Architecture of Analogy

The Fragment as a Category of Critique

Posted in PhD by Cameron McEwan on February 8, 2013
McEwan C (2012) Three Propositions [Collage]

McEwan C (2012) Three Propositions [Collage]

A thesis that starts with an image. A collage by the author, titled Three Propositions. Fragments of images are cut out and pasted onto cartridge paper which has been coated with a layer of white chalk, over which marks have been made using pencil and the long side of the chalk. At its centre is Aldo Rossi’s Analogical City, itself a collage that uses photocopies. Rossi’s image is around two metres square and consists of projects by Rossi, his collaborators and his references, drawn in a mixture of projection techniques: orthographic, oblique, perspective. So we get plan, elevation, perspective, and oblique sharing the same space and with equal authority. Rossi has drawn a figure, which, in my collage is displaced vertically and overlaps onto Canaletto’s vedute painting of an alternative Venice, which Rossi used to illustrate his concept of the Analogical City.

Canaletto’s painting depicts three buildings by Palladio as if they were composed in an actual cityscape. They are not. The bridge is unbuilt and the buildings either side are in Vicenza. Rossi says that an imaginary Venice is built on top of the real one. The painting is aligned with Sebastiano Serlio’s 10×10 square grid which is at the start of his Renaissance treatise in Book I On Geometry. In Book II On Perspective, Serlio illustrates the technique of perspective using the theatre sets that Vitruvius’ described in De Architettura: Tragic, Satyric, and Comical. I have cut out the one Serlio draws without the set, leaving only a gridded pattern and the outline of where the walls of the set would be, and placed it underneath the Analogical City image. On the oblique is another part of Serlio’s theatre, the semicircular seating.

On top of this and aligned with the seating is a notebook extract by Rossi. To the left of the Analogical City is Jacques Lacan’s diagram of the image-screen from the chapter “What is a Picture” in The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psycho-Analysis. Following the diagram, Lacan says the screen is the “locus of mediation.” As Freud has said, memories are projected onto this screen as images, where they are superimposed on one another. Images are thus built on top of other images. Rossi says the city is the “locus of collective memory,” and I place Lacan’s diagram between Serlio’s geometric grid, and Rossi’s Analogical City. It directs the view toward another of Rossi’s notebook extracts in which he writes about collage in architecture, the construction of the city by parts, and the Analogical City as a compositional system that uses existing elements in new combinations, like the Canaletto painting.

The two quotations at the bottom of the collage, in their juxtaposition constitute a narrative framework:

“Forgetting Architecture comes to mind as a more appropriate title for this book, since while I may talk about a school, a cemetery, a theatre, it is more correct to say that I talk about life, death, imagination.”

Aldo Rossi A Scientific Autobiography 1981, p. 78.

“I would define the concept of type as something that is permanent and complex, a logical principle that is prior to form and that constitutes it.”

Aldo Rossi, The Architecture of the City 1966, p. 40.

Theory of Types/Dream-work: Work in Progress PhD Seminar 12 March

Posted in PhD by Cameron McEwan on March 9, 2012
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The drawings of Italian architect Aldo Rossi condense critical reflections on his own projects with studies of his architectural and everyday references, in a dense combination of lines and images. His buildings are a complex mixture of building typologies, and historical critique. Rossi’s writings are a similar hybrid of visual/textual references and reflections. Aldo Rossi’s drawings, buildings and writings are the result of an analogical thinking process. The aim of this PhD is to articulate a more precise way of understanding the deeply enigmatic processes of Aldo Rossi’s analogical thinking and practice.

This seminar presents current work in progress. It will first outline the scope of the PhD and then focus discussion on Rossi’s Theory of Types via Freud’s Dream-work.

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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