Last Wednesday our group headed out to Villa Savoye and the Maison Carré; I was very impressed. We ended up renting cars and heading out from Gare de l’Est. It was about a 30 minute drive to Villa Savoye, then another 45 minutes to the Maison Carré. Apparently the Maison had just opened from a huge renovation. We decided that the traffic would be too heavy heading back into the city, so we stopped at a small town. A couple of us had drinks; I thought it was a good time to try a macaron (delicious). We made it back late that night and although it was tiring, it was a really fun day.
I am relatively skeptical of Le Corbusier’s design methods. As such, I was skeptical upon approaching the house. I didn’t much like the way it looked in reality, even though it does look good in pictures. Upon entering the house, everything changed. It was very beautiful, and the absense of decoration synergized with the complexity of space.
I apologize about the size of the pictures, but I know there is a plethora of pictures in circulation of the Villa Savoye. It was really interesting actually going somewhere that you have seen in pictures so many times. I wasn’t starstuck per se, but I was definitely feeling like I was in the presence of a celebrity.
I actually knew of Alvar Aalto before Le Corbusier. In fact, this was one of the first houses I really enjoyed looking at. For me, visiting the Maison was the fulfillment of a fading memory. In a way, I like this house less than Savoye, because the focus on details is occasionally confusing. I found Savoye to lack things to hate; I’d compare this to pop music. Aalto definitely has portrayed different cultural influences well in the house – and it shows up through wood. If the wood were stripped off the house, it would be all white like Savoye. Seeing this “imperfection” is frustrating not only because wood is beautiful, but because it surely represented the owners taste. Part of me wants to strip it off, but in this case the decoration sets the house apart.
On a side note, I love to take off my shoes when booties are provided for a tour. It kind of makes me feel more at home.
Anyway, I’ll be posting on the first week of classes at La Villette on Thursday. They have been going really well so far: I have quite a few stories to tell.
I’ve made it back from Oktoberfest all in once piece. It was quite a whirlwind, but I finally feel like I’m back in Paris. I’ll post about the fest later in the week; I don’t want to think much more about all the beer that I just drank. I’m starting studio and regular classes tomorrow; I’m really excited. I wrote this piece over the summer in New York City and I really enjoy what I’ve found.
So I am sitting over Times Square in the Marriott having a drink. I’m looking at the new TKTS booth – it consists of red, lit steps down on the street. One of the functions of the stairs is to take pictures of the street from an elevated level. This isn’t immediately apparent. In a particularly funny way, the stairs stand for what Times Square is all about. People on the street watch people take pictures from the steps and they are attracted to it. They want to go because so many others are there taking pictures. Once they get to the top, they realize the purpose of the stairs: to view the spectacle of Times Square from an elevated level. By being at a spectacle of Times Square and viewing the spectacle of Times Square, one feels a part of it.
I have recently talked to my friends in Paris about the moth instinct that we seem to have. It could be a human fear of darkness, but I’ve always found that when I am lost it is best to go towards the light. I don’t know if these steps have to do with that, but maybe the excess light is a comforting property of Times Square.
Our group rented some cars yesterday and drove out into the French countryside. We saw Villa Savoye and Maison Carré, which apparently just opened for visitors. Hopefully I’ll get some pictures up soon.
I’ll be heading off to Munich today around 10pm Paris time to take the night train to Oktoberfest! I should be back by Sunday, so I’ll have another post then. It is actually something I wrote in New York City over the summer about spectacle.
Stay thirsty my friends!
James May of Britain’s show Top Gear is set to move into a house made of Lego soon. Apparently, the idea came up over a beer. I would have loved this as a little kid, and I definitely enjoy it now. It seems to be a normal wooden framed house with Lego wrapped around the structural members. It should be interesting to see some interior shots if they ever come out – I really want to see how that Lego toilet would work. Maybe from this Legos will inspire a new generation of prefabricated building materials.
A side note: There are holes in the facade – maybe Ronchamp inspired?
When we enter a new place, whether in life, physicality, or emotion, a new mental space is entered. This space is implanted within physical space by the mind as a way to comprehend and ultimately understand its surroundings. Arriving in Paris has helped me see things this way. One night the people I came to Paris with and I were standing on our balcony talking, and I realized that, by speaking in a “foriegn” language, we were isolating ourselves from the Parisians outside. If we can isolate ourselves with language, we do not exist in the same place as those around us. I am beginning to assimilate into the Parisian culture, and as I do so, I will move towards a closer understanding of reality. It is the goal of the architect to understand this reality. This reality might be even closer to the conception Parisians have of their city, simply because we in the program will know how two large cultures react in a city space. Knowing the culture that built a place is important, but architects must also know the common denominator of humanity.
Right now, I’m in Paris, where I’ll be living for another 9 months or so. I am doing a study abroad program through Georgia Tech’s Architecture program. I’ll be studying at ENSAPLV in the northeastern part of the city near Parc de La Villette . My apartment in Montmartre is looking great – we moved in just over a week ago. I will have a studio headed by Gernot Riether that will be starting in a week. He didn’t give us too much information about what the project would be, but he did say it would be a larger scale project situated near Parc de La Villette.
I look forward to posting a bunch of new things soon!
Reading Kevin Lynch makes me think the answer to this question lies within memory associations. Psychologically I do not understand them, but I know them from my own experience. Why does designing fast food restaurants for a living sound terrible? We know that humans strive to be different, so is duplicated art and architecture a sin? The idea that one could expresses something exactly the same way as someone else is unnerving.
Let’s examine the nature of duplication. This concept lies within Typology; similar to Taxonomy. We have an item, and it has qualities. Let’s take a tree for instance. A tree has a trunk, roots, branches, and leaves (or some other method of gathering sunlight). So a tree is something with these things. A type of tree shares similar looking or functioning versions of these things in common. So a fast food restaurant has a particular style. The style is based on colors, veneers, the facades, etc.
What about the duplication of place? To a certain level, we all had our childhood hang-out spots, or have heard of them and understand their functioning. My childhood hang-out spot happened to be Oz Pizza, which is sadly closed now, but irrelevant to the point. The point is, that almost every day after school, I spent time in this place, Oz Pizza, and made memories there. These memories help me remember the place now, but also serve as an emotional connection to the place. Imagine if “Oz Pizza” opened yet again. I would probably be excited, and visit, but what if the inside were different? Could I count on the food to be the same? Hypothetically, if it was, it would be something that I like to call a local chain. This wording has little to do with proximity, even though it suggests more. A local chain has variation in place, but no variation in food. Six Feet Under is a restaurant that is a good example of this. This concept allows the consumer to create an individual sense of place for each location.
McDonald’s has a sense of place for each location, but that is by-and-large created by the surroundings. Say I can remember that something happened to me at McDonalds one time, such as, swinging back and forth in the swivel chairs and making a lot of noise. I was young; I probably did this at multiple locations, but if it were only one location, which one? The variation within the restaurants is not big enough to warrant an answer to the question. What if I remembered a really cool fish I saw on the wall in Six Feet Under? It could be either location, since both locations have tons of knick knacks hanging around. What if I remember that it was in a very large space? Well, It would have to be the Six Feet Under in westside Atlanta, since the one near Oakland cemetery is very small.
This type of concept fascinates me; the style of architecture McDonalds has is more or less the same everywhere, a static duplication. Most “chains” share this same characteristic. They must share this characteristic for ease of design and replication – the store represents something about the owner through its “style.” I wonder what a chain store would be like if the designer were to style it somewhere in between it’s owner’s tastes and it’s surroundings. My boss and I were supposed to do a design for Octane Coffee in Midtown that took Midtown’s sleekness and Howell Mill’s Octane Location and ran them together, but it never pulled through.
So I decided to go on an adventure a couple days ago. A friend told me about Atlanta’s large intermodal terminal in the Northwest corner of the city. I followed the train tracks in my car, and eventually found it. It was far larger than I expected – It was bigger than I could really explain here.
Today, I decided to walk up to Javamonkey. I got an iced coffee, considering it was about 11am, and I wanted to leave the store. I wanted to go sit on the benches on Ponce de Leon and people watch. I got my coffee, found a good bench, and just sat down and watched. Saturday tends to be a good day for this, since there are a lot of people out and about. One of my friend’s mother died recently, and I intend to go spend some time with him today. This made me think about my own situation, and it made me appreciate people more. I saw a guy walk across the street, a little distressed, wearing a blue shirt, and scraggly baggy pants. He was walking quickly, and passed me. I didn’t think anything of it, and kept people watching. I looked to the right, near Starbucks, and saw that he was talking to some people down there. He and another guy walked up to the turn around, and the other guy was pointing towards something, and he was shaking his head. He walked away, looking a little distressed, and the pointing made me think that he was looking for the courthouse, since the other man was pointing in the same direction. He walked by looking at the old courthouse awkwardly, which made me think that the other man was directing him to the wrong place. Decatur has two courthouses, an old stone one that is used for weddings and such, and the new one, the official DeKalb County Courthouse. Being the official courthouse for DeKalb county, it is the reason a small portion of the population in Decatur is there in the first place, so very often locals are asked where it is. The man stood by the bench next to me though, looking confused. I decided to get up, and I asked him if he was lost.