|Christmas card by Bob Wirth depicting LCM Chair as Santa Claus. Sent to Charles and Ray Eames in 1948 (Source)|
See you in 2011!
|Christmas card by Bob Wirth depicting LCM Chair as Santa Claus. Sent to Charles and Ray Eames in 1948 (Source)|
|"The unveiling of the Palace of Soviets' model, Paris, 1931" (Source: Jean-Louis Cohen, Le Corbusier et la mystique de l'URSS: Théories et projets pour Moscou, 1928-1936 [Bruxelles: Mardaga, 1987] 165)|
|Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, Palace of Soviets, interior perspective (1931) (Source: Le Corbusier Le Grand [New York: Phaidon Press, 2008]).|
|Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret, Palace of Soviets, axonometric drawing (1931).|
|Le Corbusier at the Centrosoyuz site (Source: Cohen, Le Corbusier et la mystique de l'URSS: Théories et projets pour Moscou, 1928-1936, 9)|
|Le Corbusier outside the Centrosoyuz site (Source: Le Corbusier Le Grand )|
|American girl in tennis costume, from Sigfried Giedion, Befreites Wohnen (1929) (Source: Forty, "Of Cars, Clothes and Carpets: Design Metaphors in Architectural Thought: The First Banham Memorial Lecture," Journal of Design History, Vol. 2, No. 1 , 13).|
In all his Modes, and habilitory endeavors, an Architectural Idea will be found lurking; his Body and Cloth are the site and materials whereon and whereby his beautiful edifice, of a Person, is to be built. Whether he flow gracefully out in folded mantles, based on light sandals; tower up in high headgear, from amid peaks, spangles and bell-girdles; swell out in starched ruffs, buckram stuffings, and monstrous tuberosities; or girth himself into separate sections, and front the world an Agglomeration of four limbs,—will depend on the nature of such Architectural Idea: whether Grecian, Gothic, Later-Gothic, or altogether modern …
For twenty years—thirty in the case of some critics—the defence of modern architecture was the defence of the uniform quite as much as the defence of Functionalism, and there are still people today who cannot accept a building as functional unless it wears the uniform gear. But already in the early thirties, Le Corbusier was adjusting his dress, and incorporating sporty or tweedy elements not accepted by the rest of the gang.This is a provocative quote, an almost too-facile invocation of Le Corbusier's nerdy dress as a critique of functionalism and anti-fashion statement. And indeed, a look at Le Corbusier in the Soviet Union, preparing for the building of the Centrosoyuz (and the competition for the Palace of Soviets), reveals how some of these fashion gaffes did operate as a critique of sorts.
|Le Corbusier poses next to a Russian peasant woman. Photograph taken by Sergei Kozhin in 1928 (Source: Starr, "Le Corbusier and the U.S.S.R.: New Documentation" Cahiers du monde russe et soviétique, Vol. 21, No. 2 [Apr.-Jun., 1980], 218).|
|Le Corbusier stands by a peasant hut on the Moscow countryside. Photograph taken by Sergei Kozhin in 1928 (Source: Starr, "Le Corbusier and the U.S.S.R.: New Documentation", 218).|
|A Functional Unveiling|
|Postcard depicting the Comte de Lambert's 1909 flight around the Eiffel Tower (Source: Wright State University Library Special Collections)|
|Farman F.40 from L'escadrille 44, France, 1916 (Source) (Note the horseshoes printed on the rear horizontal stabilizers: these also appear on the image in L'esprit nouveau)|
|Louis Blérior prepares for his cross-channel flight on 25 July 1909 (Source)|
|Top: Blériot ("PHI"-type?) dynamo; Bottom: Blériot dynamo placed on an engine flywheel (Source: Codd, Dynamo Lighting for Motor Cars [London: Spon, 1914])|
|Advertisement for Blériot PHI-type dynamo, L'Aérophile, 15 October 1910|
|Drawings of radiator and front-end assemblies for automobiles (Source: The Autocar, 7 February 1912)|
Top: front end of Delage automobile without headlights; Bottom: front view of Delage Grand-Sport from L'Esprit nouveau No. 10.
Historians undertake to arrange sequences,—called stories, or histories—assuming in silence a relation of cause and effect. These assumptions, hidden in the depths of dusty libraries, have been astounding, but commonly unconscious and childlike; so much so, that if any captious critic were to drag them to light, historians would probably reply, with one voice, that they had never supposed themselves required to know what they were talking about.Briefly acknowledging that Adams is here writing under the spell of dynamos, it is nevertheless important to recognize that the very process that he is describing here is not unlike what Le Corbusier was doing while assembling the materials for L'Esprit nouveau and Vers une architecture. It is a description of organization, of a process that also recalls the kind of archival and interpretative heavy-lifting normally associated to historians. Yet the very sense of doubt that Adams alludes to here—doubt in historical and critical methods—should not be overlooked. It seems that the only recourse would be to remember the significance of the eye. And here, I am not talking so much about the eye that reads things closely. Nor am I referring to Starobinski's "view from above"—the eye that reads objectively. The eye I am talking to is neither subjective nor objective, but synthetic. It hovers somewhere above, not too high nor too low, and allows us to piece things together that do not necessarily correlate. Because from this vantage point, we are afforded the luxury to question those things that we look at, to invert and re-invert the relationships they have with other objects, institutions, and histories. To cast something not only as a car without headlights, but as a face without eyes.
|Minutemen (L to R: d. boon, George Hurley, Mike Watt) at the 1984 Los Angeles Street Scene (photo by Eric Stringer) (Source).|
Let's say I got a number. That number's fifty thousand. That's 10% of 500,000. Oh here we are in French Indochina. Executive order. Congressional decision. The working masses are manipulated. “Was this our policy?” Ten long years — not one dominoe shall fall.Some of you will recognize these as the lyrics to “Viet Nam,” from the Minutemen’s ground-breaking Double Nickels on the Dime (1984). Released by SST Records the very same year as Hüsker Dü’s Zen Arcade, Double Nickels on the Dime was a blast of jazz-funk-inflected agitprop that continues to be recognized as one of the most important rock albums of the late 20th century, if not all time. Combining guitarist d. boon’s slinky, trebly guitar parts, Mike Watt’s muscular and melodic bass playing, and George Hurley’s acrobatic drumming, the Minutemen did much more than just create the definitive sound of America’s music underground during the early 1980s. They created a template for punk rock’s labors by setting a minimum threshold for band membership and songwriting. Guitar. Bass. Drums. That was all that was needed to write songs. With hardly a guitar solo, and with tight compositions that made the most of the band lineup and instrumentation, Minutemen albums were, sonically-speaking, lean affairs.
|Top: What Makes a Man Start Fires? (1982) (Featuring cover art by Raymond Pettibon). Bottom: Double Nickels on the Dime (1984)|
|Detail to back of gatefold sleeve for Double Nickels on the Dime (1984), "Viet Nam" begins on the second line |
(Photograph by Francisco Ramirez)
Let's say I got a number. That number's fifty thousand. That's 10% of 500,000. These are the figures of our involvement in French Indochina. Executive order. Congressional decision. The working masses are manipulated. “Was this our policy?” Ten long years — not one dominoe shall fall.The difference here, of course, is that the lyrics as written refer to the statistical number as “figures of involvement.” Never sung in the recording, yet part of the original song, this small clause points to the political nature of much of the Minutemen’s work. The name "Viet Nam" suggests that this was a song protesting American foreign policy, and if you were—like d. boon, Mike Watt, and George Hurley—in the business of politically-oriented punk music, you would probably be writing songs about the Vietnam war as well as American involvement in Nicaragua or El Salvador (for example, cue the first track, second side, second album of Double Nickels, “Untitled Song for Latin America”). As Michael Azerrad points out in his definitive Our Band Could Be Your Life (2001), "America was in a catatonic state through the Eighties, and the Minutemen's music—all angular starts and stops, challenging lyrics, and blink-and-you-missed-'em songs—was a metaphor for the kind of alertness needed to fight back against the encroaching mediocrity".
|Rear to gatefold sleeve for Double Nickels on the Dime (1984) (Photograph by Francisco Ramirez)|
|Top: rear sleeve to What Makes a Man Start Fires? (1982), also featuring artwork by Pettibon. Bottom: detail of sleeve (Photographs by Francisco Ramirez)|
|Top: book of poems by Charlotte, Emily, and Branwell Brontë measuring 2 3/4in x 1 1/2 in (Source). Bottom: excerpt from Charlotte and Branwell Brontë, The Secret (1833) (with accompanying ruler for scale) (Source)|
This kind of economy by virtue of size has some important precedents, to be sure. Emily and Charlotte Brontë (along with their brother, Branwell) wrote miniaturized “books” that were large enough to be held by dolls and often included their own maps and illustrations. Robert Walser composed thousands of cryptic “microscripts” on the backs of business cards, book covers, and other found paper objects using a special alphabet that was only millimeters high. For the Minutemen, however, their economy of size was inversely proportional to the influence of their output. Their shortened songs (with shortened lyrics) amounted to a music that was easily consumed and that delivered a maximum wallop. The visual presentation of their lyrics in condensed blocks of text was a vital part of this strategy.
 An edited version of this piece appeared in Junk Jet 4, the "Statistics-of-Mystics" issue. A big "thank you" goes to Asli Serbest and Mona Mahall for letting me publish a version of this piece in their wonderful, offbeat "jetzine."
 Michael Azerrad, Our Band Could Be Your Life: Scenes From the American Indie Underground 1981-1991 (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2001), 71. (Note: this book's name is a reference to "History Lesson, Pt. 2," from Double Nickels on the Dime).
|Olivier Messiaen in Bryce Canyon, Utah, 1971 (Source)|
|Cover to a CBS recording of Des canyons aux étoiles ... featuring an image of Bryce Canyon.|
His synaesthesia, like the true form of the phenomenon in any affected individual, is involuntary, the pairings of colors and sounds out of his control. What Messiaen has managed to do, however, is to find the particular sound combinations that will give rise to an extremely wide and variegated range of color responses, an accomplishment which affords him the ability to paint, as it were, in sound what is visible. It is difficult to know for sure whether this reverse aspect of Messiaen's synaesthesia—that is, visible transmuted into audible rather than the other way around—is also involuntary or simply a well-oiled habit, but the fact is that he can do it, with significant impact on his creative output.The result of the desert trip was Messiaen's most important work, the massive, 100-minute Des canyons aux étoiles... (From the Canyons to the Stars...) (1971-4). Arranged into twelve movements, many named after a specific bird, Messiaen's piece is a combination of conventional and unusual instrumentation. Stringed and brass instruments are paired along whips, wind machines, sheets of metal, and even a geophone (an instrument of Messiaen's own invention), the end result being the evocation of a particular landscape unmoored in time. Oliver Knussen, who published a review in 1976 of the very first performance of Messiaen's magnum opus cannot but help bring in spatial and architectural observations:
It comes as something of a surprise, therefore, to encounter a relatively intimate and genial work, employing an orchestra that is by Messiaen's standards modest … This restraint was no doubt conditioned to some extent by the dimensions of Alice Tully Hall in New York, where the work was premièred. This hall is one of the most beautiful and warmly resonant that the present writer has experiences: a fact worth bearing in mind while listening to Canyons in the dryish acoustic of the Festival Hall, where the imagination had to supply some of the inscapes of reverberation which Messiaen characteristically takes into account.The review continues with its hints of architectural and spatial orientations. Movements are "polychrome edifices." Each places "things next to another in horizontal juxtaposition." It may not be fair to impart the author with an architectural understanding of Messiaen's work, yet the connection remains useful as it points to other realms in which architecture and music collide.
|1969 ad depicting Sunn Orion amplifiers (note logo at bottom left)|
|Schematics depicting location of Sunn O)))'s gear|
|Ludwig Hilberseimer, Drawing of a Hochhausstadt, from Groszstadtarchitektur (1924)|
|Le Corbusier, drawing of the Voisin Plan of Paris in Buenos Aires, from Precisions (1930)|