Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Aerodynamic Lightness of Being

Louis-Pierre Mouillard (1834-1897), Nile Vulture (Otogyps auricularis), from L’Empire de l’air (1881)

The year is 1881. Convalescing in Alexandria, sketching images of Nile Vultures gliding in the sweltering Mediterranean skies, the French ornithologist and engineer Louis-Pierre Mouillard writes of an air teeming with life. Appearing early on in his influential treatise on bird flight, L’Empire de l’Air, Mouillard’s powerful, sublime description of the air casts a prophetic eye to the future: “O! Blind Humanity! open thine eyes and thou shalt see millions of birds and myriads of insects cleaving the atmosphere. All these creatures are whirling through the air without the slightest float; many of them are gliding therein, without losing height, hour after hour, on pulseless wings without fatigue; and after beholding this demonstration given by the source of all knowledge, thou wilt acknowledge that Aviation is the path to be followed.” [1] Here, then, is a plea to view the world differently. It is a new sensibility that does more than call attention to the changing air; it asks us to look at the numerous denizens of the air as something altogether different. This is because for Mouillard, these are not birds or insects. They are airplanes.

In Mouillard’s world, these creatures maneuver easily through the air thanks to their nearly weightless bodies. This was the predominant view for centuries. Even that most dedicated chronicler and student of animal flight, Étienne-Jules Marey acknowledged how those before him thought that insects and birds were able to “float” in the sky because of air-filled sacs that made them no different than balloons. Marey and his contemporaries looked to the flight mechanisms of birds and insects as models for human-powered, heavier-than-air flight. And during its initial moments, heavier-than-air flight was only slightly heavier than air. This was the case with the earliest airplanes: delicate, cumbersome assemblages of cloth, wood, and wire that strained to escape the surface of the earth only to fly slowly, elegantly, and effortlessly on currents of air. This was not a common sentiment, however. Franz Kafka referred to the various machines lined up like flying mantises at the 1909 Brescia Air Show as “suspicious little wooden contraptions.” [2] For the budding modernist, aircraft were no different than Gregor Samsa, the scarab-like tragic figure from The Metamorphosis: insects with uncontrollable appendages that were “continually fluttering about.” [3]

Samsa’s fantastical predicament moored him to some very real concerns. And despite Kafka’s plodding verse, we can think of another modernity that follows Nietzsche’s clarion call to “kill the Spirit of Heaviness.” [4] Here, instances like F.T. Marinetti’s descriptions of pilots, who upon returning to earth, leave their machines “with an elastic ultralight leap,” [5] or Le Corbusier’s observation that airplanes are a “sign of the new times” advancing forward “in a winged flurry,” [6] tell of a modernism imbued with a lightness. It is a physical and metaphysical lightness. An aerodynamic lightness.

As stated by James A.H. Murray in the New English Dictionary on Historical Principles (1858), “Aerodynamics [is the] branch of pneumatics which treats of air and other gases in motion, and of their mechanical efforts.” [7] Murray’s definition is based on an earlier entry from the Popular Encyclopedia of 1837: “Aerodynamics; a branch of aerology, or the higher mechanics, which treats the powers and motion of elastic fluids.” [8] Though these definitions speak more of laboratories and experimental chambers, consider how Siegfried Giedion, that most stalwart promoter of architectural modernism, puts forward the laboratory as a metaphor for the creation of new architecture. Using ferroconcrete construction as an example, Giedion makes much of how concrete is not only a “laboratory product,” but also made in a laboratory. [9] This language is more than metaphorical, as demonstrated when he places new advances in iron construction on an aerodynamic footing:
Instead of the rigid balance of support and load, iron demands a more complex, more fluid balance of forces. Through the condensation of the material to a few points, a creation of the airspace, des combinations aériennes that Octave Mirabeau recognized already in 1889. This sensation of being enveloped by a floating airspace while walking through tall structures (Eiffel Tower) advanced the concept of flight before it had been realized and stimulated the formation of the new architecture. [10]
Giedion’s reference to Eiffel Tower is not accidental. Since its construction for the 1889 Exposition Universelle and until the early 20th century, Gustave Eiffel’s iconic structure was the ineluctable center of aviation in the world. In 1901, the Brazilian aviator Alberto-Santos Dumont won the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize after circling the Eiffel Tower in his No.6 Airship. Similar feats would have more lasting influences on architecture culture. Hence in Aircraft (1935), Le Corbusier writes of his early days as an apprentice in Auguste Perret’s office in 1909, sequestered in a “student’s garret on Quai St. Michel,” and hearing the noise of the Comte de Lambert’s Wright Flyer circle the Eiffel Tower. [11]

Le Corbusier’s life-long romance with flying machines is well known. And not surprisingly, Giedion would describe Le Corbusier’s own architecture in aerodynamic terms. Writing about the Cité Frugès à Pessac in Bordeaux, Giedion describes the building as something not unlike a wind tunnel: “Corbusier’s homes are neither spatial not plastic: air flows through them! Air becomes a constituent factor! Neither space nor plastic form counts, only RELATION and INTERPENETRATION!” [12] This is a description of a new kind of architecture comprised of light structures, many appearing “as thin as paper” that transform buildings into “cubes of air” and make an “immediate transition to the sky.” [13] Architecture, now aloft, seems to have taken on the qualities of the airplane.

André Devambez (1867-1944), Le seul oiseau qui vole au-dessus des nuages (The Only Bird That Flies Above the Clouds), 1910, H. 45; W. 68cm, © ADAGP, Paris-RMN (Musée d'Orsay)/Hervé Lewandowski. A reproduction of this painting would appear in L'Illustration (September 17, 1910)
Consider, for example, André Devambez’ painting of an ungainly aircraft grazing the clouds high above Paris for the September 17, 1910 issue of L’Illustration. The machine — an Antoinette V monoplane — was one of the most celebrated aircraft in early twentieth century French aviation. Designed by the engineer and inventor Léon Levavasseur, Antoinette aircraft were lightweight machines that were as pleasing to the eye as they were to fly. One reason for this was that Levavasseur, who began his career as an engine designer for speedboats, created a lightweight, aluminum-cast, gasoline-injection engine with a high power-to-weight ratio for all his aircraft. His engines powered some of the most important aircraft of its day: Farmans, Blériots, Esnault-Pelteries. Not wonder, then, that Devambez portrays the Antoinette as a bold, graceful, dragonfly-like machine, freed from its earthly shackles, hovering lightly above a bank of cumulus clouds. Like others, he would have known that French aviator Hubert Latham prized the machine precisely for these characteristics. A dashing figure known as “The Storm King,” Latham set multiple records in Antoinette aircraft. And despite two failed attempts to cross the English Channel, Latham and his Antoinette were a familiar presence in the skies of cities like Paris and Berlin.

(Top and Bottom) From A. Cléry, “L’Aéroplane ‘Antoinette V’” L’Aerophile: revue technique et pratique des locomotions aériennes (Jan. 1, 1909)

(Top) Wing assembly for Antoinette V, from A. Cléry, “L’Aéroplane ‘Antoinette V’” L’Aerophile: revue technique et pratique des locomotions aériennes (Jan. 1, 1909); (Bottom) Advertisement showing Levavasseur’s lightweight Antoinette engine, from L’Aerophile (Jan. 1, 1909)

In January 1909, the French aviation impresario Georges Besançon published a lengthy article about the Antoinette V in L’Aerophile, the Aéro-Club de France’s monthly journal. The article celebrated many of the airplane’s innovations, and yet focused especially on its construction. Images and drawings from the article show the wings and fuselages before the application of painted and lacquered fabric as skeins of wooden spars joined with aluminum gussets—these give the aircraft a fragile, skeletal appearance. The author, A. Cléry, reminds readers how the Antoinette’s wings and fuselage are made from combinations of triangles and pyramids—a construction technique that not only accommodates traction and compression, but also does so with a minimum amount of materials. This, Cléry observes, is “the same principle of the construction of steel bridges and the Eiffel Tower. Its application to the construction of airplane wings has resulted in an absolute rigidity and strength, combined with the greatest possible lightness.” [14]

(Top) Alexander Graham Bell’s “Siamese Twin” kites, from Alexander Graham Bell, “Aërial Locomotion, With a Few Notes of Progress in the Construction of the Aërodrome,” National Geographic Magazine (Jan., 1907), 1-33; (Bottom)  Bell’s “Cygnet II,” February 25, 1909. Bulletins, from January 4, 1909 to April 12, 1909, Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress, 1862-1939, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

Cléry was not the only one to make a connection between Eiffel and Levavasseur. As one of L’Aerophile’s most avid readers, the American inventor Alexander Graham Bell would take a particular interest in Cléry’s article about the Antoinette V. Since 1899, Bell had been preoccupied with building kites that improved on Lawrence Hargraves’ “box” designs. He settled on kites composed of multiple cells of tetrahedral structures, a design that would increase the amount of surface area with a minimum of materials. His first kites were small, wood-and-cloth pyramids consisting of smaller tetrahedral units. And as he became more ambitious with his designs, he created large, ungainly tetrahedral space frames that had to be towed out into the open water in order to be set aloft. Of these, the largest were the “Cygnet” series, which were gigantic structures comprising of 3,393 tetrahedral cells. Tested out in the waters of Keuka Lake, near Hammondsport, New York from 1907 to 1908, the Cygnets were temperamental things. In the words of their pilot, Thomas Selfridge, the Cygnets “persistently refused to fly.” [15]

(Top and Bottom) Alexander Graham Bell’s Tower, from “Dr. Bell’s Tetrahedral Tower,” National Geographic Magazine (Oct., 1907), 672-675.

Despite the Cygnet’s perceived stubbornness, Bell found solace in Cléry’s emphasis on tetrahedral structures. Later in 1909, Bell noted how the Antoinette “seems to be constructed throughout upon the tetrahedral plan.” [16] The emphasis on “construction” should not be taken lightly, for Bell’s Cygnets were more architectural than aerodynamical. And in a series of spreads for the October 1907 issue of National Geographic Magazine, editor Gilbert M. Grosvenor depicted what would be the fullest architectural expressions of Bell’s aeronautical work. Titled “Dr. Bell’s Tetrahedral Tower,” the piece shows images of an 80-foot observation tower built in 1907 at Bell’s estate in Beinn Bhreagh, Nova Scotia. With legs made of tetrahedral-celled trusses that intersected high above to ground to form a platform, Bell’s structure was touted for its lightness and ease of assembly. Its use of eight-pin joints to hold the frame no doubt foreshadowed similar innovations by Max Mengeringhausen, Konrad Wachsmann, or R. Buckminster Fuller. Bell’s truss system resulted in a kind of building that was light and that, echoing Giedion’s description of the Eiffel Tower, gave one the sensation of being aloft. It was an aerodynamic building in the sense that it could accommodate moving air. But it was also aerodynamic because it was a structure originally designed to fly. When we normally think of flying buildings, we immediately conjure images of architecture outfitted with streamlined forms not unlike those made memorable by Erich Mendelsohn or Norman Bel Geddes. Bell’s tetrahedral tower is radically different from these, however. As an assemblage of pipes joined into lightweight pyramids and tetrahedrons, Bell’s tower nevertheless captivates us because it is one of the few instances where we can talk of a flying machine that has truly evolved into architecture.

(An Italian version of this article appeared in September 2011 in Materia 70. Many thanks to Daria Ricchi for her beautiful translation.)



[1] Louis-Pierre Mouillard, “The Empire of The Air,” Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, Showing the Operations, Expenditures, and Conditions of the Institution to July, 1892 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1893), 398. This is an abridged translation of Mouillard, L’Empire de l’air: essai d’ornithologie appliquée a l’aviation (Paris: Masson, 1881).
[2] Franz Kafka, “Die Aeroplane in Brescia,” Bohemia (29 September 1909), quoted in Peter Demetz, The Air Show at Brescia, 1909 (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2002), 115.
[3] Kafka, "The Metamorphosis," in Joyce Crick, ed. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories (London: Oxford University Press, 2009), 82.
[4] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Of Reading and Writing,” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, R.J, Hollingdale, trans. (New York: Penguin, 2003 [1961]), 68.
[5] Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Teoria e invenzione futurista, Luciano de Maria, ed. (Milan: Mondadori, 1968), 116, quoted in Jeffrey T. Schnapp, “Propeller Talk,” Modernism/Modernity Vol 1.3 (1994), 165.
[6] Le Corbusier, Sur les 4 routes (Paris: Gallimard, 1941), 125.
[7] “aerodynamics, n.” The Oxford English Dictionary. 3d ed. 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. 10 June 2011 .
[8] John D. Anderson, Jr., A History of Aerodynamics and its Impact on Flying Machines (Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 5.
[9] Sigfried Giedion, Building in France, Building in Iron, Building in Ferroconcrete, J. Duncan Berry, trans. (Los Angeles: Getty Center Publications, 1995), 150-151.
[10] Ibid., p. 102.
[11] Le Corbusier, Aircraft (London: The Studio, Ltd., 1935), 6.
[12] Giedion, Building in France, p. 169.
[13] Ibid.
[14] A. Cléry, “L’Aéroplane ‘Antoinette V’” L’Aerophile: revue technique et pratique des locomotions aériennes (Jan. 1, 1909), 7-8.
[15] Report of Flight of Cygnet II, Monday, March 2, 1908. Notes by Thomas E. Selfridge, from September 24, 1907 to July 24, 1908. “Series: Subject File, Folder: Aviation, Aerial Experiment Association vs. Meyers, 1908-1912, undated.” Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress, 1862-1939, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
[16] Bell, “The Antoinette V.” Bulletins, from January 4, 1909 to April 12, 1909, Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers at the Library of Congress, 1862-1939, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.

Exit Strategy

Timofey Pnin's Isometric Head (Source: ccassidy)

February, 1957. A wintry day at fictional Waindell College, somewhere in the fictional Northeastern United States. The world is at its greyest. Bare-armed campus elms, no longer adorned by leafy crenellations, offer no resistance to the freezing air. The sun carves a shallow transit against the cirrus formations: silvery, aeriform scars illuminated by a hovering pale orb in the withering light. The previous year is only recently dead, and the new year, fraught with growing pains, is just coming to terms with its own anxieties. The future, unclear, is inevitable, looming.

Atoms have just been spilt, their energy uncontrolled and dangerous. Boundaries, thought and drawn, calcify East and West. Sputnik is yet to become a wandering star. Yet even within the secluded groves of this Waindelled world, the faintest flickering of distant events prime the murmuring heart. All is not well in the world that is the University.

An imaginary professor of Russian literature has just found out, to crushing disappointment, that he has been assigned to teach a theater course in the French department. His name is Timofey Pnin. Son of an ophthamologist, survivor of "The Hitler War," sifting through the flotsam and jetsam of a failed marriage, Pnin mulls over his latest failure. Tenure was not guaranteed, but in the fantastic, cobweb-ridden corners of Pnin's mind, it was a possibility as distant, tangible, and impossible as a nebula.

Witness the exit strategy, the transition, the turning-over. Lists are made, appointments canceled or confirmed. Our elderly professor, defeated, collects his meager belongings in a small valise: tortoise-shell glasses too narrow for his crown, an omnibus volume of Sherlock Holmes stories, a fob of linen, a brilliant set of false teeth. Everything else seems like a film played backwards. Dishes are emptied of food and leap into the covert in neat, ceramic ziggurats. The sink fills and empties repeatedly, trash disappearing into the whorls and eddies of an infinite drain. Table and bed linens crumple into orthogonal forms and fly into closet drawers in spectral choreographies. These are the last days. Pnin writes to his landlord: "Dear Mr.___ : Behold the instructions for closing a bank account."

Our esteemed professor enters a small, four-door blue sedan, and takes the driveway out from his rented house through the tall trees onto a busy street. A sure, if not steady driver, he leans into the gas pedal to avoid a swerving truck. Waindellians remembered a bluish blur leaving acrid smoke and petrol in its wake. "Did I just see Pnin?" they ask, commenting on an image-like composition of bald pate, glasses, and brilliant teeth accompanied by guttural threnodies of vrooms and even more vrooms. Pnin sightings increase in frequency as the car speeds away to some unknown terminus. And he is gone.

In the wake of this noisy, smoky departure, there’s nothing. But wait: Is that a rustle of leaves? A cool breeze stirs the budding boughs. An icicle falls from a tree and shatters on the soft earth with a plink. Spring is not as far off as it seems.

(Note: A version of this article appeared in Fulcrum, the Architectural Association's student broadsheet, in May 2011)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Capsule Review: The Heights

From Kate Ascher, The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper (2011)

Deep into the index of Kate Ascher’s likable and engaging The Heights: Anatomy of a Skyscraper (The Penguin Press, 2011), we learn that “skyscraper” was not only the name of a racing horse, but that it also referred to the “triangular sky-sail” of a ship. The fact that such data appears in such a manner is poignant—here, in a book teeming with information, in the very part dedicated to the categorization and organization of names, nouns, verbs, et cetera, we find what is perhaps one of the most important concepts of the book. The word “skyscraper” is both performative and descriptive: not only does the Oxford English Dictionary tell us that “Skyscraper” was sired by “Highflyer” (these must have been very tall horses), but that along with “moonrakers,” “skyscrapers” were cast out during light wind conditions, presumably to catch an errant breeze that may guide a foundering vessel back to port.

Similarly, The Heights uses its sumptuous graphics to present a performative and descriptive (i.e. anatomical) look at skyscrapers. To do so, Ascher abandons the impulse to conflate “skyscraper” with “architecture” and presents tall buildings more as urban objects. Repeating and elaborating the formula that made her earlier graphic study on infrastructure, The Works: Anatomy of a City (2005), so successful, Ascher offers the reader hundreds of drawings, as crisp as legible as anything offered by Ernst Neufert or Otto Neurath, all showing how skyscrapers are, in essence, compact, vertical cities. This emphasis on verticality goes well beyond the book’s title: The Heights is organized in a roughly vertical fashion, with some parts dedicated  to the laying of foundations, and others showing how concrete is pumped towards upper floor plates via a complex series of compressors and tubes. (The table of contents even appears as an elevator control panel, which seems counter-intuitive unless one starts thinking of The Heights as vertical.)

A book about verticality, organized vertically

Ascher’s book is by no means flawless. Those with afflictions for history (such as me), will find the introductory material either very familiar or somewhat lacking. For example, the tried and true method of showing the history of skyscraper construction on a timeline only serves to show a progression in form with only a very cursory investigation of the social, political, and cultural contexts that gave rise to these building types. Yet this is not a serious fault, for the book’s preference for graphic design and visual analysis gives the reader a detailed and comprehensive glance into the design, composition, and maintenance of skyscrapers. In all, the book’s greatest strength is its ability to communicate complex information for all kinds of audiences. This means that while perusing The Heights, I was able to suspend my own predilections for historical analysis if only for a moment to confront the complexities of architecture and urbanism in a different and exciting way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Some Updates

Directions for camera usage (Source: Richard Linklater, Slacker [New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992])

A very quick note to let you know about some things I have written of late that have appeared outside the space of this humble little blog (which, by the way, turned 5 this past summer).

1. In August, Materia, an Italian professional architecture journal published by Paolo Portoghesi, ran a piece by me called "L'aerodinamica leggerezza dell'essere" ("The Aerodynamic Lightness of Being.") It's a brief essay that truly exposes audiences to one of my own pathologies: namely, of writing about airplanes as a kind of architecture. Though the article was translated into Italian by Daria Ricchi, the English version of the piece also appears in the magazine. I may publish an extended version of it here, with more images.

2. Late last month, Quaderns d'arquitecture i urbanisme (better known as Quaderns) published "Air Control," my own brief, ruminative account of how the physical and metaphorical control of air defined the course of architecture through modernity into the present day. This article appears in English, Catalan, and Spanish.

3. Lastly, my own take on Richard Linklater's Slacker, from Places. It is the first of a small series of articles concerning the depiction of Texas cities on film. Bonus points to those who read the footnotes. Those of you who read all the way to the end will understand the above image.

Special thanks go out to the editors I've been working with over the summer: Kazys Varnelis, Nina Rappaport, Mario Ballesteros, Guillermo López, Caroline Fuchs, Daria Ricchi, Nancy Levinson, Josh Wallaert, and Iben Falconer.

Stay tuned ....

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Rocket Talk

Space Capsule, from Walter Hohmann, The Attainability of Heavenly Bodies, Technical Translation F-44, U.S. Joint Publications Service, trans. (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1960), 65. (Official translation of Hohmann, Die Erreichbarkeit der Himmelskörper [Berlin and Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1925].)

No matter the scale of an object, whether it is a small, hand-held device or a tall building, we ask of it to more or less “act” human. This is the familiar conceit underlying MoMA’s Talk To Me, an exhibition showcasing technologies “that enhance communicative possibilities and embody a new balance between technology and people, bringing technological breakthroughs up or down to a comfortable, understandable human scale.”[1] This act of asking, of needing technological objects to be more like people takes different aspects, is based around notions of reflexivity; That is, of acting, reacting, responding to our own impulses in a like manner.

Things do not “talk.” They may communicate, send us messages, data, or other kinds of information, but only at our own behest, on our own terms. We identify and design the contours and parameters that allows technology to communicate with us. We imbue the objects we design with a kind of communicative ability that has nothing to do with physiology or language, but that has everything to do with prescribed routines and tasks. If things indeed do “talk,” this is only because we “tell” them to.[2] One wonders, then, if a technological object’s own verisimilitude to humans—whether it can “talk,” “see,” and otherwise sense the world like us—becomes the sine qua non of good contemporary design. One also wonders if this desire is actually a burden. If so, who or what shoulders the weight of this seemingly impossible task?

Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote of an unburdened modernity that would “kill the Spirit of Heaviness.”[3] This unburdening is more than philosophical; It describes the actual, physical unshackling of bonds of gravity. No endeavor has captured the sense of philosophical and physical unburdening like human flight. From Icarian waxwings to Otto Lilienthal’s hang gliders (and, to a certain extent, even Yves Rossy’s jetsuits), a quick inventory of the history of manned flight amounts to no less than a study of how tinkerers and scientists persisted in modeling human flight on bird flight even into the early 20th century. And with the advent of modern rocketry, of conceiving and executing the machines that finally allowed humans to escape gravity’s burdensome maw and spring into the weightlessness of space, the Icarian folly was abandoned in favor of technologies that looked more “human” than ever before.

Boitard's engravings showing flightsuits for Gawry (top) (Source) and Glumm (bottom) (Source: Paltock, The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, Vol. 1 [London: Reeves and Turner, 1884])

The literal “human” in “human flight” is the subject of a post at Ptak Science Books that calls attention to the visual similarities between two images of flying humans. The first is an engraving by Louis Peter Boitard from Robert Paltock's The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, a Cornish Man, Relating Particularly, His Shipwreck near the South Pole; his Wonderful Passage thro a Subterraneous Cavern into a kind of New World, his there Meeting with a Gawry or Flying Woman (1750). It features a scantily-clad female figure, anything but demure, with a kite-like device harnessed to her back. Boitard’s engraving only alludes to flight, as our posed, Icarian Gawry stands with one hand pointing up, the other down, alluding to her role as a person mediating between earth and sky, yet all-too-rooted to terra firma. The technology depicted here is more accessory than airworthy. It appears a bit too small to support the Gawry’s frame. However, a closer look at Paltock’s text reveals something much more interesting. The kite-like device is literally clothing. A Gawry or Glumm (her male counterpart) wears a suit which, as depicted in Boitard’s other engravings, appear as a form-fitting leotard-like garment that extends to its kite form when arms and legs are outspread. Paltock even describes how, in a moment of curious gender-bending, the Glumm’s garment is comprised of stiff membranes and whalebone ribs—in other words, a corset. As objects of wonder, Gawries and Glumms levitate effortlessly in the pages of The Life and Adventures of Peter Wilkins, carrying cannons and even a seated figure into the skies. Yet this is an effortlessness made possible by technology that is unlike the ungainly or clunky artificial wings drawn by Leonardo da Vinci and others. This is, after all, clothing whose ability to follow closely the contours of the human body provides the appropriate shapes and cambers to form the kite-like extension.

(Top) Hohmann, Die Erreichbarkeit der Himmelskörper (Berlin and Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1925); (Bottom)   Hohmann, The Attainability of Heavenly Bodies, Technical Translation F-44, U.S. Joint Publications Service, trans. (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1960)

The second image,  the frontispiece to German scientist Walter Hohmann’s treatise on spaceflight, Die Erreichbarkeit der Himmelskörper (The Attainability of Heavenly Bodies) (1925), shows flight in its most reductive (and anthropomorphic) manifestation. It is a depiction of an unclothed, idealized human figure, balancing precariously on the curved surface of a planet (presumably Earth), arms outspread like wings as if about to leap into the Milky Way’s starry belt. The image at once suggests liberation, and indeed Hohmann devotes much of his text to the physics of escaping Earth’s gravity. He bases his theoretical calculations on previous work on rocketry, most notably Robert H. Goddard’s influential A Method of Reaching Extreme Altitudes (1919) and  Max Valier’s Der Vostoß in dem Weltraum (The Advance into Space) (1924)—texts that relied on “exhaust-gas velocity” as a means for propulsion.

Hohmann’s preferred mode of space travel is a small, teardrop-shaped projectile that sits atop a giant, explosive-filled rocket. And though the question of propulsion remained for Hohmann “a question for the technology of explosives,”[4] his evocation of this model of spaceflight has some important antecedents. The most important of these is Herman Oberth’s Die Rakete zu den Planetenräumen (The Rocket into Interspace) (1923), a work that was not only influenced by Jules Verne’s Autour de la Lune (Voyage Around the Moon) (1872), but that also qualified Oberth for his first “assignment” as scientific consultant for Fritz Lang’s Die Frau im Mond (The Woman in the Moon) (1929). All of these feature bullet-shaped projectiles that jettisoned additional stages in order to accelerate through space.

(Top) Walter Hohmann, Drawing of Spacecraft, Elevation (Source: Hohmann, The Attainability of Heavenly Bodies, 11); (Bottom) Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (1857-1935) (Source: Andrei Nakov, "Quelques éléments d’une convergence significative entre Malewicz et Ciolkovski," in La conquête de l’air : Une aventure dans l’art du XXème siècle [Toulouse: Les Abattoirs, 2002]).

Hohmann’s spacecraft is smaller, more compact, with only enough room for two passengers. It references projectile designs by Russian rocketry pioneer Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, whose spacecraft and rocket engine designs featured ovoid, aerodynamic shapes to lessen friction during ascent and descent. Work by students at Moscow’s Higher Art and Technical Studios, or VkhUTEIN would demonstrate a passing familairity with Tsiolkovsky’s work. Examples include Georgy Krutikov’s “Habitation Cell” (1928) and Iosevitch’s study for a Congressional Palace (1929), both deploying teardrop-like aerodynamic shapes at the vehicular and architectural scale to represent speed and progress. Yet Hohmann’s vehicle, with its hyperboloid rocket stage, references Tsiolkovsky in another, more curious way. The hyperboloid shape resembles an ear trumpet, and indeed, one of the most famous images of Tsiolkovsky shows him holding such a device to his ear.

(Top) Tsiolkovsky's studies for jet- and rocket-propelled vehicles; (Middle) Georgy Kruitikov (VkhHUTEIN — Ladovskii), Flying City, Graduation Project, Drawing for "Habitation Cell" (1928) (Source: S.O. Khan-Magomedov, VHUTEMAS [Paris: Editions de Regard, 1990]); (Bottom) I. Iosevitch, Study for Congressional Palace (1929) (Source: Khan-Magomedov)

This image of Tsiolkovsky reinforces one of the central points of this post: A technology designed for escaping Earth’s atmosphere now becomes a device to help a person communicate. To borrow an argument made by the late Denis Cosgrove and William L. Fox, the hyperboloid rocket is prosthetic and aesthetic: it extends the capacity of the ear while reinforcing the spacecraft’s familiar form across different media.[5] Yet more needs to be said about the process of spaceflight and how it translates into a kind of communication. The idea of a rocket as a prosthetic, aesthetic, and finally, communicative device reaches a strange apotheosis in the last moments of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (1973)—a description of a V2 rocket variant called Schwarzgerät, or Rocket 0000, taking off to an unnamed target.

Aboard Rocket 00000 sits Gottfried, trained and conditioned to act as the rocket’s internal guidance system. “Guidance” is a misleading term, however, as our pilot/astronaut wears a form-fitting shroud made out of a mysterious plastic called Imipolex-G. Its purpose is to translate a human’s sensory inputs into polar coordinates. Gottfried has no means to actually talk to those on earth, much less the Schwarzgerät itself. There is no calculation, no communication, only pure reaction.



[1] Museum of Modern Art, Talk to Me, (accessed 8 September 2011).
[2] Here, the legal maxim res ipsa loquitur (“The thing speaks for itself”) will likely be invoked. Without going into a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction account of its use, let me state that notable exceptions notwithstanding, the doctrine applies only in cases of negligence. Res ipsa loquitur can be used in the absence of direct evidence of negligent behavior, the major qualification being that the thing that “speaks for itself” only does so because it was under a person’s control. This is but one instance of how our desire for objects to be “human” may be quixotic. To say that technology should be “understandable”  and “comfortable” is a way of restating something which is fairly clear: We want our technologies to be more and more like us. 
[3] Friedrich Nietzsche, “Of Reading and Writing,” in Thus Spoke Zarathustra, R.J, Hollingdale, trans. (New York: Penguin, 2003 [1961]), 68.
[4] Walter Hohmann, The Attainability of Heavenly Bodies, Technical Translation F-44, U.S. Joint Publications Service, trans. (Washington, DC: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1960), 11. This is the official translation of Hohmann, Die Erreichbarkeit der Himmelskörper (Berlin and Munich: R. Oldenbourg, 1925).
[5] Cosgrove and Fox use this argument to describe the tools and processes of aerial photography. In their words, “Photography’s purpose is at once prosthetic and aesthetic (in the broadest sense of the word): to extend the capacity of the human eye to perceive the world, and to capture and freeze a moment in space and time, documenting and archiving it, and rendering it mobile through the printed and transmitted image.” Denis Cosgrove and William F. Fox, Photography and Flight (London: Reaktion Books, 2010), 8.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Of Hyphens and Hurricanes

S.S. Phemius (Built in 1921, Sunk by U-515 on 20 December 1943) (Source)

Hurricane season is upon us, so consider these excerpts from Richard Hughes’ largely forgotten novel In Hazard (1938). Both are descriptions of the engine-room of the Archimedes, a cargo ship caught in the whorls of a catastrophic hurricane during the entirety of the novel:
An engine-room is unlike anything in land architecture. It is an immensely tall space—reaching from the top of the ship, more or less, to the bottom. Huge. But, unlike most large architectural spaces (except perhaps Hell), you enter it through a small door at the top.
And then:
The stokehold (or fire-room), which you enter at the bottom ordinarily, through a low door from the bottom of the engine-room, is a very different place. The air here is hotter still; but quite dry. Here, moreover, is a symmetry more like that of land-architecture: a row of similar furnaces, small at the bottom and growing larger above, so that overhead they come together, like gothic arches in a metal crypt (or the walls of a room in a dream).[1]
These passages call our attention to a subtle difference between “land architecture” and “land-architecture.” These two terms identify something we are all familiar with (buildings), and yet it is the use of a hyphen that really merits our attention. In the first excerpt, the words “land” and “architecture” are unconnected: they are separated both physically and conceptually. If architecture is different than land, then the engine-room is different from any kind of building we may be familiar with.

With the second passage, however, the hyphen joins “land” and “architecture.” This is more than just a typographic connection. Here, it is as if buildings were literally connected to the earth. This gesture evokes such terms as site, location, and even context—all expressing different ways in which buildings become part of something else. History may even be the very thing  that  connects “land” and “architecture.” Notice how Hughes describes the engine-room’s stokehold as “symmetrical,” an attribute that immediately brings to mind the symmetric plans of classical or Beaux-Arts architecture. If the stokehold is “more like” a building, then equating its furnaces with  “gothic arches” is another  deliberate architectural description. Yet what connects these two descriptions are the parenthetical asides. In the first, the engine-room is “Hell”; in the second,  “walls of a room in a dream.” These are architectural ideas, and thinking of a ship as architecture is enough to make it so.

Admittedly, this all amounts to a fair bit of hair-splitting. We may even excuse the narrator for any errors of judgment or observation he may have made. This is, after all, neither an architect nor a historian, but a novelist that is making these equations. Yet this interest in equating the design and making of ships with the design and making of buildings is not foreign to the history of architecture. Nor is it foreign to the history of the history of architecture.

Antoine-Denis Chaudet, Julien-David Le Roy, 1803-4 (Source: Christopher Drew Armstrong, "The Architect as Revolutionary Hero: A Monument to Julien-David Leroy," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 66, No. 3 (Sep., 2007), 317.)

Enter Julien-David Le Roy. As an architect, archaeologist and historian, Le Roy (1723-1804) is credited with creating a dualist approach to history that lingers to this day. Think of this approach as one that views the same building under two separate lenses—one historical, the other architectural— and that can yield different results. This was no doubt a reflection of Le Roy’s own curious upbringing. As a student at the prestigious École des arts under Jacques-François Blondel, Le Roy inherited a very rigorous background in architecture history. Upon finishing, he received the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1751. While there, he undertook an exhaustive and systematic study of Greek ruins, and went to Athens, Corinth and Sparta  in 1754 to study more examples. In 1758, he published Les Ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce (Ruins of the Most Beautiful Monuments of Greece), his account of his travels to Italy and Greece. Part travel monograph, and part history of the region, Le Roy’s book featured picturesque compositions along with measured drawings of details and examples of Greek architecture. Others have remarked already that these two kinds of drawings represent the dualist approach I alluded to earlier: whereas the more picturesque drawings sought to situate a particular ruin within a historical context, the measured drawings represented an understanding of architecture through abstract and formal differences.[2] This latter approach has been touted as an example of a “scientific” approach to the history of architecture. (Le Roy is often credited as being the first to apply Enlightenment ideas about science to the writing of architecture history). That is, Le Roy’s formal studies of Greek architecture were an attempt to deduce examples from general, original forms he called ideés. It perhaps should not surprise the reader that Le Roy also came from a distinguished family of watchmakers. Clocks, after all, were more than just metaphors describing the order of the universe; they were mechanical technologies that implemented order and structure to those phenomena that eluded description. In other words, clocks were regulators of chaos. They were highly rational machines that provided form.[3]

(Left) Plan and Elevation of Temple of Istria at Pola, from Julien David Le Roy, Les Ruines des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce (1758); (Right) Details of Temple of Istria at Pola, from Le Roy, Les Ruines. Both engravings by Le Bas (Source: Jeanne Kisacky, "History and Science: Julien-David Leroy's "Dualistic Method of Architecture History," Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 60, No. 3 (Sep. 2001), 264. 

Le Roy was a young architect who busied himself by expanding his world view. Worldly travels were becoming essential to architectural training, and this meant booking passage on vessels throughout Europe and the Mediterranean to visit those sites which were of historical importance.  Le Roy was following in the footsteps of Antoine Babuty Desgodetz (1653-1728), who also traveled to Rome to make measured drawings of ruins and buildings from antiquity. Desgodetz’s experiences as an architectural traveller are remarkable: during his 1674 trip to Rome, Ottoman pirates captured and overran his ship. He and his companions, Jacob Spon and Augustin-Charles d’Aviler,  were kept as slaves in Algiers and Tunis for a year. Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the Minister of Finance under Louis XIV and a tireless advocate of building up the French merchant fleet and armada, later arranged for a prisoner exchange. Once Desgodetz returned to Rome, he began the series of drawings that would become part of the influential Les edifices antiques de Rome dessinés et mesurés très exactement (The Ancient Buildings of Rome, Accurately Measured and Delineated) (1682).

Like engraved books, ships were important mechanisms for conveying  information about the ancient world to larger audiences. They were mediums of exchange between the modern and ancient worlds. This would take on an additional significance for Le Roy. After the successes of Les Ruines, as well as subsequent books on the history of ecclesiastical architecture, and following his appointment to the Académie Royale d’Architecture and the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Le Roy began to turn his attention to ships. In 1786, he became an advisor to Académie de marine in Brest and even proposed designs for a national school of maritime studies in 1794. These were all  formative moments in an already illustrious career. Yet Le Roy’s project of articulating simultaneous historical and scientific approaches to history had reached their fullest expressions by 1770 and 1777 in three works that were not about buildings, but about ships.

Le Roy, “Premier mémoire sur la marine des anciens,” Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres, avec les mémoires de Littérature tirés de Registres de cette Académie, depuis l’année M.DCCLXX, jusques & compris l’année M.DCCLXXII, Tome 38 (Paris: L’Imprimerie Royale, 1778)

The first of these was “Mémoires sur la marine des anciens” (“Memoirs on the navies of the ancients”), Le Roy’s first lecture on naval architecture. Presented at the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres in February 1770, this lecture presented analyses and detailed explanations of the evolution of ships and sails to demonstrate that the historical and scientific approaches had to work in tandem. In Le Roy’s words, history and nature were similar: “History, as much as nature, frequently offers us a mass of sterile facts; she also sometimes presents us with some more precious, but more rare facts, from which can be drawn, as from a prolific spring, a great number of truths.”[4] History and nature both yielded the ever-important principles needed for scientific understanding. Without a historical underpinning, a technical understanding of ship building would be faulty. The same applied to history of naval architecture: it made little sense without understanding the kinds of technological changes that gave rise to the present problem. And like Les ruines, Le Roy’s first work on ships identified the development of an idée over time. The only difference here, of course, was that he looked to examples from Phoenician, Greek, and Roman shipbuilding to prove his point.

Catherine Haussard, engraving showing historical development of vessels. Figure 3 represents Odysseus' raft. Figure 4 is a Phoenician vessel. Figures 5 and 6 are the side and front elevations of an Egyptian ship. From Le Roy, "Premier mémoire sur la marine des anciens,” 596.

Le Roy’s use of images, begin to demonstrate how these two methods were at first separated. The most famous of these are the set of engravings (drawn by Catherine Haussard) showing the development of vessels based on the idée of a single-person raft. At the top, an elevation shows a flat piece of wood supported by wooden logs. Underneath, the complexity of the vessel increases progressively according to the number of oarsmen and passengers, showing Odysseus’ raft, a Phoenician long ship, and culminating with an Egyptian vessel. Another engraving shows the further development of rowing vessels, focusing on the idée of a ship comprised of a single line of rowers. Yet the emphasis is geographically-specific. Here, Le Roy focused on how Greek designers modified ships in order to accommodate larger numbers of rowers. Whereas the first engraving depicted changes in development according to technological innovations, the second focused on a specific historical context.

Le Roy, engraving comparing and describing history of sail development. At bottom row, center is a section of the Naupotame, the ship that Le Roy designed. From Le Roy, Les navires des anciens, considérés par rapport a leurs voiles (Paris: Nyon, 1783) (Source: Kisacky, "History and Science," 281.)  

In his third text on ship design, Les navires des anciens (The Ships  of the Ancients) (1783), Le Roy begins to conflate the two approaches. Again, it is an engraving that gives a visual expression to this method. Here, the focus is on the development of sails, showing the development of Carthaginian, Greek, and Roman ships as part of a singular historical procession. The unifying principle here is the shape and arrangement of the sail as it leaps periods and geographies by dint of the engraved image. It is an image that underscores faith in reason, for only through the application of scientific reasoning could such an image be created. But in order to get a sense of how all of this came to be, of why ships should even be subjected to the same kind of analysis as buildings, it is important to look at Le Roy’s second text on ships, La marine des anciens peuples (The Navies of Ancient Peoples) (1777).

Engraving by Jean Goujon of the Vitruvian origins of fire as shown in the first French translation of de Architectura. From Jean Martin, Architecture, ou Art de bien bastir de Marc Vitruve Pollion Autheur (Paris, 1547).

Here, it is not an image, but a historical reference that reveals something new. In the very first section of La marine, Le Roy details the history of seafaring peoples. He relies on ancient geographic texts by Ptolemy and Eusebius to identify the ancient Phoenicians as one of the first fish-eating people, or Ichthyophagi. But the very idée of a ship began with something more tumultuous. Eusebius was one of the first people to provide an account of the first ship—a story which was a retelling of a fragment by the Phoenician chronicler Sanchuniathon:
And when furious rains and winds occurred, the trees in Tyre were rubbed against each other and caught fire, and burnt down the wood that was there. And Ousous took a tree, and, having stripped off the branches, was the first who ventured to embark on the sea.[5]
Le Roy acknowledges this fragment as an account of the origins of seafaring. Yet he re-imagines the passage, here giving form to the meteorological event that gave birth to seafaring:
Hurricanes (said Sanchuniathon) having burst all at once upon the trees of the forest of Tyre, which caught on fire, and the flames devoured the forest. In this confusion, Ousoüs took the trunk of a tree, and having de-limbed it, he first ventured out to sea.[6]
Le Roy did not have to scour ancient texts to find this fragment. A version of it also appeared in the first volume Antoine-Yves Goguet’s De l’origine des loix, des arts, et des sciences (On the Origins of Laws, Arts, and the Sciences) (1758). In a section devoted to the history of commerce and navigation, Goguet also gives credit to Sanchuniathon’s account, noting that Ousous, having made a raft from a “half-burned tree,” was the first to expose himself to the water.[7] Yet in Le Roy’s telling, this tale gains architectural significance. He explains how the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius borrowed Sanchuniathon’s story of seafaring and applied it to his study of architecture. To prove the point, Le Roy notes the similarity between Sanchuniathon’s account of the origins of seafaring with this description from Book II of Vitruvius’ de Architectura (also known as The Ten Books of Architecture):
A tempest, on a certain occasion, having exceedingly agitated the trees in a particular spot, the friction between some of the branches caused them to take fire; this so alarmed those in the neighbourhood of the accident, that they betook themselves to flight.[8]
The “flight” here leads to the first gathering of people around a fire, which leads to the creation of the first shelters — the origin of architecture. Yet Le Roy’s reading of Sanchuniathon gives a more important significance to storm at Tyre. The very hurricane that gives birth to seafaring becomes the storm that gives birth to architecture. This was by no means a strange way to look at the historical relationship between ships and buildings. In La marine, Le Roy also mentions in a footnote Goguet’s description of large seaborne rafts known as "pyrogues" as “that other kind of building.”[9] By the time that Le Roy published his treatises on naval architecture, "bâtiment" was commonly understood to refer to both "ship" and "building."[10] But as Le Roy noted, thanks to Vitruvius replacing Ousous’ wooden raft with a shelter, we can now locate the origins of architecture in seafaring.[11] The ship was the very first architectural object.

The Calypso, shown alongside other vessels with ancient riggings. From Le Roy, Nouvelles recherches sur le vaisseau long des anciens, sur les voiles latines, et sur les moyens de diminuer les dangers que courent les navigateurs (Paris, 1786) (Source: Sylviane Llinares, “Marine et anticomanie au xviiie siècle: les avatars de l’archéologie expérimentale en vraie grandeur,” Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l’Ouest, Vol. 2, No. 115-2 (2008), 25.

Le Roy believed in the study of ancient sources as a way to approach contemporary architectural design. The same could be said about his interest in ships. More than a historian of naval architecture, Le Roy also designed various ships and used his knowledge of seafaring from classical antiquity to design sails and riggings. This aspect of his career has meteorological origins as well. In 1763, the Minister of the Navy, the Duke de Choiseul, appointed Le Roy to test a new kind of sail based on ancient designs aboard the war frigate Calypso. These riggings, which used triangular instead of square sails, proved deficient when a strong storm overtook the Calypso and forced the crew to almost scuttle the ship near the English coast.[12] Though crewmen were able to repair the ship, Le Roy would continue this aspect of his career. Besides testing additional sails and riggings on other naval vessels, he would design his own ship, the Naupotame, and engage in an prolonged letter exchange with Benjamin Franklin about the development of merchant fleets.[13] This would reach its apex in a final series of texts, including one written in 1786, that concerned sail designs and the avoidance of marine hazards, and another,  a small tract advocating for a system of deep canals that would connect Paris and the Seine to the sea.[14]


Aftermath of 1932 hurricane, Santa Cruz del Sur, Cuba

The 1932 Atlantic hurricane season was particularly devastating to ports and merchant fleets along the Caribbean. October alone saw three storms. One, which formed on October 30 near Guadeloupe, traveled southwards and then curved towards the north, becoming one of the most powerful storms ever recorded before it hit Cuba.[15] It weakened and gained even more strength before reaching Jamaica. At that time, it crossed paths with the S.S. Phemius, a merchant steamer traveling between Savannah and Colon. With initial gusts of over 200 miles per hour, the hurricane overpowered and ensnared the Phemius for almost four days. The ship’s meteorological log describes the storm’s effect on the ship’s various structures and buildings:
At 2 p.m. [November 5, 1932] the wind shifted to N.E. blowing with hurricane force accompanied by blinding squalls and a very high sea. The barometer was then falling rapidly reaching the low point of 914.6 mb. [27.01 inches] by 8 p.m. A fierce hurricane was blowing and a very high sea running. The ship was enveloped in spindrift, reducing the visibility to Nil, the No. 1 hatch not being visible from the bridge. The vessel was rolling heavily, the helm being of little use. So great was the force of the wind that shortly before 8 p.m. the funnel was blown overboard. The ship was rendered helpless and from then on was carried with the hurricane in an unmanageable state. It would not be overestimating to put the wind force at 200 miles per hour. Hatches were blown overboard like matchwood, derricks and lifeboats wrecked, upper and lower bridges blown in.[16]
The passage, with its account of chaos and destruction, seems to be undoing very description that introduced this post. If the Archimedes from Richard Hughes’ In Hazard is an example of a ship that can be equated with “land-architecture,” then this storm becomes the very force that “erases” the hyphen. Architecture becomes unmoored, cast adrift in a maelstrom.

Later in 1932, after the Phemius was towed to salvage, its captain, D.L.C. Evans, asked Richard Hughes to write an account of the hurricane. He would eventually fictionalize the account, the result being one of the inspirations for In Hazard. And though the book’s descriptions of the storm are sometimes fantastic, their brute poetry give the 1932 hurricane an additional allegorical dimension. Hughes wrote the novel in in 1938, its chaotic whorls foreshadowing the ways in which the Second World War would ravage Europe and the rest of the world.

Yet the hurricane from In Hazard is more than just an allegorical storm. As a meteorological event, it is the device that propels and structures Hughes’ narrative. It is, in other words, a form-giver, an elusive, chaotic event that nevertheless orders the world it consumes. To fully understand this, it is important to consider one final storm.

Vice-Admiral Georges Cloué (Source: Préfecture Maritime de la Manche et de la Mer du Nord)

On May 24, 1885, a tropical monsoon cyclone formed near the Laccadive Islands, about 555 km southwest of the Indian peninsula. It traveled westwards and entered the Arabian Sea, making a direct line toward the Gulf of Aden. Yet neither the cyclone’s trajectory, nor its strength and magnitude were known until unverified and poorly-kept accounts from ships caught in the storm’s path began to appear in various newspapers. The storm would eventually make landfall on the Horn of Africa, and its  immediate aftermath became well known. On June 3, the cyclone claimed five vessels—the German corvette Augusta, the French dispatch vessel Renard, the Turkish steamer Fetul-Bahari, and the British cargo ships S.S. Speke Hall and S.S. Seraglio—with no sign of cargo and at least 427 crew and passengers lost.[17]

It was not until 1886 when the first detailed accounts of the storm began to appear in official publications. For example, a report of the storm appeared in an issue of Annalen der Hydrographie und martimen Meteorologie, the German Hydrographic Office’s official journal. The article featured one of the first maps of the cyclone’s trajectory, based on information provided by the Indian Meteorological Office. That year also saw one of the most comprehensive and authoritative accounts of the cyclone. Written in March 1886 by Vice-Admiral Georges Cloué, the newly-appointed French Minister of the Navy and the Colonies, the article was the first of several reports for the French Navy compiling meteorological and navigational data from 27 vessels that were caught in the storm.[18]

Cloué’s studies featured numerous diagrams and maps that explained the strength of the storm in terms of the speed and orientation of winds. Of these, the most visually compelling are the diagrams that show the location of a ship in relation to the storm. Each is presented from a particular vessel’s “point of view.” The most basic diagram is that representing the storm as it passed over the French frigate Rouen, carrying a cavalry regiment from Tonkin in Indochina. Here, Cloué calculated the cyclone’s direction and orientation by compiling wind speed, direction, and atmospheric pressure: these were drawn as a familiar cyclonic form, with a line in the middle representing the storm’s direction. This was a fairly straightforward, yet incomplete graphic. Though the center of the cyclone passed over the Rouen, the diagram did not show the ship’s position in relation to the storm’s. Cloué would achieve this subsequently with other diagrams depicting the storm’s trajectory as it would intersect with a ship’s, and in other instances, showing the cyclone in relation to two vessels. All of this information would be compared with data provided by manometers and anemographs posted on the Gulf of Aden by the British Royal Navy.

Diagrams showing vessels in relation to the Aden Cyclone. From Vice-Amiral Cloué, “L’Ouragan de juin 1885, dans le Golfe d’Aden,” in Service Hydrographique de la Marine, Annales hydrographiques: Recueil d’avis, instructions, documents et mémoires relatifs à l’hydrographie et la navigation, Vol. 2, No. 8 (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1886). 

Cloué’s studies, though carefully-researched and expertly-wrought, only foregrounded what was really at stake: the form and “design” of tropical cyclones. He called the very last section of his April 1886 article “Étude du cyclone” (“Study of the Cyclone”), and it purported to be just that: an investigation of the storm’s shape and form as it gained and lost strength. This was necessary. Cloué claimed that his report would improve on previous work on storms, which often relied on eyewitness accounts without corroborative data. Even more important was the fact cyclones rarely occurred on or near the Gulf of Aden. The Aden cyclone was not only unprecedented in terms of strength and destructiveness, it was rare.

By comparing the previous drawings with sailors’ accounts, Cloué introduced a series of diagrams that give us a more familiar understanding of the shape and movement in a hurricane. He presents one describing the cyclone’s trajectory as a function of data provided by S.S. Duke of Devonshire and a weather station on Aden. The data was not only easy to obtain but also easy to interpret and showed that the storm traveled in a curlicue pattern along a line equidistant from both sources. Yet this was no mere trending line. Cloué compared the Aden cyclone’s movements with those from other parts of the world, in short deducing the trajectory as a function of wind speed and pressure. These were just ways of expressing the importance of latitudinal motion to the Coriolis effect: the counterclockwise movement of fluids around a vortex in the Northern Hemisphere.[19]

(Top) Diagram comparing the movement of the cyclone between the Indian Meteorological Office's station at Aden and the S.S. Duke of Devonshire; (Bottom) "Curlicue" pattern described by the storm (Source: Clouè, "L’Ouragan de juin 1885, dans le Golfe d’Aden.")

Yet there was something about the storm that troubled Cloué. “Everything is excessive in a hurricane: the electric state, the sea completely upset, the wind, the wind above, irresistible, terrible! I can speak because I am a witness to one of these large and dangerous atmospheric disturbances, and the few details that I'm going to give to an event already thirty-nine years old are not irrelevant.”[20] Here, the Vice-Admiral is speaking from experience. In 1846, Cloué was an officer aboard the war frigate Belle-Poule when it encountered a powerful cyclone in the Indian Ocean. Recounting the confusion and destruction brought about by the storm, he reminds readers that hurricanes are fundamentally unpredictable. Any attempt at understanding their composition or power is doomed to failure.

Only a year after the Belle-Poule was nearly scuttled, another event would give Cloué’s observation some weight. In 1847, the French mathematician Joseph L. F. Bertrand “popularized” the Coriolis effect in an article concerning “relative movement”— the perception of one object’s motion compared to an other’s. When applied to natural phenomena such as hurricanes, Bertand’s interpretation of the Coriolis effect resulted in two observations: first, that a storm would conserve its velocity as it traveled; and second, that the Coriolis effect alone was responsible for the movement of hurricanes.[21] Cloué’s remark about knowledge that had been around since 1846 is poignant because by 1885, everything that there was to know about the Coriolis effect was known. His observations about the Aden cyclone contradict Bertrand’s descriptions of the Coriolis effect. Energy was not at all conserved. Rather, Cloué noted that the Aden cyclone shrank in size as it gathered in strength until it slowed down and withered into nothing: “the mass of storm clouds was consumed by itself, and without further nourishment the cyclone ended like a simple waterspout.”[22] More importantly, he stated that what caused the cyclone was not the Coriolis effect, but rather the collision between southeasterly winds and the easterly monsoon winds. He illustrates this with a drawing showing how the collision between these two winds could generate the counter-clockwise motion normally associated with the Coriolis effect in northern latitudes.

Diagram showing the Aden cyclone being formed by the collision of southeasterly winds and the easterly monsoon winds (Source: Cloué, "L’Ouragan de juin 1885, dans le Golfe d’Aden.")


The hurricane has become a central metaphor for this tale. Cyclones, tropical storms, and other meteorological aberrations are more than just phenomena that order and structure narratives; they are the very forces compelling one to write a literary or historical account. And yet a hurricane, whether described by Richard Hughes, Vitruvius, Eusebius, Le Roy, or Cloué, is that most illogical of objects, a kind of destructive disorder that can only be understood through various normative means of representation. As a series of lines that suggest a whirlpool, or a circle with watery arms that “spin” in a counter-clockwise direction, hurricanes are examples of what English physicist Michael Faraday called “lines of force.” These tell-tale lines, which proved the existence of magnetism, could not be observed. Yet when metal shavings were placed near a magnet, they “formed” lines that seemed to oscillate outwards.[23]

Like Faraday’s “lines of force,” Cloué’s whorls and curlicues confront and describe something that is known yet invisible. Yet what really separates the two is that, unlike Faraday’s accounts of magnetism, Cloué’s diagrams and descriptions of the Aden cyclone rely on conventional drawing techniques. Sometimes rough, other times meticulous, these drawings treat data in a sketch-like manner. They only aim to give a sense of a hurricane’s ideal, and not precise form. Returning to Le Roy’s treatises on naval architecture momentarily, we are reminded of how his combination of historical and architectural approaches could be combined in a single diagram. Like the example of sail and rigging development from Les navires des anciens, drawings could be use to convey both scientific and historical development. The same could be said of Cloué's analytical drawings of the Aden cyclone.

Following the initial diagram showing the Aden cyclone’s curlicue path, a second image shows a progressive series of similar paths. Each of these changes shape with changes in wind speed and barometric pressure. Yet we are not looking at one storm, but several from different parts of the world. Some show the trajectory of winds in the Northern Hemisphere, others in the Southern. It is a diagram that is conceptually similar to the engraving from Le Roy’s Les navires showing the development of sails. As these showed the development of sails throughout history using examples from different eras, Cloué’s diagram abandons geographical specificity to demonstrate how a hurricane’s path develops over time.

Diagram showing comparative shapes of storm trajectories from different parts of the world, arranged according to progressive wind speed and direction (Source: Cloué, "L’Ouragan de juin 1885, dans le Golfe d’Aden.")

Yet the general principle that underlies Le Roy’s thinking—the tracing of the development of an idée over time—resonates with another aspect of Cloué’s work. In an 1887 article, Cloué introduced two maps, each showing the path of the cyclone as it moved from the Laccadives to the Gulf of Aden at a specific time of the day. The first is a reinterpretation of the German map that appeared in German hydrographic journals in 1886. It shows the storm’s trajectory, as told from the point of view of different vessels. The paths of four of these are depicted as dashed arrows, each showing the general path of a ship as it moved with or against the oncoming storm. Labeled dots indicate the threshold at which barometric pressure reaches the 750 mm isobar at a certain time and location. The thickest, blackest line belongs to the Aden cyclone itself, here shown as moving in a shallow sine wave-like pattern as it entered the gulf. Small dots show that the storm was increasing in size as it approached land.

Maps showing trajectory, position, speed, and pressure of the Aden cyclone: (Top) Version based on one published in Annalen der Hydrographie; (Bottom) Cloué's account (Source: Cloué, “L’Ouragan de juin 1885 dans le Golfe d’Aden (second mémoire)” Revue maritime et coloniale, Vol. 93 (Paris: Librarie Militaire de L. Badouin et cie, 1887)

This depiction of the storm is different from that in the second map, a summary of Cloué’s own research about the event. Here, the cyclone’s progression appears as series of circles that diminish in size—this, of course, verifying his observation that the storm behaved “irregularly.” As in the German map, the resulting diagram here represents information gathered from various vessels. Yet the most important difference is that in the French map, the cyclone appears to be taking a rectilinear path. This is because, according to Cloué, cyclones tend to follow the “line of least resistance” once they enter a confined space like the Gulf of Aden.[24] And after using additional accounts, Cloué concludes that the German report is erroneous. It is in this sense that much of the intellectual work behind Cloué’s 1887 article consisted of proving that, of all things, the cyclone behaved in a rational manner.

The two maps then exemplify different kinds of knowledge. The German map, which relied extensively on wind change data to show differences in isobars as well as the position of the storm, exemplified a quantitative approach to meteorology that was being recuperated slowly.[25] Cloué’s map, on the other hand, resonates with the kind of scientific thinking shown in the engravings from Le Roy’s Les navires. This map suggests that experience, in the form of the accounts from various vessels moored or traveling along the Gulf of Aden from May 31 to June 3, 1885, confirm the idea that cyclones travel in straight paths. The fact that the maps show the cyclone differently is also important. Whereas the German hydrographic map depicts the cyclone as a nebulous form that saunters along the Gulf of Aden, Cloué’s shows it as a circle—a convention that reflects the actual “position and extent” of the storm.[26]

Synoptic chart showing position of Aden cyclone relative to regional pressures. From W.L. Dallas, Storms of the Arabian Sea (Calcutta: Indian Meteorological Department, 1891) (Source: David Membery, “Monsoon Tropical Cyclones: Part 2,” Weather, Vol. 57, No. 7 (Jul., 2002), 247).

Readers will no doubt find Cloué’s conclusions troubling, especially since the German map “looks” more exact than the French map. Yet more attention must be paid to not only the location of the cyclone in each map, but also to the lines which connect it as it travels up the Gulf of Aden. Because the German map considers the storm in terms of wind direction, it calls attention to four instances of sudden changes in orientation. The result is a map that shows the trajectory as a sweeping curve. It is, in some ways, reminiscent of the Indian Meteorological Office’s synoptic chart from 1891. One of several authoritative maps published in various almanacs until about 1900, this chart shows the Aden cyclone in relation to the changes in isobars in the region on 3 June 1885. With Cloué’s map, however, the “line of least resistance” is just that: an unwavering line with a preordained trajectory. They are overly conclusive, but more importantly, they connect seemingly unrelated phenomena in the most efficient way possible.

There is another way to read these lines. These are not lines of causality portraying how one event followed another in a logical sequence. Nor are these “lines of force” that suggest something that is understood yet invisible. The lines describing the Aden cyclone’s path are reminiscent of hyphens. As stated at the beginning of this post, a hyphen is a line that joins separate words to form a single, coherent idea. The hyphen also presupposes that the ideas are unrelated. But for a hyphen, we would understand “land-architecture” as different from “land architecture.” Yet hyphens and similar marks perform a more complicated operation than just connecting and separating. The hyphen, as understood in classical and medieval texts, was first used as a pronunciation aid and then as a device for correcting spacing errors.[27] This must be distinguished from the trait d’union, a hyphen-like mark appearing around the tenth and eleventh centuries. The trait d’union ensured continuity in text through the separation of words. And through the separation of words, texts became easier to read.[28] The trait d’union was therefore a representation of continuity. And like Le Roy’s ships or the Aden cyclone, the trait d’union was a kind of representation that reflected changes in geography and technology. It not only changed as printing technologies changed, but it was used in different ways according to the kind of text and location.

Above all, both the trait d’union and hyphen are important because they are examples of devices or conventions that articulate the spaces in between words with lines. Space became a connector. Like a picture plane, the flat, two-dimensional surface of a printed page, synoptic chart, or hydrographic map became, as art historian Erwin Panofsky described it, a “spatial continuum ... which is understood to contain all the various individual objects."[29] Cloué’s line of least resistance can be considered as such. It is not only evidence of a spatial and temporal continuum, but more importantly, it shows how the space in between the Aden cyclone’s various positions are imbued with meaning.

Portentous, unpredictable, and destructive, hurricanes, cyclones, and other forms of treacherous weather were carriers of meaning as the world spun into modernity. For example, in Voltaire’s Candide, or Optimism (1759), the logical Pangloss tells the hapless Candide that the storm that has just destroyed their vessel within sight of Lisbon and killed numerous sailors was “formed expressly” for this disaster.[30] And though Voltaire’s account of weather seems rather accepting, inclement weather was an important metaphor for change. In the first of two lectures that became Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century (1884), John Ruskin ruminated on the significance of “ragged white clouds” carried aloft by a wind that shook trees and windowpanes. This “plague-wind” darkening the skies of over Europe from the “North of England to Sicily”  takes on a more sinister aspect:
[The wind] looks partly as if it were made of poisonous smoke; very possibly it may be: there are at least two hundred furnace chimneys in a square of two miles on every side of me.  But mere smoke would not blow to and fro in that wild way.  It looks more to me as if it were made of dead men’s souls—such of them as are not gone yet where they have to go, and may be flitting higher and thither, doubting, themselves, of the fittest place for them.[31]
Part-description of the effects of industrialization on city and country air, and part-meditation on the end of the Franco-Prussian War, Ruskin’s storm-cloud set the bar high for using weather as the go-to metaphor for dire prognostication. And as this historical tour of storms approaches the twentieth century, consider the opening moments from Robert Musil’s The Man Without Qualities (Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften) (1930-1942):
A barometric low hung over the Atlantic. It moved eastward toward a high-pressure area over Russia without as yet showing any inclination to bypass this high in a northerly direction. The isotherms and isotheres were functioning as they should. The air temperature was appropriate relative to the annual mean temperature and to the aperiodic monthly fluctuations of the temperature. The rising and the setting of the sun, the moon, the phases of the moon, of Venus, of the rings of Saturn, and many other significant phenomena were all in accordance with the forecasts in the astronomical yearbooks. The water vapour in the air was at its maximal state of tension, while the humidity was minimal. In a word that characterizes the facts fairly accurately, even if it is a bit old-fashioned: It was a fine day in August 1913.[32]
These last words—”It was a fine day in August 1913”—not only operates as a satire on positivism, but also underscores one of the novel’s preoccupations: analytical passivity in the face of an oncoming global catastrophe. Indeed, all meteorological information may lead to the conclusion that it is a fine day in August 13, and yet the opening paragraph is one of the few emphatic statements of certainty in the novel. Everything unravels after this point, as it is made clear by the fact that the novel’s titular character, an Austrian mathematician named Ulrich, claims that he lacks unity and coherence.

Like the Archimedes, or even Ousous’ raft, we seem to have drifted very far from the opening premise of this post: that ships were architecture. To avoid what may seem like a tacit fact, the narrative moved forwards and onwards, taking whorl-like detours and breezy tangents that tried to escape the centering premise, and yet managed to circle around it. To say that hurricanes are architectural is different than saying that hurricanes have a significance for the history of architecture. But is there really any other metaphor that encapsulates the historian’s task like a hurricane? Unlike Le Roy, our take on the histories of architecture and urbanism leads us to the inevitable conclusion that ours is a demanding and herculean task. Historical and technological accounts are only part of the information we much compile and assess. And much like Vice-Admiral Cloué, we compare this data with ephemeral or less-than-ironclad information to try to come up with an understanding that builds upon, elaborates, or even corrects previous accounts. To confront this situation, to give order to conflicting and confusing information, Cloué gave us the ideal form of a hurricane. And he did it in a most architectural fashion: as a rendering composed almost entirely of lines and space.

Ideal storm (Source: Cloué, "L’Ouragan de juin 1885, dans le Golfe d’Aden.")



[1] Richard Hughes, In Hazard (New York: NYRB Classics, 2008 [1938]), 5,6.
[2] One of the most succinct articles espousing this point is Jeanne Kisacky, “History and Science: Julien-David Leroy’s ‘Dualistic Method of Architectural History,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, Vol. 60, No. 3 (Sep., 2001), 260-289. For more information about Le Roy’s writings, see Robin Middleton’s exhaustive introduction to Julien-David Le Roy, The Ruins of the Most Beautiful of Greece, Historically and Architecturally Considered, David Britt, trans. (Los Angeles: Getty Center Research Publications, 2004) as well as Christoper Drew Armstrong, “Progress in the Age of Navigation, The Voyage-Philosophique of Julien-David Leroy,” Unpublished Ph.D Diss, Columbia University, 2003. Later this summer, a version of this last work will be published as Christopher Drew Armstrong, Julien-David Leroy and the Making of Architectural History (London: Routledge, 2011).
[3] For excellent descriptions of how clocks became essential to the Western tradition, see Carlo M. Cipolla, Clocks and Culture, 1300-1700 (New York: Norton, 1977) and J. David Bolter, Turing’s Man: Western Culture in the Computer Age (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984).
[4] Julien-David Le Roy, “Premier mémoire sur la marine des anciens,” Histoire de l’Académie royale des inscriptions et belles-lettres, avec les mémoires de Littérature tirés de Registres de cette Académie, depuis l’année M.DCCLXX, jusques &  compris l’année M.DCCLXXII, Tome 38 (Paris: L’Imprimerie Royale, 1778), 545: “L’Histoire, ainsi que la Nature, nous offre souvent une un amas de faits isolés & stériles: elle nous en présente aussi quelquefois de plus précieux , mais en petit nombre, d’où sort, comme une source féconde, un grand nombre de vérités.” This quote also appears in Kisacky, “History and Science,” 278. Much of my understanding of Le Roy’s views comes from this article.
[5] Eusebius of Caesarea, Praeparatio Evangelica (Preparation for the Gospel). E.H. Gifford, trans. (1903) -- Book 1,, Accessed 21 May 2011.
[6] Julien-David Le Roy, La marine des anciens peuples, expliquée et considerée par rapport aux lumieres qu’on en peut tirer pour perfectionner la Marine moderne (Paris, 1777), 12: “Des ouragans (dit Sanchoniaton) ayant fondu tout-à-coup sur des arbres de la forêt de Tyr, ils prirent feu, & la flammé dévora la forêt. Dans ce trouble, Ousoüs prit un tronc d'arbre, & l'ayant ébranchée, il osa la premier aller en mer.” (Italics mine). An excellent account of how other historians incorporated Sanchuniaton into their own accounts, see Edward Eigen, "The Plagiarism of Heathens Detected: John Wood, the Elder (1704-1754) on the Translation of Architecture and Empire, " Journal of the History of Ideas, Vol 70, No. 3 (Jul., 2009), 375-397. In this text, Eigen focuses on an English account of Sanchuniathon, Richard Cumberland, Sanchoniatho’s Phoenician History, translated from the first book of Eusebius De Praeparatione Evangelica (London: W.B. for R. Wilkin, 1720). Special thanks also go to Eigen for also pointing me to Cloué's articles about the Aden cyclone that are discussed later in this post.
[7] Antoine-Yves Goguet, De l'origine des loix, des arts, et des sciences, Volume 1 (Paris: Desaint & Saillant, 1758), 274: “Sanchoniaton dit qu'Ousoüs, un des plus anciens héros de la Phéncie, s'étant saisi d'un arbre à demi-brûlé, en coupla les branches, & eut le premier la hardiesse de s'exposer sur les eau.”
[8] Marcus Vitruvius Pollo, On Architecture, Book II, Bill Thayer, trans.,*.html, Accessed 21 May 2011. The entire passage reads: “Mankind originally brought forth like the beasts of the field, in woods, dens, and groves, passed their lives in a savage manner, eating the simple food which nature afforded. A tempest, on a certain occasion, having exceedingly agitated the trees in a particular spot, the friction between some of the branches caused them to take fire; this so alarmed those in the neighbourhood of the accident, that they betook themselves to flight. Returning to the spot after the tempest had subsided, and finding the warmth which had thus been created extremely comfortable, they added fuel to the fire excited, in order to preserve the heat, and then went forth to invite others, by signs and gestures, to come and witness the discovery. In the concourse that thus took place, they testified their different opinions and expressions by different inflexions of the voice. From daily association words succeeded to these indefinite modes of speech; and these becoming by degrees the signs of certain objects, they began to join them together, and conversation became general.” (“Homines veteri more ut ferae in silvis et speluncis et nemoribus nascebantur ciboque agresti vescendo vitam exigebant. interea quodam in loco ab tempestatibus et ventis densae crebritatibus arbores agitatae et inter se terentes ramos ignem excitaverunt, et eo flamma vehementi perterriti qui circa eum locum fuerunt sunt fugati. post ea re quieta propius accedentes cum animadvertissent commoditatem esse magnam corporibus ad ignis teporem, ligna adicientes et ita conservantes alios adducebant et nutu monstrantes ostendebant quas haberent ex eo utilitates. in eo hominum congressu cum profundebantur aliter spiritu voces, cotidiana consuetudine vocabula ut obtigerant constituerunt, deinde significando res saepius in usu ex eventu fari fortuito coeperunt et ita sermones inter se procreaverunt.”)
[9] Goguet, De l’origine des loix, 274: “Aux radeaux auront succédé  probablement les pyrogues, c’est-à-dire, des troncs des arbres creusés par le moyen de feu, comme le pratiquent encore les sauvages. Cette seconde sorte de bâtimens étoit & plus commode & plus sûre que les radeaux.”
[10] Bâtiment could refer to either a large or small vessel. Dictionnaire de l'Académie française, 4th Edition (1762),, Accessed 22 May 2011. However, in Diderot’s and D’Alembert’s Encyclopedie, the authors take great pains to distinguish between buildings and ships, creating a separate category for bâtimens (“buildings”), bâtimens de marine (naval buildings such as arsenals), and bâtiment marine (“ships”). L’Encyclopedie, Volume II (1752),, Accessed 22 May 2011.
[11] Le Roy, La marine des anciens peuples, 189, b: “Vitruve, parlant, comme Sanchoniaton, de l’origine des Arts, dit: Homines veteri more, ut ferae, in silvis & speluncis & nemoribus nascebantur, ciboque agresti vescendo, vitam exigebant. Interea quodam in loco ab tempestatibus & ventis densae crebritatibus arbores agitatae, & inter se terentes ramos, ignem excitaverunt. Vitr. lib. II, cap. I.”
[12] For more on Le Roy’s work for the French Navy, see: Kisacky, “History and Science,” 278-280; Robin Middleton, “Introduction,” in Julien-David Le Roy, The Ruins of the Most Beautiful of Greece, Historically and Architecturally Considered, 130;  and Sylviane Llinares, “Marine et anticomanie au xviiie siècle: les avatars de l’archéologie expérimentale en vraie grandeur,” Annales de Bretagne et des pays de l’Ouest, Vol. 2, No. 115-2 (2008), 67-84.
[13] Le Roy, Lettres à M. Franklin: sur la marine, et particuliérement sur la possibilité de rendre Paris port; précédés de recherches sur les moyens d'y prévenir la disette des grains (Paris, 1790).
[14] Le Roy, Nouvelles recherches sur le vaisseau long des anciens, sur les voiles latines, et sur les moyens de diminuer les dangers que courent les navigateurs (Paris, 1786). This text also details some of his correspondence with Franklin; Le Roy, Canaux de la Manche, indiqués pour ouvrir a Paris deux débouchés a la mer (Paris: Stoupe, 1801).
[15] This account is taken from Ivan Ray Tannehill, Hurricanes: Their Nature and History: Particularly Those of the West Indies and the Southern Coasts of the United States (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1945).
[16] Ibid., p. 205.
[17]Vice-Admiral Georges Charles Cloué, “L’Ouragan de juin 1885, dans le Golfe d’Aden,” in Service Hydrographique de la Marine, Annales hydrographiques: Recueil d’avis, instructions, documents et mémoires relatifs à l’hydrographie et la navigation, Vol. 2, No. 8 (Paris: Imprimerie Nationale, 1886), 44.
[18] The first version appeared in the April 1886 issue of Revue maritime et coloniale; the second as Cloué, “L’Ouragan de juin 1885 dans le Golfe d’Aden (second mémoire)” Revue maritime et coloniale, Vol. 93 (Paris: Librarie Militaire de L. Badouin et cie, 1887), 177-214.
[19] The Coriolis effect is named after the French mathematician Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis (1792-1843), who outlined the contours of this theory in Coriolis, “Mémoire sur les équations du mouvement relatif des systèmes de corps,” Journal de l'Ecole royale polytechnique, Vol. 15, No. 24 (1835), 142-154.
[20] Ibid., p. 106: “Tout est excessif dans un ouragan: l'état électrique, la mer entièrement bouleversée; le vent, le vent surtout, irrésistible, épouvantable! J'en puis parler, car je suis un témoin d'un de ces grands et dangereux météores, et les quelques détails que je vais donner sur un événement déjà vieux de trente-neuf ans ne sont pas hors de propos.”
[21] For more on Bertand’s erroneous calcuations, see Anders O. Persson, “The Coriolis Effect: Four Centuries of Conflict Between Common Sense and Mathematics: Part 1: A History to 1885,” History of Meteorology, Vol. 2 (2005), 1-24.
[22] Cloué, “L’Ouragan de juin 1885, dans le Golfe d’Aden,” 103: “La masse de nuages orageux se consommant sans se renouveler, l'ouragan a peut-être pris fin comme une simple trombe?” This quote also appears in David Membery, “Monsoon Tropical Cyclones: Part 2,” Weather, Vol. 57, No. 7 (Jul., 2002), 248.
[23] For more on "lines of force," see Michael Faraday, Experimental Researches in Electricity (London: Taylor, 1839).
[24] Cloué, “L’Ouragan de juin 1885 dans le Golfe d’Aden (second mémoire),” 199: “A priori, nous pensons que lorsqu'un cyclone s'engage dans un bras de mer relativement étroit, il tend à suivre la ligne de moindre résistance, aussi, il ne nous parait pas possible d'admettre que ce grand tourbillon ait pu changer quatre fois de direction, dans un espace relativement peu étendu, et ce soit promené ainsi d'un côté à l'autre du golfe.”
[25] For more about the relation between precision and meteorology in 19th century Germany, see Theodore S. Feldman, “Late Enlightenment Meteorology,” in Tore Frängsmayr, J.L. Heilbron, and Robin E. Rider, eds. The Quantifying Spirit in the Eighteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990), 143-177. Here, Feldman argues how political events of the late 18th century interrupted the project of quantifying weather. This would set the stage for the more systemic, “globalist” approaches to meteorology perfected by Alexander von Humboldt. Focusing on the work of German physicist and meteorologist H.W. Dove, M. Norton Wise situates the desire to quantify weather within a larger series of contexts, including not only relations between scientists and an emerging maufacturing sector, but also the advent of locomotive and wireless technologies. Wise, “Precision: Agent of Unity and Product of Agreement Part II—The Age of Steam and Telegraphy,” in Wise, ed., The Values of Precision (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), 222-238.
[26] Cloué, “L’Ouragan de juin 1885 dans le Golfe d’Aden (second mémoire),” n.p.: “Les cercles indiquent la position et l’etendue du Cyclone, à midi et à minuit de chaque jour.”
[27] Paul Saenger, Space Between Words: The Origins of Silent Reading (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2000), 69.
[28] Ibid., p. 66.
[29] Erwin Panofsky, Perspective as Symbolic Form, Christopher S. Wood, trans. (New York, New York: Zone Books, 1997), 27 (translation of "Die Perspektive als 'symbolische Form'," in Vorträge der Bibliothek Warburg, 1924-1925 [1927]).
[30] Voltaire (François-Marie Arouet), Candide, or Optimism (New York: Bantam, 2003 [1759]), 26.
[31]  John Ruskin, The Storm-Cloud of the Nineteenth Century: Two Lectures Delivered at the London Institution, February 4th and 11th 1884 (Sunnyside, Orfington, Kent: George Allen, 1884), 43-44, 47-48.
[32] Robert Musil, The Man Without Qualities, Part I: A Sort of Introduction and Pseudoreality Prevails into the Millenium, Sophie Wilkins, trans. (New York: Knopf, 1995), 3.