April 20, 2008

Mockitecture 101

As we realize more and more the extent and implications of mockitecture, actual projects are manifesting themselves at a pacy pace. Here is a preview of what is to come in the next couple weeks. Create your own mockitecture anywhere you would like, and let us know about it.


Amy said...

"[Writing Learning from Las Vegas, Venturi and Friends] were like stoned graduate students on a field trip, their critical faculties gone up in smoke.

Venturi proposed an architecture of unpretentious 'decorated sheds'. Ornament was okay, even historical detail, as long as it was 'applied rather than integral', as nearly two-dimensional as possible in the form of 'doodads'. For example, the firm did a showroom building for the Best Products Company in Oxford Valley, Pennsylvania. The building was to be a typical flat-roofed highway strip shed. They designed a motif of enormous red-and-white cartoon flowers on glazed metallic panels to decorate the facade. It looked like the sort of thing more usually designed by the owner of such a business- at home, at the kitchen table, or by his nine-year-old daughter- to save money. But in this case the flwoers were designed by a Yale-trained architect- for a hefty fee, you may be sure. And Ventury was darn proud of them. The flowers were 'bold and pretty' They 'camoflauged the inevitable banality of the architectural form and read as a sign across a vast parking lot and speedy highway.' Note the assumption of banality as inevitable. 'Many styles relating to many taste cultures is okay with us,' he said. Only you could be sure that Ventury himself did not live in a Levittown 'colonial' with plywood butterflies screwed to his garage door.

(( image at = http://www.artcn.cn/Article/UploadFiles/200606/20060629203943152.jpg ))

The daisies were an 'ironic reference,' in Venturi's phrase. Irony was the trick for redeeming such 'banality'. A little gentle mockery, some good-humored ribbing, mild subversion. As if to say, 'Here you nation of morons, is another inevitably banal, cheap concrete box, of the only type your sordid civilization allows, topped by some cheap and foolish ornament worthy of your TV-addled brains.' It must have been obvious that there was nothing particularly redeeming about this mind game, really. It was simply parody, which is to say the sophomoric urge to ridicule by means of feeble imitation, in the absence of an urge to create something original of real quality. It was hardly a solution to the problem of banal architecture and bad urbanism in America.

Still, Venturi's 'irony' became the cornerstone of the movement called Postmodernism. HE eventualy moved beyond the vocabulary of kitsch 'doodads' to a phase that admitted blatant reference to historical devices- pilasters, Palladian windows, rusticated facades, entablature-..."

Amy said...

(( part 2 of very long comment ))

"...and in doing so, started a bandwagon that many architects hopped upon. But the stance was still ironic- which is to say, when you cleared away all the theoretical legerdemain, that they didn't really mean it. To resurrect the architecture of an old-fashioned colonial imperialism would have been quite unthinkable, except as a joke, in the current political climate. And this was a joke. Underneath the tacked-on pilasters was the same old box.

Perhaps the most famous of the Postmodern works inspired by Venturi lead is Philip Johnson's 'daring' AT&T Building in Manhattan: thirty-odd stories of standard-issue corporate box topped by an ultrasimplified broken pediment roof vaguely reminiscent of a Chippendale secretary. That people took it seriously as a step in the right direction was the greatest irony of all."

-James Howard Kunstler in his book "The Geography of Nowhere: The Rise and Fall of America's Man-made Landscape" (pp. 82-84)