July 29, 2008

Ik wil meer schoorstenen!!!

Cranbrook Academy was founded in the 1920's by George Booth to educate children in the arts and to escape from the harsh industrial landscape that was Detroit. Scott Michael Dohr has taken that industrial landscape and chased Cranbrook with it. He does not want them to escape from it. Behind the obvious irony of "bringing the industry of Detroit to Cranbrook," this project in very intriguing. Smokestacks and Assembly lines at Cranbrook. Ha.

Handiwork and Arts & Crafts are the predominant schools of thought at Cranbrook. After all these years, Bill Massey was hired to head the architecture department. Massey was known for his use of milling machines to create surfaces. Very industrial. Dohr's project may be the very monument to Cranbrook's acceptance of modernization.

A towering reminder of the profound landscape which lies less than an hour from Cranbrook's pristine lawns and gardens, Dohr's Smokestacks ironically fit perfectly with Cranbrook's philosophy. It is in striking contrast with the existing built environment of Cranbrook, and offers a new attempt at distinction. Pure Form. The image of industrialization is there, but the building would not actually have an industrializing effect on the campus. This is the best irony of all. Many of the buildings designed to "interact with the campus" or blend with it have the opposite effect. Dohr has masterfully pretended not to respond to the context.

"I could give you some line about assembly lines and wellness, but uuhh..." This no nonsense approach to the building increases the real meaning as well as the clarity of the meaning. This meaning is not lost in convoluted abstraction. Everyday people can identify with the message of the building, and thus can adopt it as a part of their experience. There are different fabrication techiniques that Dan Hoffman has used at Cranbrook which attempt to connect Cranbrook to the industry of Detroit, but they are lost in abstraction.
The "duck" smokestacks are tectonically well-built. This is not a one-liner. And even if it were a one liner, isn't that better than a zero-liner? Viva Neo-PostModernism!

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