Architecture of Analogy

Thinking about collective memory as material reality

Posted in Discourse, PhD by Cameron McEwan on May 7, 2013

Typology in architecture gives us an apparatus to study the history of architecture, which can also be understood as a way to examine the collective memory of the city. As can be seen in canonical texts since Vitruvius, such as those by Alberti, Serlio, Palladio, during the Renaissance, to Durand during Enlightenment, Hilberseimer in the early twentieth-century, Rossi in the 1960s and others, we can view the process of architectural history unfolding, treatise to treatise, manual to manual, and manifesto to manifesto. Although not all of these works use the word typology, or type, the concept is implied because each use classification, description, and historical precedent to formulate a position. For example, in De re aedificatoria Alberti distinguished between public and private buildings in the city, assigning the Orders to certain classes of building. Serlio’s books on architecture catalogued buildings from Ancient Rome in plans, elevations and perspectives, before describing the typological-form of temples: circular, square, six-sided, eight-sided, oval and cruciform. Palladio’s Four Books organised the Orders, private buildings in rural and urban settings, then public buildings and, buildings of historical significance. In Durand’s books, the Recueil et Paralléle, and the Précis des leçons d’architecture, the former catalogued existing works of architecture from different cultures and historic periods at the same scale. While the latter was divided into three: on architectural elements, on composition, and on analysis of building types. Hilberseimer’s Groszstadt Architektur was organised into ten chapters with the first two and final describing the urban condition and proposing a response. Those inbetween address in succession the building programmes of the city from residential, commercial, high-rises, halls and theatres, transport, industrial, trade construction.

I have noted these texts because as Rossi wrote in The Architecture of the City, the concept of type became, “the very idea of architecture,” a fact attested to by both practice, he says, and by the treatise. Although in this sketch of a few texts that deal with theories about type, an emphasis is seemingly placed on type as it relates to classification. It should be made clear, however, that the idea of type is a dialectical principle, because it always reacts with, say: form, construction technique, site irregularities, means of production, cultural particularities, history, and also, the autobiography of the architect. Later in The Architecture of the City Rossi discusses the concept of collective memory, via the sociologist Maurice Halbwachs, who wrote that historical memory reaches us through written and visual records. The concept of collective memory and of type are closely interrelated, because collective memory relies on material reality. A material reality which is manifest both in built form and as images in treatise. Built form because buildings witness the evolution of the city. Images because they embody values, experience, ideas. What is important is that type constructs a link with history, and produces transmittable knowledge. Accordingly, architecture communicates its own history through typological ideas.

 

McEwan C (2013) AE Foundation Locus, Montage with plan by Palladio

McEwan C (2013) AE Foundation Locus, Study montage with plan by Palladio [Montage with photographs and CAD drawing]

One of the premises of the AE Foundation is to understand the history of architecture as central to the education and practice of the architect. Undertaken within the framework of the AE Foundation Graduate Programme, the project opposite is for a school in the Lochee part of Dundee. The typological approach has been to distinguish three volumes that articulate three conditions of the site. The tower fronts the street edge and contains the entrance, administration, dining, gym hall, and a nursery. Classrooms are arranged around a courtyard which opens into the school grounds. Between the courtyard and tower is a rectangular volume which holds a library and an art studio. In order to leave and to arrive at the classrooms, children (and teachers) must always pass through the art and library spaces. The spaces of creativity and of knowledge.

 

McEwan C (2013) AE Foundation Locus, Site plan and long section through entrance [CAD line drawing]

McEwan C (2013) AE Foundation Locus, Site plan and long section through entrance [CAD line drawing]

For further information about the AE Foundation, an open and independent forum for the discussion and exposition of architecture, see http://aefoundation.co.uk/

After Architect Aldo Rossi: Some Venetian Extracts

Posted in PhD by Cameron McEwan on July 3, 2011
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My obsession with porticoes continued in Venice. A visit to Palladio’s Il Redentore and San Giorgio Maggiore by Traghetti, and then a gaze at the Ca d’oro concluded the visit.

 

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After Architect Aldo Rossi: Alberti in Mantua, Canaletto’s “Forgetting” and the Palazzo della Ragione in Padova

Posted in PhD by Cameron McEwan on June 26, 2011
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Before travelling north to Vicenza and Padova, I paused in Mantua and watched the mist enter Alberti’s basilica of Sant’ Andrea. Alberti’s wall is interrupted by a colossal arch that reaches from entrance to the underside of the pediment. The facade is square in proportion but reads as a combination of wall and column architecture. Inside, the plan extends linearly and the internal elevations share an analogous relationship to the facade. The pediment is removed and replaced with a stunning vaulted and columnless space. San Sebastiano, Alberti’s other basilica in Mantua is a centralised plan with vestibule placed outside of a square plan. The facade of which is enclosed in a square, like at Sant’Andrea, the width corresponding to the height from the entrance to the apex of the pediment. With very few openings, pilasters rather than columns as decoration, it reads as “wall architecture.”

 

A preliminary question in Vicenza (via supervisor’s Graeme Hutton and Dr Lorens Holm) was to what extent has Canaletto faithfully represented the buildings in his vedute ideate of La Basilica di Vicenza e il Ponte dia Rialto, that hangs in Parma (refer to the post dated June 24 for photographs). I do not plan to fully answer this question here, but I will make some observations. The painting depicts a quiet scene that contains numerous boats and gondolas. It is the Grand Canal in Venice. At the centre is the Rialto Bridge, to the right is the Vicenza Basilica. Lining the canal on the left and only just visible is the Palazzo Chierecati. These three buildings are designs by the Renaissance architect Andrea Palladio whose treatise The Four Books of Architecture dates from 1570.

 

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Canaletto has replaced the present bridge, erected in 1587 and designed by Antonio da Ponte, with a composite of designs extrapolated from Palladio’s Four Books. Canaletto’s bridge has three arches, the central arch is one height of stone higher than the sides and thus also wider, unlike Palladio’s second design for the bridge which has three equal arches. The first design has five arches similar to that drawn in Riconstruzione di Castel Sant’Angelo (hangs also in Parma). The bridge painted by Canaletto is symmetrical in elevation, with a barrel vaulted roof over the two smaller arches, while that of Palladio’s appears not to be so. On the relationship of the Basilica and the Palazzo Chierecati, the rhythm of each of the buildings’ horizontal bays corresponds to that of the built projects of Palladio in Vicenza. Similarly the column Order for both is Tuscan to “ground” level, unadorned Ionic above, and faithfully represented by Canaletto. The vertical proportion of the Basilica accords to the common Palladian ratio of 4:5. In the Four Books the Chierecati is drawn to the same ratio as the Basilica. However in Canaletto’s depiction, if one follows the perspective line from the Basilica and returns with the Chierecati, it appears that although the column Order is the same, the vertical proportion is not. Canaletto has extruded the Palazzo Chierecati vertically and doubled the steps that reach from ground (water in the painting) to loggia. Has he “forgotten” Palladio’s ratio? Why the Palazzo Chierecati? It has an open loggia. In general, loggia’s are used to front public spaces, like in the built project in Vicenza, they do not usually front onto water. Additionally, buildings that line the canal in Venice are usually solid, so why did Canaletto not use the Palazzo Thiene, a building that defines a street edge in Vicenza, and one that might better define a water edge in Venice. Perhaps it just was not Venetian enough…

 

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Rossi uses the Palazzo della Ragione in Padova as an example of a primary element that defines the pattern of the city. It has had multiple functions (medieval town hall, Renaissance court, market place) since its construction in the thirteenth-century and remains in full use. For this reason it contains the collective memory of Padova. At present the hall is used as exhibition space and there are numerous restaurants, cafes and grocery shops contained within the groundfloor bays. To either side are two open spaces. One is three times in breadth to height of the structure, the other is two. Thus, two different spatial conditions are set up and make for variety in close proximity.

 

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After Architect Aldo Rossi: The Porticoes of Bologna, Rossi at Modena and Canaletto in Parma

Posted in PhD by Cameron McEwan on June 24, 2011
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Lining almost every street, from the stateliness of Via dell’Independenza to the claustrophobic alleys around the University, porticoes defined my experience of the radially planned city of Bologna. At its centre the two interconnected open spaces of Piazza del Nettuno and Piazza Maggiore are defined on one side by the Palazzo Communale, inside of which, the Museo Morandi contains a huge collection of that painter’s work. Characterised by a consistency that borders on the incessantly monotonous, a museum dedicated to Morandi might only appeal to true Morandi-ites… However, the collection offered variety by presenting a range of media (oils, watercolour, etchings and pencil drawings) at the same time as exhibiting work by Wayne Thiebaud alongside Morandi. The line drawings in particular are so spartan and ambiguous that they can be read as both streetscape and still life.

 

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If the porticoes of Bologna were vividly ornate, the opposite can be said of Rossi’s porticoes at the San Cataldo cemetery at Modena. Cold and controlled, the cemetery is a monument of silence and image of death. The typological form is characterised by porticoed paths that lead from wall and gate; through pitched roof columbaria, the “long house;” to cubed shrine to war victims, the “abandoned house.” In April 1971, Rossi was involved in a car accident and writes often about this incident, seeing the skeletal structure of the body as a series of fractures to be reassembled. At San Cataldo he identifies death and the morphology of the broken skeleton with the modification of the plan. Construction started in 1977 and halted in 1979. It remains unfinished.

 

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Vedutisti, or “view-painting” is an eighteenth-century painting genre in which the artist paints scenes from life. Inherent to this tradition is the opposition vedute estate and vedute ideate. This is the relationship between an exact view of a recognisable site; and a view of a site with the intention to create something imaginary, “ideal.” In the subdued lighting of the National Gallery in Parma, Canaletto’s La Basilica di Vicenza e il Ponte dia Rialto (photograph on the right) measures 68×92 cm and hangs beside the slightly larger (70×96 cm) Riconstruzione di Castel Sant’Angelo (left). Both paintings depict real works but in an entirely imagined composition. Canaletto has re-drawn Palladio’s monuments (the Vicenza Basilica, the Palazzo Chierecati, also in Vicenza, and Palladio’s unbuilt project for the Rialto Bridge in Venice) and montaged them into the Rialto Bridge site, offering two alternatives. To my surprise (and excitement), Canaletto’s paintings were often conceived as pairs or sets. So, Canaletto the dualist? Perhaps even a serialist…

 

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