On Google Reader, we are able to share posts quickly for commentary with our friends even easier than on blogs. Soon, Google Wave will alter this by synchronizing our sharing on Reader with our blogs, which means they’re going to get synergy from their purchase of blogger. One of my friends, a graphics artist at Dreamworks, says Google Wave is what email would be like if it was invented today. I tend to agree. ( To learn more about Google Wave, watch Google’s debut of it. )
Can we say the same about today’s architecture? Is there much revolutionary going on? If there is, is it rooted in some school or thinker of the past, or is it completely anew? First, I should make plain here that I am distinguishing between the architecture practiced on widespread commercial scales for suburban development from the more distinguished and idiosyncratic architecture likely to occur in Architectural Digest or featured in an architecture class in Harvard — not Cincinnati, however, for their students are more practical, yet no less intelligent (or such is my belief).
And so, I think it would be a stretch to call this latter form revolutionary, but we could definitely call it rectilinear. In some respects, this harkens to the Modernist constructions of the past, the rectilinear meme for which we continuously taught in architecture programs and highlighting as a glorious echo in history. What art history or architecture student does not know the name Le Corbusier? Or the modernist Bauhaus movement, from which the wave of “cubist” “open floor plan” designs exploded? So to tie this all back to my original point, my friends and I have been discussing the architecture on a blog we read, called freshome: Interior Design & Architecture, through Google Reader. The best thing about it? The wonderful pictures. Lots of em. Reading the blog is like reading a big architecture magazine and being able to imagine yourself inhabiting the homes it features. freshome often posts pictures of spacious, open homes with long blue pools under clear blue skies surrounded by deep green prairies. They’re not all strictly rectilinear, meaning “a polygon all of whose edges meet at right angles. Thus the interior angle at each vertex is either 90° or 270°.” Some of the homes shoot into the sky, even a few have curves! But it seems like most are rectilinear to an extreme. Here are some examples:
This is the House of Vision by Kouichi Kimura, discussed in a post here. It’s really worth looking into because it’s really beautiful inside, but even moreso because the rectilinear fashion becomes a fetish there. Hey, if that’s your thing……..
The Los Andes House by Juan Carlos Doblado, written up here. Very open, windows spanning the length(s) of the house, complemented by… you guessed it… a long one lane pool and prairies! There are many others: Casa Gutierrez by P&P Architects, the majestic Hilltop House by Safdie Rabines, etc.
I have two points to make on this subject. One: this is not so different from most architecture in Western history, though you’ll find some rather astonishing forms in other cultures as the norm. Gives you some food for thought on the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Two: I actually think that an example from Star Trek history, yes STAR TREK, explains it much more eloquently than I. Recently Doug Drexler, a long-time art everyman for the Star Trek franchise (most recently Visual Effects CG Supervisor for Battlestar Galactica — a not insubstantial job one would think), posted somewhat of a memorial to Robert Justman, one of his predecessors as a Trek everyman, who was instrumental to keeping the dream of Trek alive for years. Justman as a producer for Trek had to be a master of cost control or the whole show would come apart. Drexler explains this mastery thusly (emphasis mine):
1986 – Since you are a professional… Bob reaches inside a file drawer… stops and looks up at me wryly… you ARE a professional? Yes sir, I think so, I reply. Bob removes a small box from the cabinet and sets it on his desk. I watch him remove something from it with the same sense of awe I had when I watched Reger uncover a self powered lighting panel in “Return of the Archons”. From the cardboard box he withdraws a five inch hand modeled prototype of the Enterprise D with pencil drawn windows on it. Bob smiles at my slack jawed reaction… Greg Jein built it for us… not a straight line on it… he says proudly. I smile, because I know that in producer-speak, that means “expensive”.
And so ends the mystery of the fetish of the rectilinear.