Category Archives: architecture

One man’s junk is another’s man treasure

Researching Learning from Las Vegas occasioned by the death of Robert Venturi made me stumble upon God’s Own Junkyard [above].

Two pictures of that book are reproduced in Learning from Las VegasGod's Own Junkyard

God’s Own Junkyard is a work of cultural pessimism which laments the uglification of the United States landscape.

As happens so often, one man’s junk is another’s man treasure and the scenery decried in God’s Own Junkyard is glorified in Learning from Las Vegas.

RIP Paul Virilio (1932 – 2018)

Paul Virilio was a French theorist, urbanist, and aesthetic philosopher.

He is best known for his book Bunker Archeology (1975), a book I discovered one lonely night in Brussels spent with a young woman at her place. She had acquired it that same afternoon.

One of the bunkers of the Atlantic Wall was photographed by myself in 2007 [1].

I’ve yet to hold a copy of this book in my hands.

Nightmares of emptiness and nightmares of overgrowth

The Jamnitzers were a family of goldsmiths who lived in the 16th century. They worked for very rich people and filled the ‘Schatzkammer‘ of Northern Europe with highly luxurious items, fuelling the general economy.

However, it is their works on paper which interest us here.

First there is the father, Wenzel Jamnitzer (1507/08 – 1585). He is the author of Perspectiva Corporum Regularium (1568), a fabulous work on  perspective and geometry. Of special interest in the Perspectiva is a series of architectural fantasies of spheres[1], cones[2] and tori[3].

Second there is the grandson, Christoph Jamnitzer (1563–1618). Where his grandfather favoured mathematical precision and the sounding voice of reason, the grandson, author of Neuw Grottessken Buch (1610), favoured sweeping curvilinearity, abject grotesqueries and feasts of unreason. The most famous print of Neuw Grottessken Buch is the Grotesque with two hybrid gristly creatures, shown left.

If you see the work of grandfather and grandson side by side, both Jamnitzers seemed to have been plagued by the sleep of reason, the grandfather suffering from nightmares of abandonment and the grandson challenged by nightmares of being overwhelmed by the dark forces of nature.

RIP Stanley Chapman (1925 – 2009)

RIP Stanley Chapman (1925 – 2009)[1]

via RIP  Stanley Chapman (1925 - 2009)  Fig.3 Stanley Chapman Cover illustration for Subsidia Pataphysica, no.1, 19 December              1965enlarge


Cover illustration for Subsidia Pataphysica, no.1, 19 December 1965

Stanley Chapman (19252009) was a British architect, designer, translator and writer. His interests included theatre and pataphysics. He was involved with founding the National Theatre of London, was a member of Oulipo of the year 1960, founder of the Outrapo and a member also of the French Collège de ‘Pataphysique, president the London Institute of ‘Pataphysics and the Lewis Carroll Society. His English translation of Hundred Thousand Billion Poems was received with “admiring stupefaction” by Raymond Queneau.

The Eiffel Tower @120

The Eiffel Tower @120

Eiffel Tower at the Exposition Universelle

The Eiffel Tower was inaugurated April 1, 1889 in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower is an iron tower in Paris, France. It is one of the tallest structures in Paris and one of the most recognized and visited monuments in the world. Named after its designer, engineer Gustave Eiffel, it stands as a symbol to the modernity of Nineteenth century Paris.

The tower was met with criticism from the public when it was built, with many calling it an eyesore. (Novelist Guy de Maupassant — who claimed to hate the tower — supposedly ate lunch at the Tower’s restaurant every day. When asked why, he answered that it was the one place in Paris where you couldn’t see the Tower.)

One of the great Hollywood movie clichés is that the view from a Parisian window always includes the tower. In reality, since zoning restrictions limit the height of most buildings in Paris to 7 stories, only a very few of the taller buildings have a clear view of the tower. The relationship Eiffel Tower/Paris is metonymical.

The Eiffel Tower was the second instance of modern architecture after the Crystal Palace, modern architecture understood to be driven by technological developments, a celebration of the aesthetics of iron, steel, concrete and glass.

Iron, steel, concrete and glass

I see modern architecture as primarily driven by technological and engineering developments, rather than artistic and social developments) and that the availability of new building materials such as iron, steel, concrete and glass drove the invention of new building techniques as part of the Industrial Revolution. The first example in this category is the Crystal Palace which used iron, steel, concrete and glass to house the Great Exhibition of 1851.

About 40 years later in France, the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated. It broke all previous limitations on how tall man-made objects could be—and at the same time offered a radically different environment in urban life.

The style was first verbally celebrated by futurist architect Antonio Sant’Elia in 1914 in his Manifesto of Futurist Architecture.

“The house of concrete, glass and steel, stripped of paintings and sculpture, rich only in the innate beauty of its lines and relief, extraordinarily “ugly” in its mechanical simplicity, higher and wider according to need rather than the specifications of municipal laws. It must soar up on the brink of a tumultuous abyss: the street will no longer lie like a doormat at ground level, but will plunge many stories down into the earth, embracing the metropolitan traffic, and will be linked up for necessary interconnections by metal gangways and swift-moving pavements. ”

Baron Haussmann @200, Haussmannization and creative destruction

Baron Haussmann @200

Paris_Arc_de_Triomphe by you.

Place de l’Étoile

Baron Haussmann (18091891) turned 200 today.

Haussmannwas a French urbanist who called himself an “artiste démolisseur,” literally translated as artist destroyer, a concept with a political equivalent of creative destruction. I’ve mentioned Haussmann and Haussmannization here [1] and here[2].

Haussmann’s renovation of Paris is often simply referred to as Haussmannization, connected to the notion of creative destruction, a political concept.

creative destruction, surplus product

The notion of creative destruction is found in the writings of Mikhail Bakunin, Friedrich Nietzsche, and in Werner Sombart‘s Krieg und Kapitalismus (War and Capitalism) (1913, p. 207), where he wrote: “again out of destruction a new spirit of creativity arises”. In Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter popularized and used the term to describe the process of transformation that accompanies radical innovation. It contrasts with various tactics of preservation and embalming the past.

Interestingly, Flaubert’s friend Maxime du Camp said:

“Paris, as we find it in the period following the Revolution of 1848, was about to become uninhabitable.” — [Paris Arcades] quoting from Maxime du Camp, Paris, vol 6 (Paris, 1875), p.253.


“Its population had been greatly enlarged and unsettled … and now this population was suffocating in the narrow, tangled, putrid alleyways in which it was forcibly confined.” — [Paris Arcades] quoting from Maxime du Camp, Paris, vol 6 (Paris, 1875), p.253.]

It was Jules Ferry who wrote “Les Comptes fantastiques de Haussmann,” his indictment of the bold handling of public funds for the Haussmannization. It was published in 1867, its title being a play on words between contes, stories or tales – as in Les contes d’Hoffmann or Tales of Hoffmann, and comptes, accounts.

Frank Gehry @70

Frank Gehry@70

Dancing House Prague by Frank Gehry by ccwrks

Dancing House, Prague by Frank Gehry and Vlado Milunić (photo by ccwrks)

Frank Gehry (born 28, 1929) is a Canadian-American starchitect based in Los Angeles, California, primarily associated with a strain of postmodern architecture, known as Deconstructivism.

His buildings, including his private residence, have become tourist attractions. Many museums, companies, and cities seek Gehry’s services as a badge of distinction, beyond the product he delivers.

His best known works include the titanium-covered Guggenheim Museum in  Spain, Walt Disney Concert Hall in the United States, Dancing House in the Czech Republic, and his private residence in California, which jump-started his career, lifting it from the status of “paper architecture“, a phenomenon which many famous architects have experienced in their formative decades through experimentation almost exclusively on paper before receiving their first major commission in later years.

La Fontaine Anspach

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La Fontaine Anspach, Vismarkt, Brussels

La Fontaine Anspach was originally located at the Place de Brouckère. It was displaced to the Vismarkt. The monument is an hommage to Jules Anspach.

It was designed by Emile Janlet with the collaboration of Paul De Vigne, Julien Dillens, Godefroid Devreese and Pierre Braecke. Georges Houtstont did the ornaments.

One I forgot:

I hope they never “clean” this. No matter how dirty, I always prefer it to the restauration.

Andrea Palladio @500


Andrea Palladio (November 30, 1508August 19, 1580), was an Italian architect. The Palladian style, named after him, adhered to Roman architecture principles and a search for classical perfection. The Palladian villa format was easily adapted for a democratic worldview, as can be seen in Thomas Jefferson‘s commissioned buildings. Palladian motifs made a comeback during the postmodern era, the American architect Philip Johnson frequently used them in his doorways.

Whither now, anarchitecture?


Some Office Baroque footage, Some footage similar to Office Baroque

Gordon Matta-Clark died thirty years ago today. He stayed in Antwerp for a while in 1977, just before his death, working with Florent Bex, creating Office Baroque, which he called anarchitecture. Pieces of his “building cuts” were sold around the world[1].

I like him, much as I like the near-contemporary and also short-lived Robert Smithson. Whither now, anarchitecture, and other visionary environments?