Archive for December, 2011

Hawksmoor’s churches – a partial tour


St Anne’s, Limehouse; St Georges in the East; Christchurch, Spitalfields; St Mary, Woolnoth.

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silence (iii)


My eternal fear is that if, for a brief moment, I stopped talking – you know – the whole spectacular appearance would disintegrate; people would think there is nobody and nothing there. And this is my fear: as if I am nothing, who pretends all the time to be somebody, and has to be hyperactive all the time just to fascinate people enough so that they don’t notice that there is nothing.

Slavoj Žižek in Žižek!, 2006. Film: Directed by Astra Taylor. 37:40

Koolhaas and his world


The first thing to confront you upon entering the OMA Progress exhibition at the Barbican is the following text of the acclaimed science-fiction writer, Philip K. Dick in huge font:

It is my job to create universes, as the basis of one novel after another. And I have to build them in such a way that they do not fall about two days later. Or at least that is what my editors hope. However, I will reveal a secret to you: I like to build universes which do fall apart. I like to see them come unglued, and I like to see how the characters in the novels cope with this problem. I have a secret love of chaos. There should be more of it.  Do not believe – and I am dead serious when I say this – do not assume that order and stability are always good, in a society or a universe. The old, the ossified, must always give way to new life and the birth of new things. Before the new things can be born the old must perish. This is a dangerous realization, because it tells us that we must eventually part with much of what is familiar to us. And that hurts. But that is part of the script of life. Unless we can psychologically accommodate change, we ourselves begin to die, inwardly. What I am saying is that objects, customs, habits, and ways of life must perish so that authentic human being can live. And it is the authentic human being who matters most, the viable, elastic organism which can bounce back, absorb, and deal with the new.

Philip K. Dick How to build a universe that doesn’t fall apart two days later, 1978

More insight may be gained into the workings of Koolhaas’ mind by listening to his ‘conversation’ with Peter Eisenman at the Canadian Centre for Architecture earlier this year. They discuss contemporaneous issues and how they contribute to the problems and answers. What is particularly fascinating is the manner in which Koolhaas delivers his speech – if you don’t watch the video, but rather only listen to the soundtrack, then you might be forgiven for thinking that these are the ramblings or trains of thought of a neurotic in an analysts chair.

Finally, also in the Barbican exhibition, there is a gallery of ‘influences’ that currently excite the OMA/ AMO studios. These are variously images, texts, collages etc. The following can only be partially tongue-in-cheek:


If the ‘war on terror’ made us more dogmatic atheists, did the other side maybe win after all? Maybe the way to address aberrant Evangelism or Islamo-whatever would be to imagine “good” religions and beliefs, instead of spending energy in proving that there is no God. I would like to believe that AMO could be part of a religious effort, an OMA temple, or monastery? Or short of that, an earnest pulpit?

silence (ii)


Silence frees us from the need to control others. One reason we can hardly bear to remain silent is that it makes us feel so helpless. We are accustomed to relying upon words to manage and control others. A frantic stream of words flows from us in an attempt to straighten others out. We want so desperately for them to agree with us, to see things our way. We evaluate people, judge people, condemn people. We devour people with our words.

Richard Foster Freedom of Simplicity



Renzo Piano  The Shard

On approaching the soon-to-be completed ‘shard’, two discourses sprung to mind.


Western architecture is, by its very nature, a phallocentric discourse: containing, ordering, and representing through firmness, commodity, and beauty; consisting of orders, entablature, and architrave; base, shaft, and capital; nave, choir and apse; father, son, and spirit, world without end. Amen.

In the Garden of Eden there was no architecture. The necessity for architecture arose with the ordination of sin and shame, with dirty bodies. The fig leaf was a natural first impulse toward architecture, accustomed as it was to shading its vulvate fruit, its trunk and roots a complex woven construction of undulating forms. Was it the fig tree that was hacked up to build the primitive hut (that precursor of classical architecture)?

Jennifer Bloomer Big Jugs. In: The Princeton Architectural Journal, Volume 4 Fetish


However, the Shard also may be considered to embody the symptoms of a (not-unrelated) societal phenomena:

What induces one man to use false weights, another to set his house on fire after having insured it for more than its value, while three-fourths of our upper classes indulge in legalised fraud … what gives rise to all this? It is not real want – for their existence is by no means precarious. … but they are urged on day and night by a terrible impatience at seeing their wealth pile up so slowly, and by an equally terrible longing and love for these heaps of gold … What once was done “for the love of God” is now done for the love of money. i.e. for the love of that which at present affords us the highest feeling of power and a good conscience.

Friedrich Nietzsche The Dawn of Day

excavational construction


[The psychoanalyst’s] work of construction, or, if it is preferred, of reconstruction, resembles to a great extent an archaeologist’s excavation of some dwelling-place that has been destroyed and buried or of some ancient edifice. The two processes are in fact identical, except that the analyst works under better conditions and has more material at his command to assist him, since what he is dealing with is not something destroyed but something that is alive – and perhaps for another reason as well. But just as the archaeologist builds up the walls of the building from the foundations that have remained standing, determines the number and position of the columns from depressions in the floor and reconstructs the mural decorations and paintings from the remains found in the debris, so does the analyst proceed when he draws his inferences from the fragments of memories, from the associations and from the behaviour of the subject of the analysis. Both of them have an undisputed right to reconstruct by means of supplementing and combining the surviving remains. Both of them, moreover, are subject to many of the same difficulties and sources of error. One of the most ticklish problems that confronts the archaeologist is notoriously the determination of the relative age of his finds; and if an object makes its appearance in some particular level, it often remains to be decided whether it belongs to that level or whether it has been carried down to that level owing to some subsequent disturbance. It is easy to imagine the corresponding doubts in the case of analytic constructions.

The analyst, as we have said, works under more favourable conditions than the archaeologist since he has at his disposal material which can have no counterpart in excavations, such as the repetitions of reactions dating from infancy and all that is indicated by transference in connection with these repetitions. But in addition to this it must be borne in mind that the excavator is dealing with destroyed objects of which large and important portions have quite certainly been lost, by mechanical violence, by fire and by plundering. No amount of effort can result in their discovery and lead to their being united with the surviving remains. The one and only course open is that of reconstruction, which for this reason can often reach only a certain degree of probability. But it is different with the psychical object whose early history the analyst is seeking to recover. Here we are regularly met by a situation which with the archaeological object occurs only in such rare circumstances as those of Pompeii or of the tomb of Tut’ankhamun. All of the essentials are preserved; even things that seem completely forgotten are present somehow and somewhere, and have merely been buried and made inaccessible to the subject. Indeed, it may, as we know, be doubted whether any physical structure can really be the victim of total destruction. It depends only upon analytic technique whether we shall succeed in bringing what is concealed completely to light. There are only two other facts that weigh against the extraordinary advantage which is thus enjoyed by the work of analysis: namely, that psychical objects are incomparably more complicated than the excavator’s material ones and that we have insufficient knowledge of what we may expect to find, since their finer structure contains so much that is still mysterious. But our comparison between the two forms of work can go no further than this; for the main difference between them lies in the fact that for the archaeologist the reconstruction is the aim and end of his endeavours while for analysis the construction is only a preliminary labour.

Sigmund Freud Constructions in Analysis