of space when viewed globally, but from the viewpoint, and consciousness, of a mere humanoid, it is a whole city and no small thing. The whole of Baroque Rome is certainly far, far, bigger than anything that one would normally imagine could be manipulated by processes that would probably, today, such is our intellectual impoverishment, be called 'artistic'.
Although wonderfully clever, powerful and effective in its working, Alberti's Golden Bomb is not a technique that we can use, unaltered or unconsidered, today. And this is not because we have to assume that no-one, today, will know the Hellenic Myths. Humanist Rome still works on the human imagination even if one knows nothing of Greek, Latin, Italian, Painting or Architecture.
THE PURSUIT OF AN 'ARTISANAL' REFUGE.
The time has passed when Architects knew more of history and culture than large sectors of the General Public. Architecture has become so artisanal that a young architect must spend his years continually tinkering under the bonnet of his electronic drawing board or astonishing his peers with sculptures made, by hand, from exotic materials, usually culled from the refuse heaps of Engineering Technologies. Because of this compulsive drive to an orginality, which must remain for ever obscure and shocking, the young Architect must learn more about 'materials and technology' than any Engineer. A young Architect, today, has neither the time, nor the inclination, to acquire literacy, even in the History, and the Theory, of his own Medium. What use would it be to his 'peer-group' reputation?
So if it is sophistication and literacy in Architecture, as a 9,000-year old Medium, that one seeks, it is inadvisable to turn to the contemporary Architect.
So the reason for rejecting Alberti's Golden Bomb is not that it is unpopular with an increasingly sophisticated Public. The metamorphosis of Las Vegas from jolly cowpoke saloon into Steve Wynne's Polystyrene Palazzi gives the lie to that Modernist fancy. The main problem with unlocking the 'taboo' on decoration exercised by Hardline Modernism is that one is immediately overwhelmed by a flood of semi-literate Cartoon Classicism commissioned by Clients who have seen it, been there, and read all about it.
YESTERDAY'S WEAPON IS TODAY'S RUINED BATTLEFIELD.
The aspect that condemns Alberti's Golden Bomb to History is that it implies a political, social, and cultural model that, while still arguable, and, for all that we know even 'credible', is not acceptable to contemporary ethics. This reason for this can best be explained by grasping why the 'bomb' was fashioned in the first place. One must go back, in one's imagination, to the centuries immediately after the turning of the first millenium after Christ. Warfare was continuous at all levels of the West. 'States' were agglomerations, scattered here and there over Europe, picked out at random from the accidents of dynastic inheritance validated by feudal laws of succession. The best organised institutions were theocratic, the foundations of the Church. Into this came the revival of the Cities that had all but disappeared from the map of Europe after the invasions of the Classical Empire by the successive waves of Northerners and Easterners.
Eventually, four centuries after the Cosmos had suprised everyone by not ending the History of the World in the year 1000, a point was reached when a small nucleus in Italy proposed that a State should have a unitary boundary and a City with an access to the sea. This city would institute trade, manufacture and banking. It would institute philosophy, science and the arts. The head of its administration would be a professional politician, which they termed the 'Prince', from the italian 'Principi' - meaning simply Number One or The First. Politics was studied, as were all other subjects, as a 'Scienza', that is deduced from rational precepts and founded on evidence. The whole enterprise was aimed in one direction only. This was to make things work better. People were tired of custom and superstition and cult as the main guides to action. This was the birth of the Rational State.
NOTHING SO 'UNNATURAL' AS HUMAN REASON
The odd thing was that in order to institute this world of reason, it was found necessary to situate it in a lifespace constructed so as to reify a total fiction. To act in accord with 'reason', and so to fly in the face of custom and superstition, it was found necessary to institute a 'fictive reality' whose effect was calculated to 'legitimise' the seemingly contrary, arbitrary, and taboo-breaking actions of the Prince of Reason and his well-informed, carefully-considered, and efficiently-run Bureaucracy. The Prince, who obtained his power through calculation and superior skill in Politics, could no longer rely on the approval of the Church, or the Feudality - for he deliberately refused to allow them that power over him which they previously enjoyed. So he calculated his pedigree, as did the Bourbon Monarchs of Naples, from Hercules himself.
THE IDEAL STATE: A STATE OF IDEALITY.
He installed his lifespace, and that of his administration, within a complex machine, as carefully-wrought as any 20C Megastructure, which, in these late-baroque palaces, extended to a practically regional dimension that included the whole city within the theatrical geometry of the Court. The 'gardens' of Caserta were, as George Hersey reveals in "--- ----", so huge that they really needed a railway train to conveniently traverse their full extent. But to understand such an invention as a 'house and garden' is to entirely mistake its nature! It was a 'state' that, as yet, lacked the tools to extend itself to its proper, rational, dimension. One could say that it had become the prey of its own, originally instrumental, 'Antique-ing' ideology. It had become the prisoner of its enabling mythology.
But I advance to the end of the story of the 'Antique', just before its substitution by the new legitimising rituals of the ephemeral media, the suffrage and the market-place (in chronological order). To understand Alberti's Golden Bomb one must 'stay Mediaeval'. One must imagine cities which had grown up essentially as refuges from invading cultures, such as those of the Saxons in Britain, who regarded the abandoned Roman Cities as places occupied by devils and evil spirits. Order and discipline were only found in the large rustic estates of the Invaders. The Latin-speaking Britons, accustomed to the state of Citizenship bestowed by the Empire, were enslaved as agricultural serfs by their Saxon overlords. The cities to which the farm-labourers escaped were walled labyrinths from which the pursuing feudal lord was banned. But this was not until the cities had bought their Royal Charter with trader's and banker's gold. Kings prefer their taxes in sterling rather than the chickens and pigs of baronial tithes.
BURYING THE FUTURE IN THE PAST.
Inheriting the real chaos of mediaeval Mantua, rather than the ideal city diagrams of Filarete, Alberti began to forge the lifespace of the Rational State at its focus: the Palace of the Prince, and that of his Administration. The only witer to give, even an inkling, of what Alberti invented, is Professor Mark Jarzombek who maintains that Alberti, after building the church of San Andrea as close to its Mediaeval bell-tower as he could, allowed the old row of shops to be built back between the side of the giant new 'temple' and the Piazza d'Herbe - the vegetable market of Mantua. After clearing the site, and building the biggest new building in the city, he deliberately allowed it all to disappear from sight again. The only exception was its huge, Roman-scaled entrance facade. This was a novelty, as well, for it replicated the form of a triumphal arch 'all' Antica'.
It is true that the shops would pay some rent to the church. But this was not sufficient reason for his peculiar urban strategy. Jarzombek argues that Alberti intended a cunning deception. His ambition was to 'bury' the new body of the Antique Temple, as pure, muscular and beautiful as any Hellenic athlete, into the soft old chaos of the city, so as to make it seem as if it had been there 'from the beginning'. He intended people to feel, even if they knew different, that this was the 'original' building, the abode of the Giants, Titans and Heroes of the Golden Age, around which the city had grown-up in the successive ages of Man's fall from Reason and Nature, Truth and Science.
JARZOMBEK UNEARTHS THE TRUTH.
This peculiar idea comes only in the last five pages of Jarzombek's book: "Leon Baptista Alberti - his literary and aesthetic theories", MIT, 1989. It is , accompanied by an apology for not discoursing more on 'Architecture', and with the promise of a second volume to rectify the 'omission'. Perhaps Professor Jarzombek intended to fulfil this promise. Or perhaps he only put it in to deflect the ire of the 'official academic police' who inflate the status of De re Architectura to the Definitive Architectural Text. In any case his exposition of Alberti's 'textual project' and the part played in it by city-design, is of far more importance to the contemporary practitioner than anything in De re. I would ask him, very sincerely, that if he ever fulfilled this promise, he do so by subjecting Alberti's design manual to the light of Alberti's literary project. If that meant discarding most of it as 'bluff' then so much the better. If not then at least a Practitioner would have some practical tools that had a credible literary pedigree.
My reader will understand why I appreciate the Professor's book, from my description of the 'understanding' that I formed of my experience of Renaissance and Baroque Rome. Jarzombek proves that I had divined its nature rightly. The 'picturesque chaos' that Camillo Sitte described so well, and failed to decipher, had an elaborate and carefully calculated plan behind its costly and deliberate works. These were not the absent minded splatterings and splashings of some half-cut 'artist' painting a chaotically muddled 'picture'. The Princely Palazzi of the Italians installed the Antique lifespace of the Rational State. They cocooned it inside the body of their densely-occupied, and defensively-walled, competing city-states. They constructed, chamber by chamber, the marble archaeology of a world older than History, a world before the arrow of Time had left its bow.
THE MAP OF THE MINEFIELD
A document that well-delineates the state of Rome at its Baroque zenith, the plan of Nolli, describes how each Golden Mine is isolated from its surrounding 'domestic' mass. The city is drawn, very directly, as a field of solid black, in which exist, seemingly inserted at random, the monocellular white gaps of the principal palaces and churches, every one of them glorious with marbles, colour, gilding, statuary and painting, all evoking, like a perfume that brooks no amnesia, a world as primal as any described by Freud. Perspective itself, as argued by Gordana Korolija, was invented in order to open the walls and floors and ceilings of these 'civic cavities' to the landscape of the Golden Age. Its mythic populations swarmed in and out of these omnipresent proscenia into the 'transcendent' reality of Antiquity. The rituals of the court imitated Hellenic Heroes in both dress and deportment.
CORRIDORS OF POWDER
The Courts of New Reason were sealed-off from the remainder of the Mediaeval City behind thick, soft, frescoed, walls. The superabundant thickness of these great supports go by the name of 'poche' in French. It is as if to indicate that, like Poacher's Pockets, one may keep something secreted inside their opaque bulk. When one sees, in works of architectural restoration, that such walls are cored, not with steel or concrete, as ours are today, but merely with soft rubble and dust, one can indeed give them over to the possession of these glamorous ghosts, the 'figures in the frescoes'. Their muscled bodies use the walls as passages, and we see them, as through a window, when they pass behind some gilded picture frame , obeying, as Behrens said of Corbusier, "all the laws of perspective".
The ritual of the Court, carried on in these privileged lifespaces, invested their princely protagonists with the desired genealogy back to the Real, the True and Natural. How could a Courtier doubt, situated on this chessboard of perspective theatre, along with the Hellenising Texts that constituted polite learning, that the Prince did not embody Hercules himself?
It has been seemingly impossible for 19C and 20C Architects to understand Alberti's technique because it worked so well. For it did, ultimately 'dematerialise' the dense city. The patient sapping and mining of Renaissance Architects, Painters and Sculptors so enleavened the Mediaeval city that, in the 18C Enlightenment, the cut stone 'Monumenti' were denuded of their domestic detritus to stand free and breezy with the winds of change whistling around every complicated, rubbish-trapping, figure of architectural rhetoric.
Camillo Sitte, antiquarian romantic that he was, decried this isolation of the Antique Temple in a cordon sanitaire of civic space. He still advised that they be buried into one side of their Plazas. He accused his contemporaries of being lesser men than those of the 15C, and lacking what he lamely described as an 'x-factor' - always a sign of flagging invention in a Theorist. What Sitte may have overlooked was that the 18C not only wanted to bring these peculiar 'monstrosities', these carved and coloured 'Homes for Hellenic Giants and Heroes' out into the light of day. The Enlightening gaze also wanted to open the doors and let the light of Reason flood into their 'magic-working' interiors.
THE ENLIGHTENING BLAST
The 18C wanted to dispel all superstition, all functionings that could not be described in physical, mechanical, 'Newtonian', terms. Architecture became statical engineering - yes back in the 1750's. Its most refulgent embodiments were isolated in their own piece of urban space as much to prevent any contagion of the 'occluded' spreading to the remaining body of the City, as to examine their stupendous physique and elaborate cosmetic in the harsh light of day.
During the 18C and 19C the image of the Monument in its Arcadian setting provided the controlling model for all Western Architecture and urban planning. Nor was this vision abandoned in the 20C.
REAL DYNAMITE: THE CITY LIFTS OFF.
Corbusier himself is incontrovertible proof of this. He not only published his commitment to the 'Golden Age' project, but explained, in the 'Home of Man' how his techniques would literally bring it about, in real, physical, natural 'today' space! How could one resist such an audacious offer! Corbusier's Urbanism was, as many now discern, a terminal disaster for urbanity. But because of its conformity to the ideology of Antiquity that underlies the Renaissance, and so the main effort of Western lifespace engineering up to this day (including both High-Tech as well as Minimalism) Architects, their Clients, and the Public still find it hard to dismiss '20C' town planning techniques at a more general, abstract, level. 'Houses in Greenery', and 'Towers in a Park' are still a powerfully appealing 'image' of the city, even though people also know, from experience, that they do not make a City, but a Cemetery of Urbanity.
The imperative for Modernity is to finally exorcise the Curse of the Antique while retaining, like Post-Cubist graphic design, all of the brilliant technical inventions that its dead White Western practitioners have bequeathed to posterity. For this is the only way that we will recover a rational urban technique for the urbanistically deconstructed West.
TOOLS FOR OUR TIME: SCRIPTING SPACE AND SURFACE
While we can not invoke Arcadia as a place where the 'vanishing points' of Reason meet in the Golden Age, we can use Architectural figures, of far greater age than the 15C, to embody the Act of Foundation, or the Time of the Beginning - the point from which the Time of an Institution is chronicled. We can employ the Fiery Raft of the Founders, or the 'finders', together with the Mountain of Water to which it cleaves. We can deploy the 'Act of Foundation', the arbitrary and violent moment of decision, embodied in the vertical strike of 'energy'. We can rehearse the phylogeny and ontogeny of Mankind springing out of the chamber of the 'dark sun', the agency that was 'always there' inside the submarine mountain of the 'given'.
None of this metaphorical, architectural, 'narrative machinery' needs to be 'buried', and hidden away, as did that of the Golden Bomb, so as to ensure its 'working'. This can be seen from Duncan Hall, a very public building on the Campus of Rice University - a place, in addition, where some other, neighbouring, buildings evidence a congruently performative iconography. On Rice JOA have used tools, such as the Roof Garden, bequeathed to us by the Roman Seneca, who decried them as unnatural and useless. Alberti, as befits a later, more sophisticated, writer, made Roof Gardens serve as the 'Attica'. We, living later still, and neither entirely illiterate nor yet culturally extinct, can similarly employ the Roof Garden as the Ark of Primordialities carried by the Raft of the Founders.
THE RITUAL OF ENTERING THE 'SPACE OF TIME'.
In our 'Sixth Order' Architecture we show, by inscribing the canonic logs of the Entablature with white scrolls on a blue ground, that this Rafted Ark found its way to its Attic Ararat across the Ocean of the Voice - that is to say by Discourse in the Medium of Air - otherwise known as sitting in committees and talking for years on end! Its tubes carried the fire of Prometheus, shafted into the 'empowering' cubic lattice of trabeated columns and beams. Every column in Rice, as a Working Column, an 'Ordine Robotico', harbours the electromechanical physics of contemporary power. As a Talkin' Column interior columns show red and yellow bands that embody the truth that 'fire and energy', both real and mythic, course along their orthospatial geomantics.
On the exterior of Rice the columns show as swelling pilasters in the flanks of the sundered Mountain that was once below the darkness of the Sea. Sedimentary deposits of polychrome brick snake around every indent of column and spandrel, arch and pilaster, signalling the insistent vertical invasion by 'that which came from afar' and its subsequent recovery, reclamation and overtopping by 'that which was always there' .
Inside the Submarine Mountain, hollowed from its core by the Western Act of Defiance, the Empire of the Forest suffers the deduction of certain of its infinite hypostyle of columns. Their trace is left on the five-colour terrazzo floors of the Hall and away down the 'River-Street' that courses down from the Gardens of the Entablature. These footprints, inlaid amongst the sandbars of the river of Somatic time, recall to us that we live within a space cut from the twin darknesses of Infinity and Matter before the invasion of Light and Time. We tread the stage of History, but we pass through the lightless apparation of Ararat before the Ark. One can not Exist except in the presence of Negation. All else is illusion.
Broken-open by the Act of Foundation, and having exfoliated according to the patterns of our own Phylogenetic History, the 'airy voice' of the New Foundation flows away over the 'New Earth'. These are the 'new fields' it aims to irrigate, impregnate and harvest. They are Fields that its Narrative of Foundation brings forth and projects as its voice flows over the dry wastes of the silent deeps.
The 'crash-landing' of the Raft of the Exotic, striking into the timeless, oceanic' Empire of the Forest, is guided by the 'submarine mountain of inertia' and its entombed 'dark sun'. The attraction of the Raft of the Exotic for the Mountain of the Indigenous creates the inner space of the Institution in the form of a new 'Republic of the Valley'. The interior spaces of the Valley are articulated according to the Event-Horizons of the Fluvial Narrative. The internal surfaces of the Valley are scripted by images projected onto them. These encode both the ideas that generated the new home of the Institute and the ideas that were generated by the process of forming its inner spaces. The Valley-Republic is vaulted by the luminous microcosmos of the Institue and floored by its darkest and remotest orginal genealogies.
The 'Valley', and what remains of the 'Mountain' are penetrated vertically by the ever-present columns of the Hypostyle of Infinity. These, in turn, are threaded-through by the walks and passages through the lower parts of the columns of the 'Walk-In' Order. A personification of an idea can be inscribed into each of these 'columns of light'. 'Iconic engineering' by its inexpensive techniques, can inscribe other embodiments into the high level 'tondos' just below the 'rafted roof'. Because these occur on walls, rather than on the inherently transcendent floor and ceiling, these will best evoke ideas and persons specific to the Institution.
THE 'SPACE OF THE STATE'
This is the longest essay on the JOA Website, and arguably its most important. It records, in exhaustive, and most probably exhausting, detail, the highways and byways I have explored in my attempt to understand the meaning of what I call "the Raft and the Mountain". I will now summarise my conclusions. But, rather than record these alone, I wanted to trace the wanderings of my quest. The proof of a pudding my be in the eating, but the gourmand acquires an extra dimension to his digestion by knowing something of the culture of a cuisine.
The old, high, Architecture is a symbolic structure which, for reasons I can not understand, has never been entirely deciphered. Its purpose is to demonstrate the nature of society. This is not to say that the whole of the human lifespace must be encompassed within an Architectural dimension. It is however to say that unless its permanent 'domestic' institutions are so situated, they will lack any sense of their real nature.
The relation of the 'Raft' to the 'Mountain' symbolises the interaction of the rulers and the ruled. The Raft represents ordered, invasive, fiery, Light. The Mountain symbolises massive, eternal, fecund, darkness.
BIRTH OF THE EGO
In Freudian terms the Raft is the Super-ego, the Mountain the Id and the results of their conjunction the emergence of the Ego in the theatre of appearances that is the Valley of the Republic. The old, high Architecture was not only not afraid of delineating the precondiitons of this drama, in that both Super-ego and Id were made manifest as the given, external, circumstances to the emergence of the individual Ego, but it proclaimed the triumph of the Ego over its domineering cultural superstructure and immovable natural inheritance. The old Architecture showed the power of the novel Ego shining outwards onto the walls of the chamber of its priviledged 'architectural' theatre such that it projected its synthesizing vision outwards upon the circumstances of its birth, dominating both of its 'upper' and 'lower' extremities with its power.
FREEDOM FROM THE CONSTRAINTS OF BIRTH THE ESSENCE OF HISTORY.
Nor did the old Architecture avoid the fact that a certain arbitrary violence was a necessary catalyst to the the conjunction of the 'external', pre-existing' entities of the forces of the id and super-ego. The super-ego floats without visible means of support until joined to its 'prey', the submarine mountain. The mountain of nature slumbers as peacefully as any tribe of hunter-gatherers, pursuing one aeon after another in unchanging, pre-historic, innocence, until the catastrophic arrival of the 'super-structured' Colonist. The question is not whether this event is good or bad, for it is inevitable. The only question of importance is whether its subsequent history is good or bad, for that is in the power of the Ego, that is to say the 'polity', that emerges out of the inevitable catastrophe of birth.
The primary model of the 'union of opposites' is the original catastrophe of the cosmic big bang itself. The main interest is not in what caused it, but what unrolled from it. That is to say it is not the nature of the invading 'ruler' nor the nature of the pre-historic mass of the 'ruled' that is the point of interest, but the history of the result of their conjunction - the unrolling of the Space of Infinity and its articulaltion into the 'Republic of the Valley'. Our own time is peculiarly interested in these two 'extra-historical' extremities only because we are so appalled by the recent disasters of our own history - that we can call, generically, the soiled 'political Ego' of the West. What can we look forward to, as projects worthy of the cataclysmic conjunction of rulers and ruled, that can compare with the barbarities of the two wars which saw the end of the 'Western' battles for global supremacy?
Looking back on our history we can see that the antinomy between rulers and ruled is a necessary polarisation. For it characterises all 'mature' cultures. Mature states have solved the problem of governance, which is how to make this polarity work for the general good and, like marriage, how to create children that surpass their gendered parents. Out of this 'agon' comes that necessary state of argument and thought which centres policy and invention in all fields of human thought and action. One can, of course argue about the nature of this 'ordering' of the social. The variety of its design has been great. Everyone who considers this matter will have their preferred system: from hereditary Monarchy, to a bloodline Aristocaracy, to a commercial Plutocracy, to Machiavelli's professional ruler, to Athenian semi-anarchy, to universal, Parliamentary, suffrage, to Presidential government, one Party Dictatorship and so on and so forth.
THE COLLAPSED EGO AND THE 'END OF HISTORY'
But there can be few periods of history in which the antinomy itself is denied, as it increasingly is today. The current mood is one of a distaste for the very theatre of both complicity, as well as antinomy, that has, heretofore, always been considered the necessary 'space of (political) appearances' (as Hannah Arendt described it) out of which emerges the 'novel being' the very raison d'etre of governance, which is 'history' itself. The mood today is not merely that the relation between governor and governed is problematic, which has never been denied, but that it is as evil as it as unnecesary. Yet the truth is that this desire to blur and obscure this antinomy is the result of the disasters that have overcome the West. The new consensus is that the process of the creation of the governing institutions and persons, and their relation to the persons that they govern, is best kept as far in the background as possible. The governed are best given the impression that they govern themselves, while being encouraged to develop as many 'natural' appetites as possible. The agents of governance follow these 'consumer trends' with increasing accuracy, both keeping them under control, as well as deriving revenue from increasingly indirect systems of fiscal impost.
The State itself becomes invisible, and also extremely rich. Yet its wealth can not be devoted to manifesting itself in the old way, as the 'ego' of its citizens. This is a prohibited utterance, at whatever scale of inscription. Its fiscal energies can only be devoted to the task of rescuing its citizens, one-by-one, from the excesses of their appetitites and then encouraging novel ones. It is a strange, dreary, non-history, executed in an interminably minor key, and can only bring on an extreme state of ennui in anyone with a view of things larger than that over the garden gate into a suburban cul-de-sac.
The peculiar quality of this state of statehood is that it entirely lacks that quality of the ambition to achieve great things that is the precise product of the 'space of appearances'. What can we call this quality? If it is civilised, (and the reason it has now vanished is that it proved not so to be during the 20C) it is less than politics and more than politeness. It is more general than policy, for policies should be precise, whereas this quality is pervasive and general. My provisional title is 'polity'. All these terms are, of course, descended from 'polis' - an Hellenic word that has always lacked an Anglo-Saxon translation. Perhaps the reason that we have no architecture today, in the Anglo-Saxon world, is partly the result of lacking this idea of a generalised 'polity' that is the activity and history of the 'polis'. Anglo-Saxon culture is, of course, in the ascendant, at least via its U.S. mutation. Yet every vital culture invents its own prophylactic, its own cure for its own lacks. It is for this reason, and for no other, that my most radically 'polity-cal' building, commissioned by Texan millionaires, rests in the USA, in Rice University.
THE MEANING OF ARCHITECTURE
The symbolic creation of the Space of Appearances exists, in a contemporary form, in the Architecture of Duncan Hall. The fundamental 'meaning' of Duncan Hall is that its internal 'valley-space' is the archetypal space of association - in all of its many varieties, small and large. This theatre of appearances is situated in the space of eternity and created by the ritual drama of the antinomy between the invading raft and the resistant mountain. From this violent embrace, whose record is engraved in the lifespace of the Faculty of Computation, unrolls the full magnificence of the ritual of 'Western' public Architectural space. This includes, for the first time for many decades, the phenomena of the projection outwards, upon the planes of cubic, Architectural space, of the proper iconic inventions of the Architectural Interior. In Duncan Hall Architecture is reborn as the Mother of the Art of the Polis.
End of "Raft of Fire, Mountain of water",
Return to "Act of Foundation ®". .
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