Tenet is a film that crystalises architectural space into reality.
Tenet by Chritopher Nolan
The film Tenet by Christopher Nolan has recently caught my imagination. I thought I would write down a few things as to why I find it so interesting. This is not going to be a review, those are easy to find elsewhere but instead looking at some of the themes of the film and why they are so fascinating and very architectural.
Needless to say go and see the film first or be prepared for some spoilers.
Junkspace with Running Room by Rem Koolhaas and Hal FosterNotting Hill Editions; First Edition (September 13, 2016)
Rem Koolhaas was a famous architect before he ever built a building. Much writing about architecture is bad, especially by architects. Koolhaas is different he writes great prose which is both entertaining and interesting, lively and obtuse, always trying hard to be subversive.
Steps Towards a Small Theory of the Visible by John Berger A selection first published in 1997, of John Bergers non fiction writing from throughout his career. It might act as a neat gateway through to other works by Berger. But its also a bittersweet look at how art can change us.
A review of The Seven Lamps of Architecture by John Ruskin an influential book and author that is a hard slog but might be rewarding.
John Ruskin art and architecture and social critic. He was born in London in 1819 and died in 1900 so his life runs alongside Queen Victorias reign and he fairly neatly sits within the Victorian era. Much of the thinking and aesthetics of that time can be seen through his writing and indeed was hugely influenced by it. In his early career for instance his support of the pre-raphelites, the romantic and gothic revivals of the time, the appreciation of nature and rebellion against increasing mechanisation and market capitalism marks him out as a leading thinker of the time.
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.
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.