A short overview of the French outsider architect Fernand Pouillon. He represents a modernism which was an evolution rather than a break with tradition. In short a future that didn’t happen.
The first work about Fernand Pouillon in English, long overdue and lovingly written. Partial in both senses of the word which gives a deep insight into his Architectural philosophy.
A list of podcasts about architecture I love..
Podcasts about architecture might seem to be a little counter-intuitive but they have a freedom that writing about architecture doesn’t have precisely because you can’t reasonably include images.
By relying on audio different sorts of debates can occur. Conversations, interviews and and wider ranging topics find a medium that is more natural to them than the written word.
So to start people off I thought to highlight a few podcasts I have been enjoying recently. Also I will leave these as reviews in itunes. Please take a listen and consider supporting these channels. If you have suggestions for additions to the list please feel free to leave them in the comments.
The following post is by my Father Graham Dunstan Martin. He sent this to me after a conversation we had over the phone a few years ago. I don’t remember exactly what we started talking about but we ended up with dad telling me about this passage by a famous French author Joris-Karl Huysmans about the Eiffel Tower which had been newly erected in his beloved Paris and had enraged him.
I really wanted to know what he said, it seems so many of the worlds great landmarks start off life being despised. I wanted to know exactly what he objected to.
It’s well known anecdotally that Parisians always have loved to hate the tower. Strong opposition at the time is also well documented. A short trip to the wikipedia page of the Eiffel Tower will show you that with people like Charles Garnier, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Guy de Maupassant, Charles Gounod and Jules Massenet organising against it.
But also this famous writer Joris-Karl Huysmans that dad remembered wrote an essay against it. The essay was called Le Fer and dad being a retired French lecturer of course helps a little when you want to translate some French.
Dad passed away recently and I wanted to put this back up on the internet for him. So please see below as far as I know the only public translation of Le Fer by Joris-Karl-Karl Huysmans first published in 1889 with some commentary by Graham Dunstan Martin.
Less is a Bore! -Robert Venturi
Learning From Las Vegas (LFVLV) by Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour is important for two reasons. It was a book that came, in 1972, at the end of late modernism. It proposed a radical break with the immediate past and also a reassessment and incorporation of more traditional forms of architecture back into current thinking.
It was also the book that launched the authors on that path and helped bring that thinking into the forefront of the Architectural debate for over twenty years. It helped launch the style Postmodernism and at first gave it a loose theoretical framework. So on these fronts it was amazingly successful. But that style has since fallen out of favour and ‘modernism’ has made a return.
Even today some fifty years later the book is still controversial. It can often be used as evidence on both sides of the style debate in any ongoing style war. It can at times feel more like a collection of writings rather than one single book.
There is an attitude to urban and architectural studies that covers the full gamut from high art to kitch and so it’s almost necessarily divisive. It contains iconic arguments; all buildings are either ducks or decorated sheds, and it exhaustively analyses a high-tide moment of Americana in the Las Vegas of the late 60s which doesn’t exist anymore at all. It supports the iconic but also the boring, the everyday.
If the Las Vegas strip is no longer at all the same as that in the book it dosen’t matter, we can see the muscle flex of rebellion in the book that is fascinating in itself. We can with some profit see again the arguments now they have played out in the world a little.
The Shell Building by J.J.P.Oud was a building that was both ahead and behind the times when it was built. A building that irrevocably damaged the reputation of its designer for the crime of adding ornamentation but has perhaps unfairly not been reappraised since it was finished.
1984 is one of the most Influential Books of the 20th Century. A warning to the human race in which a society founded on hatred is created.
War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength.
1984 was written mostly during 1948 by George Orwell set in a future in which a totalitarian state completely controls the lives of its subjects. The book went on the become a kind of touchstone with which to criticise totalitarian ideas on both right and left.
It’s immense influence is easy to show by reference to the number of terms it coins which have come into common use in the English language;
- Big Brother
- Thought Police
- Room 101
Orwell probably is responsible for the the term Cold War so he is a keen observer of post war politics and in many ways predicted the shape of the second half of the 20th century he is an important figure and the book 1984 is a key reason for this.
It’s not often that a new Aalto building appears, and still less often one of his house projects. But in the small Finnish town of Tamisaari (Ekenäs in Swedish), a house designed by Aalto for one of his friends is open for the public after having been restored at the end of 2020.
For a great example of how expressive Brutalist Architecture can be look no further than The Central Animal Labs or Mäusebunker ‘Mouse Bunker’ which was built for the Freie Universität in Berlin as an animal laboratory.
This partly explains why it took so long to complete due to opposition by locals and animal right activists. It was designed between 1967–1970, and built with interruptions in two phases between 1971–1975 and 1978–1980. It allegedly could host up to 45,000 mice, 20,000 rats, and a number of frogs, sheep, chickens, and pigs.