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"You employ stone, wood and concrete, and with these materials you build houses and palaces: that is construction. Ingenuity is at work. But suddenly you touch my heart, you do me good. I am happy and I say: This is beautiful. That is Architecture. Art enters in......" - Le Corbusier
ART & ARCHITECTURE I:
THROUGH THE BARCELONA PAVILION
This past year, 2015, was a great roller coaster, considering a hefty/hard 2014. In the past summer, I landed a good job in the city and last fall I enrolled into graduate school to pursue architecture. To say the least I have learned so much in one year. From professional office work to better presentation skills, to understanding what I really want to pursue and what my interests are. More importantly, my interest and admiration for architecture as an art and profession has grown incredibly. Many may say architecture is not art. Art has no discipline, no limits and boundaries, while architecture does. In where Architects must consider the client, the environmental constraints, the building department, as well as site and budget conditions. But as a conceptual designer one can't help but think of architecture as an art, a sculpture, a spectacle or structure of admiration made inhabitable. How concepts derive, whether through diagrams, abstract drawings or photographs, models, theory, these concepts are all artificial until made into reality by the architect.
In a sense, every built project was once art, even to those who do not agree, such as Patrick Shumacher, director at Zaha Hadid architects. Shumacher, at the Architectural Biennale in Venice, argued that architecture has been confused with art through political morality, glorified for its content and not its form. To those whom do agree, that architecture can be a showcase of art, we understand that art through structure lives on forever and has its own prominence in space (If that makes any sense). In art, most of the time it's a 2-dimensional image, although, a sculpture may be three dimensional but in delicate form. An architectural building is in fact in many ways a 2-dimensional image, but also a 3-dimensional object, delicate in its form and thought process; which then becomes a space for man to interact with, to get comfortable with, to differentiate boundaries, noise and light, place and occasion, shelter and time.
But where I’m going here is defining the thin line between art and architecture, moreover, form and figure, concept and theory. Defining this thin line or blurring it to non-existence. Although, before we can define art and architecture, we must come to clarity in the definition of architecture (not to say my definition is definite). To many, architecture is the discipline of designing for the construction of buildings, to others it’s a discipline of designing for the human living experience. Whether it be through content or context, it’s an experience that has five senses. To be quite honest, in my opinion, real architecture, stimulates and intensifies all of these senses in some way. Recently, I was driving down riverside drive on the Westside of uptown Manhattan realizing the drastic difference in architecture from a classical building with beautiful ornamentation versus a public housing tower with brick veneer exterior.
The idea is clear, there is architectural drafting and then architectural design. Leading to question whether the practice of design initiates the artistic form? (Which is actually contradicting to art not having a discipline. How can we practice with no discipline?). Still, I believe, design stimulates the five senses of the human living experience. Therefore, as I recall Patrick Shumacher (all respects to him), I would argue that most of Zaha Hadid's work is sculptural, some type of art and that contrary to what he says architecture actually can be and is art.
Anyway, for the sake of reaching a conclusion, the notions of a pavilion will be explored to exploit this thin line (if it exists). A pavilion can be an architectural landmark, a large building, a small structure; It does not have a limitation in size. But what makes a pavilion is its purpose, in where it becomes site specific, and inhabitable. But more importantly, how does a pavilion come about. What is the rationale behind the design concept, is it a spatial exploration or design that enhances views, sounds, scent? Is the pavilion introducing abstract ideas of structure that allow it to become a spectacle of the unknown? A form of art.
Let's consider the Barcelona pavilion by Mies Van Der Rohe, all due respect to his modernist theory "less is more", we can see how his theory applied to this design layout. The pavilion was to serve a German exhibition, in where Germany wanted an architectural statement that reflected their pursuits of progress and wealth. Mies responded to that request by designing a pavilion that would stimulate the ideas of a floating roof, a blur of the relationship between the exterior and interior, and the introduction of different but beautiful materials that served as walls for structural load but also emphasized spaces and circulation. In all, the pavilion was an exhibition in itself. The visitor was not going to the pavilion to see an exhibition but actually visiting the pavilion to experience an exhibition of tranquility. An experience of tranquility in space motivated by the materials, a pool, the ceiling slabs and floor slabs that over extended to almost fit in with the surrounding landscape.
One can argue that architecture and art in this project play a mutual role in representation; from the structure of the pavilion, to the circulation provided by the free plan, to the nuance of the "floating" roof. After all, art is the expression and/or ability of the author to create visuals or auditory/performing artifacts, which may be in metaphor or subtle conditions. In this project, and as most modernist can be considered, Mies was an artist. An artist whom through architecture emphasized emotions of tranquility and leisure. But Mies was also a trendsetter, a leader, that provided a gateway for designers to not be caught up in the quantity of the subjects in a design but more of the whole quality of the design itself. An expert in introducing the poetry and nuance in architecture, in which to me is the idea of designing for the five senses and human experience.
Through this example of Mies Van Der Rohe's work and the definitive arguments made in this article, I think it's fair to say that architecture is in fact art. Moreover, providing a ground for some of the work I will be introducing in the next Art and Architecture post.