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Placemaking After A Pandemic

In a fictitious dialogue with Siegfrid Gideion, the famed Finnish architect Alvar Aalto said, “God created paper for architecture to be drawn on. Everything else is- at least to me- a misuse of paper.” In Aalto’s fictitious dialogue, he presents a prognosis of architecture as he foresaw it in the 1950s: “The horoscope of architecture today is one in which the words are negative- it does not make nice reading.” I, too, intend to read the horoscope of 21st-century architecture in a post-pandemic world from my own cultural and philosophical point of view. The picture I present of our time will not probably please everyone, but it coincides with the pronouncements with many cultural philosophers even before Covid-19 has struck us. This pandemic merely accelerated our continuous transition of mindless consumption as I present in this essay, it does not fundamentally change anything.

The Death of Architecture

Victor Hugo appended an enigmatic paragraph to the eighth edition of Notre Dame de Paris called “ceci tuera cela”(this will kill that); pronouncing the death of architecture. “In the 15th century, the human mind thought up a way to immortalize itself that is more durable and resistant, simpler, and easier than architecture. After the stone letter of Orpheus came the lead letters of Gutenberg.” Hugo further examined the thought through Archdeacon of Notre Dame, “The statement revealed a premonition that in changing shape the human idea would also change its form of expression, that the leading idea of each generation would no longer be associated with the same substance of the same form, that the firm and the lasting book of stone would give way to an even firmer and more lasting printed book.”

Hugo’s prediction that architecture would lose power to newer media as the most important cultural medium has undoubtedly come true. But the newer media displaced architecture not because of their greater strength and durability, as Hugo said, but exactly opposite reasons: because they are fast, fleeting, and dispensable. The fundamental meaning of architecture is integration and stability, and these qualities are often in open conflict with the ideology of consumption of our time. The strategy of consumerism, now further exacerbated by the pandemic, requires isolation, alienation from society, and the splintering of consciousness. A coherent view of the world would reveal this insanity of obsessive consumption.

In all areas of communication and artistic expression, our culture favors the quick, the forceful, and the overwhelming, rather than the slow, low-efficiency communication of architecture. In all forms of artistic expression, nuances and subtleties have been brushed aside by an increasing force of effect. Even within architecture, a commercially oriented image effect, a sort of image shock, has gained popularity in the competition of gaining the attention of citizens of Plentiville.  Today’s architecture is a product of sensational visualization, commercialism, and image formation, “the tendency to let image determine form than vice versa.”

Before long, the architectural avant-garde of Plentiville will no doubt unveil buildings that have totally forsaken the primal function of a building, that is to protect its inhabitants. Instead as a subservient to the technology, architecture would become a tool of surveillance as few East Asian countries have already demonstrated in the pandemic stricken world. Technology would make use of  smarthomes to monitor occupants’ behavior, routine and daily actions. It will perhaps even produce buildings designed to threaten and crush. The ritualized cruelty of comic books and music videos is a premonition to this reality.

Reality and Dream

In a society dedicated to the mass manipulation of the human mind, reality, and dreams have become interchangeable. As Umberto Eco has assumed, the hyper-reality we have created, with its forgeries of time and history, will become the new standard of reality. Consequently, the creative mind must conquer the real, authentic world, and the creative artists’ task undergoes a strange inversion; it has changed from broadening the realm of the imagination, the possibilities of being human, to defining and confirming our standing in reality.

The artificial reality characteristic of our culture is, according to Plato’s definition, a simulacrum; an authentic copy of an original that has never existed. Instead of creating a dialogue- between past and present, our present is devouring the past. We have lost our ability to “speak with the dead” as T.S Eliot regards as the nucleus of the living tradition. Our environment of new hyper-reality is symptomatic of our inability to dream. Even if much abused Modern architecture has not necessarily lost its communication capacity, perhaps we have become incapable of projecting meanings into it. A Disneyworld is the refuge of the culture that has lost its capacity for spontaneous dreaming and imagination. The seemingly perfect hyper reality has lost its plasticity, its depth, its three-dimensionality. Hyper-realism is the mirror of a culture that has lost its sense of depth.  

The emergence of disposable architecture exploits the fashionable. Based on the idea of immediate satisfaction and almost as immediate disposal, such architecture enables a quick shift in our next cycle of image consumption. Built-in obsolescence, then, is even a characteristic of architectural style today. 

The Eutrophication of Culture

In Plentiville, the central problem is muchness: too much of everything is produced, both material and cultural. When everything becomes sexual, political, or social, when categories become subject to cancerous overgrowth and sprawl everywhere, they also lose their significance. The result is a slump into inactivity, indecision, and insanity. This overgrowth, this eutrophication of culture and overproduction, will produce a kind of spiritual anoxia, a cultural Sargasso Sea.

In an over-productive society, art should not make more but make less. After the Postmodern, the time has again come for neo- minimalism, neo- asceticism, neo-denial, and sublime poverty. Quality, the dimension of spiritual depth, should be reinstated as the only criterion of art.

There is no denying that the disappearance of the spiritual quality of architecture from our environment is due to the disappearance of the collective intellectual ‘soil’ that produces architecture. Consequently, this makes the society of welfare, plenty, and guardianship a very dubious patron of architecture.

What will the architecture of this ultra consumerist society look like after the pandemic? The answer is inevitable. There is no architecture. When architecture disassociates itself from its metaphysical and existential basis, it becomes entertainment, amusement, and architectural muzak. The architecture that brought existential questions of life into our consciousness will be replaced by a building that, paradoxical to its nature, buries all significant questions under the paralyzing poultice of comfort and pleasure. This form of culture will construct a universal old folks’ home.

There is a sign of a split in our profession: on one hand, there is a design that executes consumer conventions and commands without protests, and on the other hand, there is a serious architecture whose function, following the essence of art, is to fathom the fundamental essence of our existence. This division of a whole field of art into an entertainment branch catering to cultural consumption on the one hand, and a branch offering serious art on the other has already taken place in music, literature, and film.

In a society devoted to efficiency and lacking the spiritual dimension of life, authentic architecture is served from the utilitarian foundation. To preserve its spiritual dimensions, architecture must come into conflict with its essence, which is tied to social reality. Ergo, to ensure its existence, architecture must deny itself. 

Epilogue

This might seem a very pessimistic view of the future. The amount of pessimism, however, is in direct proportion to one’s expectation. I hope that architects could perceive our cultural reality as clearly as possible so that we can define the territory and ethical basis of our art. The task of creative culture remains to struggle against the mainstream of prevailing conventions- since otherwise, it would not be creative at all- and once we see which way the stream is flowing, we will know how architecture must orient itself.

In conclusion, I would like to freely quote Frank Gehry in an interview:” I remember when I was younger.” Gehry mused, “I was also optimistic…when you get older you become cynical sometimes…but younger people say: ’Don’t worry, pa, we’ll take care of it.”

How Green Buildings can fight Covid-19

When Covid 19 pandemic was upending our lives, I was thinking how green buildings can be helpful to prevent diseases. Here are few tips that designers could be mindful of.

Autumn Sonata – Ingmar Bergman

Autumn Sonata (1978) cuts deep into a woman, even if she recoils from it. We are all some mother’s daughter, whether we were cherished or abandoned, spoiled or abused. Both of the film’s stars, Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Bergman, had daughters as well as celebrated careers. But when Bergman left her husband for Roberto Rossellini, she went years without seeing her daughter from her first marriage. As for Ullmann, just the year before she had written, “Success in one’s profession and trying to write a book do not compensate for domestic shortcomings as obvious as mine.” She was referring to her relationship with her daughter, Linn, whose father was Ingmar Bergman. The director later said that when he conceived Autumn Sonata, he considered no other actresses for the two main roles. He didn’t say why, nor did he need to.

Filmed by Sven Nykvist in the haunting palette sug­gested by its title, Autumn Sonata uses Bergman’s signature technique of tightly focused close-ups in an almost claus­trophobically small setting to tell the story of a daughter, Eva (Ullmann), who invites her mother, Charlotte (Ingrid Bergman), for a visit. Charlotte is a famed pianist whose glamorous life hasn’t included a visit to her daughter in seven years. In that time, Eva has married a minister, Viktor (Halvar Björk); has had a son, Erik, who drowned before his fourth birthday; and has been caring for her sister, Helena (Lena Nyman), who is dying, slowly and horribly, from a degenerative disease. Charlotte arrives, vivacious as ever, and seems to think that her debts have already been paid. That isn’t the case.

Bergman’s closely observed account of how one daughter’s disabling rage builds to a devastating all-night confron­tation with her mother was created during his self-imposed exile from his native Sweden. In 1976, that country’s most famous filmmaker had been picked up by the police for tax evasion. He was released after five hours, and the courts eventually dismissed the case, but the lèse-majesté had been more than he could bear. From his exile, he had already made The Serpent’s Egg (1977), which didn’t find much success. And after Autumn Sonata—filmed in Norway, Ullmann’s home country, in about fifteen days—he would also make From the Life of the Marionettes (1980) outside Sweden. In retrospect, this part of his career seems as much like a long, slow transition from screen to stage as an exile. Autumn Sonata’s close quarters and big confron­tations seem to anticipate the director’s later focus on the theater. And it was also his last work made expressly for the cinema; From the Life of the Marionettes, Fanny and Alexander (1982), and Saraband (2003) were made for television.

But Autumn Sonata also connects back to Bergman’s earlier seventies films. Up until the tax controversies, he had been spending the decade making some of the best films of his career. And Autumn Sonata represents another variation on the intimate family miseries of his other pinnacles from that period—preoccupied with physical and moral frailty, like Cries and Whispers (1972), full of recriminations for crimes the other person doesn’t recollect committing, like Scenes from a Marriage (1973).

For Autumn Sonata, Bergman built his screenplay around exposition. Each revelation about Charlotte comes like another page of the indictment. She wasn’t just absent on tour for much of Eva’s childhood, leaving the girl to keep vigil with her father (Erland Josephson); Charlotte had an affair that resulted in her leaving both husband and children for eight months (the child Eva, shown in flashback, is played by Linn Bergman). She didn’t just leave Eva and her son-in-law alone; Charlotte didn’t show up for Eva’s pregnancy or her one grandchild’s birth (“I was recording all the Mozart sonatas. I hadn’t one day free,” she reminds Viktor). Evidently, Charlotte never came even after Erik died, although no one bothers to throw that at her. There’s so much else to choose from, like putting Helena in a home and never visiting.

It may seem quixotic to bring up these films when discussing the resolutely un-Hollywood Ingmar Bergman. But these old studio tropes reflected attitudes, they did not produce them, and those attitudes cross borders more readily than even cinema itself. In Autumn Sonata, there’s the essence of many a maternal melodrama, concentrated by telescoping events into a couple of days, and deepened by Bergman’s ability to find reasons within reasons for what people do.

Surely, too, the director knew what he was getting when he insisted on Ingrid Bergman for his Charlotte. Cast a Hollywood star and she brings to a role memories of her past films, as well as her public image. The actress didn’t play mothers during her peak years in Hollywood—scandal cut short her career before she got old enough to do so. But she understood that playing Charlotte meant tapping into her own choices and the reams of newsprint from the 1950s accusing her of being unfit for motherhood. And there’s another tidy irony here, one that would scarcely have escaped her director’s notice. Ingrid Bergman’s American stardom began with Intermezzo: A Love Story (1939), a remake of her Swedish hit. She plays a pianist who falls deeply in love with a married violinist played by Leslie Howard . . . and gives him up for the sake of his child.

She’d made splendid movies with her husband Roberto Rossellini (they appear to be the roles that impressed Ingmar Bergman the most) and had had a triumphant return to Hollywood with her Oscar for Anastasia (1956). But from the 1960s on, despite another Oscar (for 1974’s Murder on the Orient Express), Bergman focused on stage work because the movie roles were mostly fluff. Perhaps that’s why, in 1973, when she was presiding over the jury at Cannes, she found time to slip a note into Ingmar Bergman’s pocket, reminding him that when they’d last met, he’d said he would give her a part.

In Images: My Life in Film, Ingmar Bergman wrote that he’d come up with a near-complete outline for Autumn Sonata in one day, after a period in which his accumulating woes had left him temporarily bereft of ideas. The primary difference between it and the finished film is that after the fight, in his original conception, “the daughter gives birth to the mother.” How this might have looked on-screen is an intriguing mystery, but it’s one Bergman himself couldn’t solve, and he abandoned the idea.

Autumn Sonata contains no such mystic scenes, but it’s not without its odd touches. Bergman opens by breaking the fourth wall, to have Eva’s husband, Viktor, tell the audience about his wife, whom we see serenely writing at her desk. Eva is mousy and plain, Ullmann’s considerable beauty hidden by the clothes and hair of a woman twice her age. She seems gentle, but there is calculation beneath the facade. Eva knows that Charlotte will be confronted with precisely what she prefers to avoid: the past. If the film is a chamber piece, as is often said, it’s one played against the sound of a buzz saw coming from far offstage, the thrum of years of pent-up agony.

Charlotte and Eva at the dinner table

When Charlotte arrives, she sweeps in with matched luggage, wearing a chic pantsuit and letting her daughter carry her bags into the house. Much has happened to Eva in the seven years since she last saw her mother, but it’s Charlotte who can’t go for more than a few sentences of conversation without turning matters to herself. Eva tells of holding musical evenings for her parishioners, and Charlotte rushes to mention that she has given five school concerts and they were wildly successful.

Charlotte is a performer, but she’s on her best behavior until Eva reveals that Helena is there. Then Charlotte is openly aggrieved; she has just escaped the presence of death, when her lover, Leonardo, passed away after a long illness. In Autumn Sonata, like in Cries and Whispers, death is constantly in the house—in the photographs of little Erik, in Helena’s ravaged body. It’s no wonder a person as self-absorbed as Charlotte backs away; a child’s mor­tal­ity is the ultimate reminder of your own. Still, Charlotte is not a performer for nothing. She steels herself to see Helena, and when she does, her charm is once more in place.

As Helena, she is there to remind Charlotte of the cost of self-indulgence. Her expression on seeing her mother—pure joy so intense it seems to cause her physical pain—is the most heartbreaking moment in the movie.

And Ingmar Bergman is too great an artist to go the route of utter villainy with his character by suggesting that Charlotte is unaffected. Next she’s shown alone and pacing around her room, full of emotions she doesn’t want to have, planning an early end to her visit so she can avoid them. Neither is the so-far-saintly Eva above signaling some resentment. She sarcastically predicts to Victor that her mother will show up in the appropriate widow’s weeds. Instead, Charlotte sweeps in wearing a flowing red dress.

Dinner is dispensed within one cut, the better to empha­size the aftermath. Eva shyly lets herself be persuaded to play Chopin’s Prelude no. 2 in A Minor. She renders it softly and hesitantly, seemingly with a missed note here and there. Bergman’s camera lingers on Charlotte, her face at first indulgent, then gradually more and more discontented. We expect a mother to be supportive, and Eva’s yearning for approval is so tangible it almost seems to be sitting on the bench between them. But it’s inconceivable to Charlotte that, presented with a medio­cre performance, she should do anything other than try to improve it. Chopin, she tells Eva, is about “feeling,” not “sentimentality.” Unqualified praise for your child’s best efforts falls firmly in the latter category.

Painful as this scene at the piano is, it is not entirely about maternal callousness. Ingmar Bergman, wrote journalist Simon Hattenstone, “used to say, almost boast, that he didn’t know the ages of his children, that he measured the years by his movies, not his offspring.” And throughout this film, Charlotte begins reminiscences by citing what she was playing—Mozart, Beethoven’s First, Bartók. It’s hard to say how much Bergman’s own paternal attitudes are being invoked here; a man who puts art above his children is considered normal in a way that a woman is not. Clearly, though, when Bergman shows repeatedly that Charlotte does not know what it is to be a mother, he is also showing that neither does Eva understand what it is to be an artist.

That gap becomes a chasm later in the evening, when the fight begins with the simplest of questions from Eva: “Do you like me?” Here Ullmann’s performance gains its fullest force; her face screws up uncannily like a child’s, but she’s so devastated it’s impossible to mock. “I was a doll you played with when you had time,” Eva continues. Charlotte protests; she felt guilty, her work was suffering and it made her life seem meaningless. Here, at last, one may feel some real sympathy with Charlotte’s bitter laugh. Eva’s fury is relentless now, and Charlotte never seems more human than when she confesses, “I’ve always been afraid of you . . . I was afraid of your demands.”

Eva answers that she had no demands, but that is clearly not true. She swerves to another time, before Helena’s illness got worse, when Charlotte and Leonardo visited, and Helena fell in love with her mother’s lover. Somehow, Eva has worked this out to be her mother’s fault, although how could anyone believe that maternal duty extends to sharing your man with your daughter? “I caused Helena’s illness?” asks Charlotte. “Yes, I think so” is the reply. It’s unfair, childish logic, but then the whole conversation has been a regression.

As the scene finally closes, Charlotte is asking Eva to hold her; we don’t know if Eva does, nor do we know if they are capable of reconciling. The movie cycles back around to Eva writing another letter to her mother, convinced she’s driven Charlotte away. Bergman, for his part, wrote that “their hate becomes cemented.”

Autumn Sonata was Ingrid Bergman’s swan song in the thea­trical movies; when she filmed it, she already had the cancer that would kill her. Her Charlotte ended up as a triumph of emotional rawness, but the director and star fought bitterly during rehearsals. He said she’d mapped out every facial expression in the mirror and was stuck “in the 1940s.” It seems clear she was grasping for any­thing that could soften Charlotte. The actress pleaded for a joke or two. No jokes, she was told. (Autumn Sonata, outside of some wan sallies from Charlotte, is indeed a joke-free zone; Scenes from a Marriage, arguably a depiction of even greater emotional damage, is a laugh riot in comparison.) They clashed over whether Charlotte had been absent from her children for seven years, as the director wrote, or five years, as his star insisted, which does sound less biblically harsh. “So to keep me quiet,” wrote the star in her memoirs, “he cut it to five—even though I noticed seven came back in the finished picture.” He won that battle, and by the time cameras rolled, he’d won the war. The finished film exposes not only a mother’s mistakes but also her searing terror of what those mistakes have wrought.

Actress told the auteur, “Ingmar, the people you know must be monsters.” With Charlotte, Ingmar Bergman got the fully human and ultimately tragic monster that he wanted.

250 things that an Architect should know

Michael Sorkin, the noted architectural critic and educator who passed away last month in covid-19 wrote about 250 things that an architect should know in his book What Goes Up . I have to admit that I myself don’t know probably 50 percent of items listed. but it’s fun to go through this list once in a while and assess our knowledge and position in this regard.

Hold your breath. Here are the 250 things:

1.The feel of cool marble under bare feet.
2.How to live in a small room with five strangers for six months.
3.With the same strangers in a lifeboat for one week.
4.The modulus of rupture.
5.The distance a shout carries in the city.
6.The distance of a whisper.
7.Everything possible about Hatshepsut’s temple (try not to see it as “modernist” avant la lettre).
8.The number of people with rent subsidies in New York City.
9.In your town (include the rich).
10.The flowering season for azaleas.
11.The insulating properties of glass.
12.The history of its production and use.
13.And of its meaning.
14.How to lay bricks.
15.What Victor Hugo really meant by “this will kill that.”
16.The rate at which the seas are rising.
17.Building information modeling (BIM).
18.How to unclog a Rapidograph.
19.The Gini coefficient.
20.A comfortable tread-to-riser ratio for a six-year-old.
21.In a wheelchair.
22.The energy embodied in aluminum.
23.How to turn a corner.
24.How to design a corner.
25.How to sit in a corner.
26.How Antoni Gaudí modeled the Sagrada Família and calculated its structure.
27.The proportioning system for the Villa Rotonda.
28.The rate at which that carpet you specified off-gasses.
29.The relevant sections of the Code of Hammurabi.
30.The migratory patterns of warblers and other seasonal travelers.
31.The basics of mud construction.
32.The direction of prevailing winds.
33.Hydrology is destiny.
34.Jane Jacobs in and out.
35.Something about Feng Shui.
36.Something about Vastu Shilpa.
37.Elementary ergonomics.
38.The color wheel.
39.What the client wants.
40.What the client thinks it wants.
41.What the client needs.
42.What the client can afford.
43.What the planet can afford.
44.The theoretical bases for modernity and a great deal about its factions and inflections.
45.What post-Fordism means for the mode of production of building.
46.Another language.
47.What the brick really wants.
48.The difference between Winchester Cathedral and a bicycle shed.
49.What went wrong in Fatehpur Sikri.
50.What went wrong in Pruitt-Igoe.
51.What went wrong with the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.
52.Where the CCTV cameras are.
53.Why Mies really left Germany.
54.How people lived in Catal Huyuk.
55.The structural properties of tufa.
56.How to calculate the dimensions of brise-soleil.
57.The kilowatt costs of photovoltaic cells.
58.Vitruvius.
59.Walter Benjamin.
60.Marshall Berman.
61.The secrets of the success of Robert Moses.
62.How the dome on the Duomo in Florence was built.
63.The reciprocal influences of Chinese and Japanese building.
64.The cycle of the Ise Shrine.
65.Entasis.
66.The history of Soweto.
67.What it’s like to walk down Las Ramblas.
68.Backup.
69.The proper proportions of a gin martini.
70.Shear and moment.
71.Shakespeare, et cetera
72.How the crow flies.
73.The difference between a ghetto and a neighborhood.
74.How the pyramids were built.
75.Why.
76.The pleasures of the suburbs.
77.The horrors.
78.The quality of light passing through ice.
79.The meaninglessness of borders.
80.The reasons for their tenacity.
81.The creativity of the ecotone.
82.The need for freaks.
83.Accidents must happen.
84.It is possible to begin designing anywhere.
85.The smell of concrete after rain.
86.The angle of the sun at the equinox.
87.How to ride a bicycle.
88.The depth of the aquifer beneath you.
89.The slope of a handicapped ramp.
90.The wages of construction workers.
91.Perspective by hand.
92.Sentence structure.
93.The pleasure of a spritz at sunset at a table by the Grand Canal.
94.The thrill of the ride.
95.Where materials come from.
96.How to get lost.
97.The pattern of artificial light at night, seen from space.
98.What human differences are defensible in practice.
99.Creation is a patient search.
100.The debate between Otto Wagner and Camillo Sitte.
101.The reasons for the split between architecture and engineering.
102.Many ideas about what constitutes utopia.
103.The social and formal organization of the villages of the Dogon.
104.Brutalism, Bowellism and the Baroque.
105.How to dérive.
106.Woodshop safety.
107.A great deal about the Gothic.
108.The architectural impact of colonialism on the cities of North Africa.
109.A distaste for imperialism.
110.The history of Beijing.
111.Dutch domestic architecture in the seventeenth century.
112.Aristotle’s Politics.
113.His Poetics.
114.The basics of wattle and daub.
115.The origins of the balloon frame.
116.The rate at which copper acquires its patina.
117.The levels of particulates in the air of Tianjin.
118.The capacity of white pine trees to sequester carbon.
119.Where else to sink it.
120.The fire code.
121.The seismic code.
122.The health code.
123.The Romantics, throughout the arts and philosophy.
124.How to listen closely.
125.That there is a big danger in working in a single medium: the logjam you don’t even know you’re stuck in will be broken by a shift in representation.
126.The exquisite corpse.
127.Scissors, stone, paper.
128.Good Bordeaux.
129.Good beer.
130.How to escape a maze.
131.QWRTY.
132.Fear.
133.Finding your way around Prague, Fez, Shanghai, Johannesburg, Kyoto, Rio, Mexico City, Solo, Benares, Bangkok, Leningrad, Isfahan.
134.The proper way to behave with interns.
135.Maya, Revit, CATIA, whatever.
136.The history of big machines, including those that can fly.
137.How to calculate ecological footprints.
138.Three good lunch spots within walking distance.
139.The value of human life.
140.Who pays.
141.Who profits.
142.The Venturi effect.
143.How people pee.
144.What to refuse to do, even for the money.
145.The fine print in the contract.
146.A smattering of naval architecture.
147.The idea of too far.
148.The idea of too close.
149.Burial practices in a wide range of cultures.
150.The density needed to support a pharmacy.
151.The density needed to support a subway.
152.The effect of the design of your city on food miles for fresh produce.
153.Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes.
154.Capability Brown, André Le Nôtre, Frederick Law Olmsted, Muso Soseki, Ji Cheng, and Roberto Burle Marx.
155.Constructivism, in and out.
156.Sinan.
157.Squatter settlements via visits and conversations with residents.
158.The history and techniques of architectural representation across cultures.
159.Several other artistic media.
160.A bit of chemistry and physics.
161.Geodesics.
162.Geodetics.
163.Geomorphology.
164.Geography.
165.The law of the Andes.
166.Cappadocia firsthand.
167.The importance of the Amazon.
168.How to patch leaks.
169.What makes you happy.
170.The components of a comfortable environment for sleep.
171.The view from the Acropolis.
172.The way to Santa Fe.
173.The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.
174.Where to eat in Brooklyn.
175.Half as much as a London cabbie.
176.The Nolli Plan.
177.The Cerdà Plan.
178.The Haussmann Plan.
179.Slope analysis.
180.Darkroom procedures and Photoshop.
181.Dawn breaking after a bender.
182.Styles of genealogy and taxonomy.
183.Betty Friedan.
184.Guy Debord.
185.Ant Farm.
186.Archigram.
187.Club Med.
188.Crepuscule in Dharamshala.
189.Solid geometry.
190.Strengths of materials (if only intuitively).
191.Halong Bay.
192.What’s been accomplished in Medellín.
193.In Rio.
194.In Calcutta.
195.In Curitiba.
196.In Mumbai.
197.Who practices? (It is your duty to secure this space for all who want to.)
198.Why you think architecture does any good.
199.The depreciation cycle.
200.What rusts.
201.Good model-making techniques in wood and cardboard.
202.How to play a musical instrument.
203.Which way the wind blows.
204.The acoustical properties of trees and shrubs.
205.How to guard a house from floods.
206.The connection between the Suprematists and Zaha.
207.The connection between Oscar Niemeyer and Zaha.
208.Where north (or south) is.
209.How to give directions, efficiently and courteously.
210.Stadtluft macht frei.
211.Underneath the pavement the beach.
212.Underneath the beach the pavement.
213.The germ theory of disease.
214.The importance of vitamin D.
215.How close is too close.
216.The capacity of a bioswale to recharge the aquifer.
217.The draught of ferries.
218.Bicycle safety and etiquette.
219.The difference between gabions and riprap.
220.The acoustic performance of Boston’s Symphony Hall.
221.How to open the window.
222.The diameter of the earth.
223.The number of gallons of water used in a shower.
224.The distance at which you can recognize faces.
225.How and when to bribe public officials (for the greater good).
226.Concrete finishes.
227.Brick bonds.
228.The Housing Question by Friedrich Engels.
229.The prismatic charms of Greek island towns.
230.The energy potential of the wind.
231.The cooling potential of the wind, including the use of chimneys and the stack effect.
232.Paestum.
233.Straw-bale building technology.
234.Rachel Carson.
235.Freud.
236.The excellence of Michel de Klerk.
237.Of Alvar Aalto.
238.Of Lina Bo Bardi.
239.The non-pharmacological components of a good club.
240.Mesa Verde.
241.Chichen Itza.
242.Your neighbors.
243.The dimensions and proper orientation of sports fields.
244.The remediation capacity of wetlands.
245.The capacity of wetlands to attenuate storm surges.
246.How to cut a truly elegant section.
247.The depths of desire.
248.The heights of folly.
249.Low tide.
250.The Golden and other ratios.

Giambattista Vico’s New Science

Image result for vico frontispiece
Frontispiece of Vico’s The New Science: It offers a guide to this reading in the “Idea of the Work,” which is formulated as a commentary on the elements of the dipintura, the engraving of its frontispiece. In the opening line of the New Science Vico compares this engraving to that described in the text of the Tablet of Cebes, which was held in such high regard in Renaissance humanism.

Giambattista Vico:

On October 18,1708, the start of the school year at the Royal University of Naples, Professor Giambattista Vico, who occupied the chair of Rhetoric, gave a stunning speech to his students, eloquently criticizing Cartesian ideology. This speech would be published later as On the Study Methods of our Time.[1]  But the time of the intellectual atmosphere of Europe in the eighteenth century was so much dominated by the Cartesian logic and thinking, that Vico’s thought was not popular. This is perhaps the reason why Vico’s magnum opus La Scienza Nouva published in 1725 went unnoticed. Vico was disheartened with the reception of the book and written a letter to local priest expressing his disappointment. He also sent a copy of the book to Sir Isaac Newton. There was no evidence whether Newton read the book, or even if he had received it. Scholars suggest, even if Newton would have read it, he would have no understanding of the content. [2] Convinced it is a masterpiece- Vico made a revised second edition in 1730. The result was same. There were correspondence between Father Carlo Lodoli and Vico to publish it and Vico sent his six hundred pages of manuscript in Venice but ultimately there was some misunderstanding and the project failed. Still undaunted, Vico published the book third time in 1744, dying shortly thereafter.

The third edition of the book was published six months after Vico’s death and the full name was Principles of New Science of Giambattista Vico concerning the Common Nature of the Nations. Vico referred to this work as “Principles of humanity.”

Frontispiece: It offers a guide to this reading in the “Idea of the Work,” which is formulated as a commentary on the elements of the dipintura, the engraving of its frontispiece. In the opening line of the New Science Vico compares this engraving to that described in the text of the Tablet of Cebes, which was held in such high regard in Renaissance humanism. He notes that as the Tablet of Cebes offers a scheme of morals, the dipintura of the New Science offers a scheme of civil things. This tablet “may serve the Reader to conceive the Idea of this Work before reading it, and to bring it back most easily to memory with such aid as the imagination [ fantasia] may provide him, after having read it” (NS 1).In the “Idea of the Work” the whole of the New Science is presented in microcosm for the reader. In the last lines Vico writes,“to state the idea of the work in the briefest summary, the entire engraving represents the three worlds in the order in which the human minds of the gentiles have been raised from earth to heaven” (NS 42). To grasp this work as a whole, the reader must perceive how the worlds of the divine (the divine mind and the human mind understood as the divine element in man), the civil, and the natural intersect. Human wisdom for Vico has two parts, civil and natural. The former is that in which the ancients excel; the latter is that over which the moderns have developed mastery. This central idea or theme serves as the ultimate principle guiding the specific transitions of the work. Vico explicitly informs the reader what this principle is: “We find that the principle of these origins both of languages and letters lies in the fact that the first gentile peoples, by a demonstrated necessity of nature, were poets who spoke in poetic characters. This discovery, which is the master key of this Science, has cost us the persistent research of almost all our literary life” (NS 34). These poetic characters, he says, are imaginative genera or universals whereby the first figures of the gentile nations organized the particulars of their world. These genera are expressed in fables that tell first of gods and then of heroes. Vico writes, “the first science to be learned should be mythology or the interpretation of fables” (NS 51). The New Science depends upon the discovery of a new science of mythology that allows Vico to discover and present his new science of history of the common nature of the nations.

Vico says this New Science or metaphysic, studying common nature of nation sunder divine providence, discovers origins of human institutions among gentile nations and thereby establishes a natural law of the gentes. This natural law passes through Egyptians and they handed down three ages that world has passed through. These are:

  • Ages of gods- when gentiles believed they are living under divine providence,
  • Ages of heroes- where heroes reigned in aristocratic commonwealth believing in their superiority over plebs and
  • Ages of men- where all men regard themselves as equal in nature and establishes commonwealths as well as monarchy- both being a form of human government (NS31).

Book I: Establishment of principles

Elements :

Vico asserts that in human institutions, mental language must be common which is capable of expressing so many diverse aspects (NS161). This common mental language is the basis of Vico’s New Science and this is supposed to be foundation stone of constructing a mental vocabulary shared by all the articulate living and dead languages (NS 162).

Man lost in ignorance, makes himself the measure of all things. When men have no idea of distant and unknown things, they judge them by what is familiar.

POETIC METAPHYSICS:

For Vico, wisdom of the poets- their poetic metaphysics was the earliest wisdom of the mankind. It was unrationalized, as primitive men were not capable of abstract thoughts.

“Poetic wisdom, the first wisdom of the gentile world, must have begun with a metaphysics, not rational and abstract like that of learned men now, but felt and imagined as that of these first men must have been, who, without power of ratiocination, were all robust sense and vigorous imagination.”(NS 116)

To write good poetry, said Vico, one must feel as children. “Children have a remarkable gift of imagination. When the world was in its childhood, all nations were nations of poets, for poetry is simply imitation. Primeval man had a special kind of poetic thought and whole civilization stems from there. Poetry was the source of the civilization. (NS 215,216,217)

Vico’s thesis about poetry being first and foremost knowledge is based on the following reasonings:

  1. Poetry is a collective product,
  2. Language of Poetry is in constant flux,
  3. It is not scholars or savants, but simple people who are the true judges of poetry,
  4. Poetry uses myths to attain the truth, for general and profound truth is best expressed in myths,
  5. Poetry stems from imagination, but its basis is experience- its function is transmission of this experience,

Vico wrote,

“if the criticism of our time is inculcated in children, their poetic abilities are damaged. Their imagination is dulled and obscured, and their memory is impaired and yet the best poets are those who are guided by imagination…I would venture to affirm that by instinct they [poets] seek out the truth in same measure as philosophers. But the philosophers address himself to the learned people. The poet, on the other hand, addresses himself to the masses, and for this reason, speaks about particular examples furnished by splendid deeds and words of characters of his devising. Thus poets depart from the everyday truth in order to create a more perfect one…They speak falsehoods in order to be in a certain sense, more veracious still.”[3]

Philosopher and philologists have given us the “principles of humanity.” This principle of humanity is equivalent to the phrase “common nature of nations” as quoted in the title (J2). These principles are the principles by which creatures who are not human, are humanised.

To discover how human thinking arose, Vico said, he spent twenty years (NS 338). Vico claims his New Science as history of human ideas, on which metaphysics of human minds must tread (NS 347). The time and place for such a history must be determined by the common sense of human race.

The New Science attempts to describe “an ideal eternal history” experienced in time by each nation from its “rise, development, maturity, decline and fall (NS 349).” For Vico, the world of nations is certainly a human construction and its reflection can be seen within the human mind (NS 349). The New Science creates reality greater than the geometrical world, by its association with institutions dealing with human affairs, which are far more tangible (hence more real) than geometrical elements of points, lines, surfaces and figures (NS 349).  

If the creator also becomes the narrator, then history for its sake is certain. For God, creation and knowledge are one and same thing (NS 349).

Principles of New Science:

  1. Divine Providence:  this makes up law and divine institutions,
  2. Marriage and thereby moderation of passions:     
  3. Burial and therewith immortality of human souls:

Vico opines that since these characters are felt by the majority, it should be the basis of social life.

Book II: Poetic Wisdom

Vico while investigating the source of wisdom of ancient gentiles, finds that it began with the metaphysics, that “seeks its proofs not in the external world but within the modifications of the mind of him who meditates it. For, as we have said above, since this world of nations has certainly been made by men, it is within these modifications that its principles should have been sought. And human nature, so far as it is like that of animals, carries with it this property, that the senses are its sole way of knowing things.” (NS 374)

Hence poetic wisdom, the core of this book, have begun with metaphysics, which is not rational or abstract reasoning of our times but it was rather felt and imagines by the first men. (NS 375)

When first men created things, their ideas were their own and inherently different from God. “For God”, Vico says,“ in his purest intelligence, knows things, and by knowing them, creates them; but they [first men], in their robust ignorance, did it by virtue of a wholly corporeal imagination.” (NS 376) Because of the corporeality, the ancient men dealt it with sublimity. This sublime treatment perturbed the creators to a great extent, which turned creators as poets.[4]

Poetic Logic concerns the imaginative foundations of speech and language, rooted in the four tropes of metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche and irony (NS 404-409).

  1. Metaphor: It is most useful when it can give sense and passion to inanimate objects (NS 404). In all languages, Vico notes, metaphor has anthropomorphic associations with objects, for example, head for beginning, hands of clock, flesh of fruits, blood of grapes, bowel of earth (NS 405). This further proves Vico’s first claim, that ignorant man makes himself the measure of the universe. Faced with incomprehensibility, man makes things out of himself and becomes them by transforming himself into them (NS 405).
  2. Metonymy springs from the first poets who had to describe most particular and sensible ideas (NS 406). When we want to utter our innermost spiritual and sensible understanding, we have to take refuge of metonymy. Metonymy, according to Vico, “drew a cloak of learning over prevailing ignorance of these origins of human institutions.”
  3. Synecdoche refers to a part of the whole being. “Head” commonly used in vulgar Latin, means the whole man- its origin lies as ‘head(s)’ were the only thing that could be identified in a forest (NS 407).
  4. Irony comes in the period of reflection, fashioned on falsehood as “first men of the gentile world had the simplicity of the children, who are truthful by nature.” (NS 408)

These four tropes, as part of the poetic wisdom are modes of engaging with the world, follow each other in a historical sequence, with residues of the former remaining “figuratively” in the domain of the latter.

The decadence of human age, and the ultimate return to the bestial behaviour giving rise to the new age of the gods, is the result of an ironic distance in which one comes to recognize disparities between figurative representation and “literal” reality, in which literal reality is considered the truth.    

Book III: DISCOVERY OF THE TRUE HOMER

Tradition says Homer was blind and from his blindness, he took his name. In Ionic dialect homer means blind (NS 869). As historians conclude, Trojan War, an epoch-making event, did not take place, there was great doubt if Homer existed in real (NS 873). With some surviving poems of Homer, Vico takes the middle ground saying, “Homer was an idea or a heroic character of Grecian men insofar as they told their histories in song (NS 873).”

Homer was the reason that Greek people competed with each other for the honor of their fatherland and claimed for being citizen. Opinions are diverse as Homer, lived in the lips and memories of the people for a span of 460 years (NS876). Each of the poem (constituting the epics, Illiad and Odyssey), were called homeros, being sung by poor rhapsodes who had to make living by singing them throughout Greece. Vico opines these rhapsodes are authors of poems as much as the people (or Homer if he was a person) who composed the histories in them (NS 878).

Homer (or the idea of Homer)  being an incomparable poet, living in the age of “vigorous memory, robust imagination and sublime invention” cannot be a philosopher. (NS 896) This idea of Homer being incomparable can be traced in the frontispiece of the book as Homer receives the divine light, reflecting from the breast plate of metaphysics and hence any human made ideas cannot be come close with it.

Bibliography:

Aitken, R. James (Robert James). 1995. “Piranesi-Vico-II Campo Marzio : Foundations and the Eternal City.” M. Arch., McGill University.

Bayer, Thora Ilin, Donald Phillip Verene, and Giambattista Vico. 2009. Giambattista Vico: Keys to the New Science : Translations, Commentaries, and Essays. 1 online resource (xi, 209 pages) : illustrations. vols. Cornell Paperbacks. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=3138065.

Danesi, Marcel, and Frank H. Nuessel. 1994. The Imaginative Basis of Thought and Culture: Contemporary Perspectives on Giambattista Vico. Media, Communications & Culture Studies ; v. 3. Toronto: Canadian Scholars’ Press.

Vico, Giambattista. 1990. On the Study Methods of Our Time. 1 online resource vols. Book Collections on Project MUSE. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7591/j.ctv3mt9fb.

Vico, Giambattista, and L. M. Palmer. 1988. On the Most Ancient Wisdom of the Italians: Unearthed from the Origins of the Latin Language : Including the Disputation with the Giornale de’ Letterati d’Italia. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.

Vico, Giambattista, and Leon. Pompa. 2002. The First New Science. Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought. Cambridge, U.K. ; Cambridge University Press. http://link.library.utoronto.ca/eir/EIRdetail.cfm?Resources__ID=1049994&T=F.

Vico, Giambattista, Carlo Antonio de Rosa marchese di Villarosa, Max Harold Fisch, and Thomas Goddard Bergin. 1963. The Autobiography of Giambattista Vico,. Ithaca, N.Y.: Great Seal Books.


[1] (Danesi and Nuessel 1994, 2–3)

[2] (Danesi and Nuessel 1994, 3)

[3] (Vico 1990, 60–63)

[4] Poiesis in Greek means ‘to create’. Vico masterfully brings the creation back to the poets.

Sketches of Peter Rich

Peter Rich is an Australian architect whose sketches blows my mind. His sketches are manifestations of his travels and they are really special.

Series of sketches on Mandu : An ancient city of Madhya Pradesh- the heart of India
Mandu 2
Mandu 3
Mandu 4
Hampi, a UNESCO World Heritage city, a city of magnificent ruins – in Southern India
Hampi 2
Hampi 3
Hampi 4
Hampi 5
Hampi 6
Hampi 7
Kerala/ Cochin
Kerala/Alappuzha (or Alleppey)
Badami
Badami 2

Architecture of Memory: On the Relevance of Memory in Architecture

Photo by Hélène Binet from A Feeling of History by Peter Zumthor and Mari Lending

The link between Architecture and Memory is quite ancient. Numerous accounts have been written on how architecture was used as a memory tool. We learn from stories of the Greek poet Simonides, who identified from his memory every visitor in a banquet associating them with architectural setting. This art of memory often called “memory palace” was transmitted from Greeks to Romans and then into European tradition of storytelling. It was common to rehearse speech associating it with the landscape, the porch, the steps, the bedroom or balcony. Hypneretomachia Poliphili, a fifteenth-century Italian text shows Poliphilo in a dark forest, describing ancient marvels “deserving of a place in the theatre of memory” who encounters ruins of classical buildings in search for his beloved Polia in his dream. After the invention of the printing press, with books readily available, memorization techniques were less in demand. Later, memories were distrusted and frowned upon as an unreliable source. Frances Yates claims in Art of Memory that we, moderns, have no memory at all. Giordano Bruno, a sixteenth-century Italian polymath, espoused architecture, art, and poetry as a very few special disciplines, which require disciplined imagination which sprouts from memory. I argue in our more heuristic architectural discipline, architects must depend upon their memory as a tool to imagine.

I argue in our more heuristic architectural discipline, architects must depend upon their memory as a tool to imagine.

While we tend to associate memory as a complex electrochemical process taking place inside our brain, Juhani Pallasmaa claims that memories are also stored in our skeletons, muscles, and skin. Philosopher Edward Casey argues in a similar vein concluding in his book Remembering: A Phenomenological Study, “there is no memory without body memory.” Marcel Proust’s protagonist in In Search of Lost Time constructs his own identity through this bodily memory.

I would argue that architecture alone cannot produce any emotion unless we associate it with our memory. Our childhood memory is a fertile ground for our imagination. From this seed of memory, the tree of imagination takes shape. Imagination is vital to make architecture that is essential to the lived experience. Neuroscientists have found evidence that our fundamental perceptions don’t generate in the brain alone but is produced from the encounter between the body and the world. Through our interaction with the world, we create bodily memory. Architect Peter Zumthor makes this bodily memory speak through his architecture. He believes places and landscapes act as memory banks and an architect should actively interpret the memory stored in these landscapes to design that would be responsive beyond the spectacular form.

Every landscape and building are condensed memory and with memory we associate our microcosmic experiences with the world. Our existential space is built with multisensorial perceptions. The crucial question is, standing on our time, acknowledging the circumstances of our technological world, how can one imagine a palace to store memories which would safeguard the authenticity of human experience?

The crucial question is, standing on our time, acknowledging the circumstances of our technological world, how can one imagine a palace to store memories which would safeguard the authenticity of human experience?

References:

Bachelard, Gaston, and M. Jolas. 1994. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press.

Brodsky, Joseph, and Poets Laureate Collection (Library of Congress). 1995. On Grief and Reason: Essays. 1st ed. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Casey, Edward S. 2000. Remembering: A Phenomenological Study. 2nd ed. Studies in Continental Thought. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Dutton, Denis. 2009. The Art Instinct: Beauty, Pleasure, & Human Evolution. 1st U.S. ed. New York: Bloomsbury Press.

Fisher, Thomas. 2004. “What Memory? Whose Memory?” In Memory and Architecture, 11. University of New Mexico Press.

Hurst, Rachel, and Jane Lawrence. n.d. “(Re)Placing, Remembering, Revealing,” 25.

Jackson, John Brinckerhoff. 1994. A Sense of Place, a Sense of Time. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Lyndon, Donlyn., and Charles W. Moore. 1994. Chambers for a Memory Palace. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, and Donald A. Landes. 2012. Phenomenology of Perception. Abingdon, Oxon ; New York: Routledge.

Mertens, Manuel. 2018. Magic and Memory in Giordano Bruno: The Art of a Heroic Spirit. 1 online resource. vols. Brill’s Studies in Intellectual History Ser. Boston: Brill.

Pallasmaa, Juhani. 2000. “Stairways of the Mind.” International Forum of Psychoanalysis 9 (1–2): 7–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/080370600300055814.

———. 2014. “Empathic Imagination: Formal and Experiential Projection: Empathic Imagination: Formal and Experiential Projection.” Architectural Design 84 (5): 80–85. https://doi.org/10.1002/ad.1812.

Pallasmaa, Juhani., and Peter B. MacKeith. 2012. Encounters 2: Architectural Essays. Helsinki: Rakennustieto .

Pérez Gómez, Alberto. 2006. Built upon Love: Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics. Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press.

Pérez-Gómez, Alberto, and Louise Pelletier. 2000. Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge. 1. MIT Press paperback ed. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Proust, Marcel, and Christopher. Prendergast. 2003. In Search of Lost Time. London ; Penguin Books.

Quian Quiroga, Rodrigo, and Juan Pablo Fernández. 2012. Borges and Memory: Encounters with the Human Brain. 1 online resource (ix, 213 pages) : illustrations vols. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. http://public.eblib.com/choice/publicfullrecord.aspx?p=3339513.

Rilke, Rainer Maria, and Mark. Harman. 2011. Letters to a Young Poet. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. http://www.perma-bound.com/ws/image/cover/005215830/m.

Rilke, Rainer Maria, and Robert Vilain. 2016. The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Oxford World’s Classics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Yates, Frances A. 1978. The Art of Memory. Peregrine Books. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.

Zielinski, Sarah. n.d. “The Secrets of Sherlock’s Mind Palace.” Smithsonian. Accessed January 5, 2019. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/secrets-sherlocks-mind-palace-180949567/.

Zumthor, Peter, Mari Lending, and Hélène Binet. 2018. A Feeling of History. Translated by Esther Kinsky. Zürich: Scheidegger & Spiess.

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The Bow and the Lyre

The Poem. The Poetic Revelation. Poetry and History.

Why poetry is important in everyday life. Taking a leaf out of Octavio Paz’s book to make a strong case for poetry in our daily life, culture and society.

Octavio Paz, the author of this book was a Mexican poet, writer, and diplomat, recognized as one of the major Latin American writers of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990. This book The Bow and the Lyre contains timeless and profound ideals for our life, society and culture.

The Image

Images are product of imagination. We use the word image to invoke several different meanings. Each image or a poem consisting of different images contain many kinds of opposite or disparate meanings. Saint John speaks of Silent Music where two incompatible terms are put together. According to Paz, the image is key to human condition.

A child is surprised to know that a pound of stone and a pound of feather has the same weight. It is the character of the matter that appeals to the child. Paz calls it poetic reality. The poetic reality of the image cannot have its claim to the truth. The poem never says what it is, but what it could be. The realm of poem resides not in the realm of being but in Aristotelian “likely impossible”.

In dialectical process, the image of stone and the feather are completely opposite. Sometimes first term devours the second and vice versa. But some of the best images are where stone and feather continue to be ‘this is this’, ‘that and that’ and ‘this is that’ at the same time. In poetic terms, the stone is stone, the feather is feather as well as the stone is feather. This violates laws of thought and dialectic approach as dialectic proceeds with a string of reasons.

Since pre-Socratic philosopher Parmenides, the uprooting of Being from primordial chaos, constitute the basis of our thinking. “Clear and Distinctive ideas” come from this difference between what is and what is not. The banishment of poetry and mysticism from western history has diminished its value. Western metaphysics ends in solipsism, i.e. the idea that only one’s own mind is sure to exist. Hegel’s attempt to go back to Heraclitus was futile. 

Despite Husserl’s call to “get back to the facts”, his idealism leads to solipsism.

Heidegger’s effort to go back to Parmenides’ era to find an answer hits the stone wall. Despite Western history going to an astray, Paz is optimistic about finding a way into the world and starting all over again.

On the contrary, Oriental thought has not suffered the same defeat. When Western World conceives ‘this or that’, the Eastern World pitches ‘this and that’ or even ‘this is that’. The fundamental texts of Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism reiterates the opposition amid the terms but at the same time mediates the necessary reconciliation between conflicting forces. In the most ancient Upanishad, a fundamental text of the Sanatan Dharma or Eternal Order, it is stated, “Thou art woman. Thou art man. Thou are the youth and the maiden… Thou are the seasons and the seas.” “There is nothing that is not this and there is nothing that is not that” says Chuang -Tzu. He elaborates, “Life is life in relation to death and vice versa. Affirmation is affirmation in relation to negation and vice versa”. It is this very moment when stone and feather fuse together. As per Eastern philosophy,:

Truth is an experience, and everyone must attempt to it on their own.

Learning cannot be just accumulation of knowledge or facts, but it is the attuning of body and spirit. Meditation teach us to let go of things, to unburden ourselves of the knowledge. To think is to breathe as thoughts and life are not separate entities but the same communicating vessel.  The ultimate quest for identity remains between man and the world, consciousness and being, being and existence. All our endeavors remain to rediscover the old path between magic and poetry, science and religion; the forgotten way of communication between the two worlds.

In principle, Tantric systems consider body as an image of cosmos. Sense centers are knots of energy. Triple rhythm of sap, blood and light rules each posture of the embracing bodies.  

In Eastern thought, truth is a personal experience and cannot be communicated. Who knows does not speak and who speaks does not know. Hence the Sage preaches without words. The condemnation of words come from the inability of language to transcend the world of this and that.

The words point to meanings which in turn shows to objects. Objects are beyond the grasp of language. The wordless preaching the Chinese philosophers refer to a language that is more than a language, a word that expresses the inexpressible.

Image and Language:

Each word has a certain number of meanings. When they are used in a sentence, they make a coherent sense. This time, the other meanings of the word disappears. In the case of Image, the multiple meanings remain present. For a poet, meanings of images dwell on different levels. The first one is the authentic one- the poet has seen or heard them. In second case the images are objective reality- the landscape painting by a painter and the actual landscape are not the same. They are two different parallels of the same order. Poetic images have their own logic.

Finally, the poet’s images tell us something about the world and about ourselves, and this something reveals to us what we are in this world.

All things that we represent through syllogism, descriptions, scientific formulas limit themselves to representing or describing it. They do not re-create what they are trying to express. If we see a chair, we would try to analyse its material, color, texture, shape etc. In poem, the chair is present in its totality. The poet does not describe the chair. He puts it in front of the reader.

“The poem does not represent, it presents” says Machado.

The meaning of the image is image itself. It is self explanatory. It can’t be said with other words. Commentaries, explanations and analysis are superfluous. The poet does not try to say. He just says. Unlike sentences and phrases, images are not means. In a similar vein, the sense of poem is in poem itself. Image causes words to lose their mobility and interchangeability. When Language is touched by poetry, it ceases to be a language. Poem transcends the language.  The poetic experience cannot be reduced to words though only word expresses it. Truth of poem relies on the poetic experience. This experience is unutterable. Poetry puts man outside himself as well as makes him return to his original being.

The Poetic Revelation

Poetic experience, like religious experience is a mortal leap. It makes us forget where we are, who we are, only to be rediscovered later. Man reveals to himself though poetry. Religion on the contrary, aims to reveal a mystery alien to us.

According to Rudolf Otto, Sacred is a priori category. But Paz questions, the idea of perfection as a prerequisite of the priori category. The super powerful God must rely on sacrifices of human blood to keep the cosmos in order. God moves the world, but the blood moves the God! Religion is terra incognita for reason.

Paz insists, the experience of sacred does not lie outside to us – but in the opening of heart so that the hidden Other may merge. Religion allures us to an eternal life. It promises to redeem s from death, but it makes the earthly life a punishment.

“In killing death”, Paz says, “religion de-lifes life”.

As life and death is inseparable, death is present in life and we live dying. Each moment that we live, we die. Religion offers death of this life by promising eternal truth. To live is to die. Death is not something that is created in the void of life, but it completes it.

Heidegger pointed out joy in the presence of the beloved is a mean of access to reveal ourselves. He says what is all know with our prior obscure knowledge is love, the joy of love which is a revelation of being.

When man suddenly realizes, there is no meaning other than dying, the fall I the chaos is inexpressible. In the face of the world we are reduced to nothing– but at the same time the nothingness illuminates us to the light of being. “We ourselves annihilate ourselves in creating ourselves”, Paz goes on “we create ourselves in annihilating ourselves”.

Poetic word is a rhythm and being in rhythm is to embrace life and death in a single utterance. Poetry is not a judgment or interpretation of our existence  but it is a revelation of our original condition.

Being is born of nothing. The same rhythm moves us, the same silence surrounds us.

Japanese poet Buson puts it:

Before the white chrysanthemums
the scissors hesitate
for an instant.


True poetry recreates man and makes him assume the true condition, that is not being in dilemma, but understanding the totality of life and death at a single instance.

Before the white chrysanthemums

the scissors hesitate

for an instant.

True poetry recreates man and makes him assume the true condition, that is not being in dilemma, but understanding the totality of life and death at a single instance.

Signs in Rotation

What is the place of poetry in Society? There is no poetry without society- poetry simultaneously affirms and denies speech which is very social at its root. Also there is no society without poetry as it will lack a language – where everyone will say the same thing or nobody will understand anyone.

In a universal society as it was envisioned that every human’s radical difference, singularity and freedom of thought will be celebrated, similarly at one time or the other, all the great poets believed that poem would cease to bring the contradiction of the human society that simultaneously affirms and denies history. In the new vision, it was expected that poetry would be at least practical. However, some traits of contemporary society are : degrading standard of life yet improving standard of living , evaporation of sympathy for fellow men, annihilation of personal communication but raising standard of communication system.

Technology is not an image nor a vision of the world. It is not an image because it cannot reproduce the world and it is not vision because it is unable to conceive the world as shape and its occurrence is more or less shaped by human will. Disappearance of the image is making technology possible.  A mosque or a roman cathedral are impregnated with so many meanings. They endure not only because of the material property, but the significance of the meanings they produce. On the other hand, technological apparatus ceases to function and loses its significance when a higher efficient system is put in its place. Technology has not given us new world image and instead made it impossible to return to old mythologies. Technology’s philosophical virtue contains in the absence of philosophy itself. In absence of thousands of years of history and philosophy, Paz notes sarcastically that human being can find its own way with technology.

For Heidegger, we were too late for the Gods and too early for the being, whose poem already begun is being. Our historical situation is defined by too late and too early. We are lost in things; our thoughts are circular, and we hardly perceive anything.

Poetry, music and dance were originally perceived as a whole. Poetry reading is now a private activity. We don’t hear poetry but see it. We read poetry for ourselves. The transition of reading poetry from a public act to a private act has made the experience solitary. Now thanks to the technology of making sound from the word, we are hearing the world again.

If man is transcendence, poem is a sign of that transcendence- going beyond himself to discover through the otherness. If Man wants to be himself, without losing a key to this world, to unite with the other, then Poem is the key to it.

Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 3G

Before we get into other details of our Kindle Paperwhite 3G review, let’s quickly see why it continues to be the world’s best-selling e-reader. Kindle had been always very popular. When kindle was first released in the United States on November 19, 2007, the response was overwhelming. The entire production of kindle was sold out in five hours and it remained out of stock for approximately 5 months.

It’s very popular because they streamlined many latest innovations including the famous E Ink Display. This E Ink technology makes the ability to read books from a device like real paper print possible with no eyestrain. Then we witness E-reader race in the following years among reputed brands such as Amazon, Sony, Barnes & Noble and Kobo all using E Ink technology.

However, in the year 2010-11, Tablet became even more popular with the pioneering company like Apple and its iPad making every possible breakthrough for an ultimate portable multitasking device. It is nice to read books or magazines with colorful illustrations which are not so with E Ink E-readers. The chances of E-readers surviving on the market into the 2012 holiday seasons seemed weak. But guess what? They did it again to recreate the same excitement and success story with E Ink ‘Pearl’ display.

E Ink Pearl display was a wonderful thing to happen with better display contrast and resolution. But the problem with any E Ink device is that you can’t read in the dark as it does not illuminate like LCD or LED. You need a reading light to read in the dark which is not always comfortable.

Amazon released Kindle Paperwhite on October 1, 2012 ,making headlines again. This Kindle Paperwhite includes built-in light display that will illuminate the screen evenly and is adjustable. The display comes with a pixel density of 221 ppi (pixel per inch) and a resolution of 758×1024. During the launch event the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, emphasized on the patented built-in light technology as an outcome of four years of research & development. Well, you got to believe him when you compare side by side between Nook Touch with GlowLight and Kindle Paperwhite.

 Improved and New Technologies with Kindle PaperWhite 3G

The PaperWhite Patented Built-in Light Technologyamazon-kindle-paperwhite-3g

You can say that this innovative Patented Built-in light technology is the dealmaker for this e-reader and an edge over its predecessors as well as other dedicated e-readers. Unlike the reading light that usually fails to illuminate evenly on the screen, this PaperWhite illuminates the entire display screen evenly. This is a much-awaited feature by every booklover. Amazon flattens out fiber optic cable into a sheet and incorporates LEDs to entirely and evenly distribute light on the displays

How does PaperWhite Patented built-in light help?

You can read in the dark or in the bed at night without disturbing others, also PaperWhite screen actually enhances your reading experience in a bright lid environment or outdoor. What it does is that when you read in a bright lid environment with the light setting high the display screen matches up the surrounding brightness for better reading experience. On the contrary, you should keep the light setting low while reading in a dark room to match the surrounding which comforts your eyes and enhance  the reading experience. Confusing? Yeah, it is confusing but it works!

The PaperWhite LEDs are always on to enhance reading experience as explained by Amazon, but it won’t diminish the battery lifespan if you keep the light setting at 10 or less. The brightness of the screen can be adjusted from a scale of 0-24.

Improved Display Screen

kindle-paperwhite-2

E Ink has gotten much better over the years which become even more evident when you do side-by-side comparison between (basic) Kindle and Kindle PaperWhite. According to Amazon the PaperWhite is 25% higher contrast than its predecessor with higher pixel density. Kindle and Kindle Keyboard 3G offers only 167 pixels per inch as compared to 212 pixels per inch of Kindle PaperWhite. The result is crisp and sharp text even for the smallest font.

If you own Kindle or Kindle Keyboard don’t expect a major improvement. You might not even notice it unless you use the smallest font while comparing.

Touch Interface

To incorporate built-in light Amazon uses three layers for the PaperWhite screen display – light guide, touch screen and the E Ink display. There’s the chance of getting not so responsive touch interface. Yet, the touch interface is very responsive and even better than Kindle Touch, the previous generation. It is now faster and more responsive.

Battery Life

Actually, there is no room for complaint in regards to battery life with any E Ink readers. But with the inclusion of built-in light there were speculations of possible poor battery life. Amazingly, based on 30 minutes of daily reading you can still get up to 8 weeks of battery life with the wireless off and brightness set to 10 or less. This is the same battery life as Kindle Keyboard which comes without the built-in light.

Time to Read

This is a new feature for PapaerWhite that study and predict how long you’ll take to finish reading a chapter or the book based on your reading speed which is constantly updated as per your reading speed and habits. This is an ingenious idea and very useful in assessing the approximate time to finish a book.

Old Good Features That Were Retained

X-Ray Feature

xray_kindle

When you purchase a Kindle e-book, Amazon includes some pre-installed details about specific person, locations, fictional characters, subjects or concepts. Needless to say the details will differ by book.

This preloaded information is accessible using Kindle Touch X-ray function by going to the menu from any page. It will help you to view all of the passages throughout a book or a novel that mention fictional characters, places, historical figures or ideas. This is an exclusive feature of kindle e-reader and as Amazon puts it – X-ray lets you explore the ‘bones of the book’.

Whispersync

The Whispersync feature equipped the device with the ability to jump on any device and pick up from wherever you left off reading the last time. It will synchronize your bookmarks and annotations across your devices which is very nice. Synchronization works easier and faster with 3G connectivity. With the Wi-Fi, you may need to sign in and search for a network before you can sync.

Webkit for Basic Browsing

Unlike most of the other dedicated e-reader, you can do basic browsing with Webkit via Wi-Fi connectivity. Though this is an experimental feature it is nice that you can quickly check your mail or the web without switching device. However, you can’t access Webkit over 3G. The only two places you can access over 3G is Kindle Store and Wikipedia. This is why Amazon can safely say 3G is free.

Kindle Paperwhite WI-Fi

CLICK HERE TO BUY – Rs. 10,999/-

Kindle Paperwhite WI-Fi + 3G 

 CLICK HERE TO BUY – Rs. 13,999/-

Other features that influence your reading experiencefont-paperwhite

Apart from the main features that makes Kindle PaperWhite truly a path-breaking E-reader there are other features worth mentioning. The ergonomic design of Kindle PaperWhite makes it easy to hold the device in one hand for long-form reading and it’s lighter than a paperback.

You got 6 hand-tuned fonts and 8 adjustable font sizes to suit your needs. It can hold up to 1,000 books with its internal memory which is like carrying your personal library wherever you go. In fact if you need more space you can simply archived your books on Amazon Cloud and re-download anytime you need for free. You get unlimited Cloud access for books you purchased on Kindle Store.

When you are not sure of the book you want to buy, simply read the first chapter for free and see if it meets your expectations. Amazon Prime members can borrow one book in a month for free with no due dates and select from over 180,000 titles. Kindle customers can also borrow books from over 10,000 public libraries in the States. This feature will work not just for your kindle device but any supported devices with kindle App.

If you like you may also lend your books to friends and families who owns Kindle or Kindle app devices for a period of 14 days. Reading Kindle books is not just limited to the Kindle device you may sync and read from your iPad, iPhone, Android devices, Blackberry, laptop, Mac or Pc using the free Kindle App.

To download a book on your Kindle is very easy and it takes less than a minute to download straight from the Kindle. There is no waiting which is great.

To turn pages you don’t need to swipe but just a light tap is all it need. Looking up for definition is easy with Kindle built-in dictionary. You may even enjoy instant dictionary lookups in supporting languages such as Spanish, French, German, Italian, Simplified Chinese, Japanese and Brazilian Portuguese.

I like the Kindle ability to show ‘Real Page Numbers’ matching to the real page numbers in a print book. This feature will be particularly helpful for any citations and references.

Difference Between Kindle PaperWhite free 3G + Wi-Fi and Kindle PaperWhite Wi-Fi only

The primary difference is their connectivity. Kindle PaperWhite Wi-Fi model can connect to the internet only through Wi-Fi connection whereas Kindle paperWhite Wi-Fi + 3G model can connect to the internet via free 3G as well as Wi-Fi connection. The 3G model has a global wireless coverage of more than 100 countries and territories.

The other difference is their weight. Kindle PaperWhite Wi-Fi only weigh 206 gram and Kindle Wi-Fi + 3G weigh 217 gram. There is hardly any difference to make you feel lighter. Finally, there is a price difference of Rs. 3000/- between the two versions.

Is Kindle PaperWhite a Good Choice For Your Children?

If you want your kids to read just books with no web surfing ability like the tablet, you bet this is a good choice. Web surfing with Kindle PaperWhite is very slow and very much an experimental feature. No one will want this as their primary device to surf websites. Moreover, you can even restrict access to Kindle Store, Amazon Cloud and web browsing with Parental Controls, taking full controls of what your kids can do with their Kindle.

As mentioned earlier, there is no audio support with Kindle PaperWhite and if your kids like audio books or need text-to-speech feature the option is Kindle Keyboard.

The Search of the Curious

On the eve of final review:
The followig article was
written exactly two years back
before the third year studio design.

Even now I would change very few points 

When I decided to write a piece on my understanding about design I have almost 24 hours for final review. Designing a craft centre may not be the end of understanding but may be just the beginning of our learning of cultural forces. What is demanded by the requirements is often met by gross sized boxes and we don’t know how to make space fulfill. The top-down approach of making a block and designing the interior just to fulfill the space requirements often hurts me.

The search for perfect design does not just make sense. As often stated by one of our professors no design is bad or good. Everything has its own motives. The idea is to analyse about weakness and strength of each design solution. Probably the greatest gift of architecture is that we don’t have a single solution like mathematicians. We delve into the plurality and search for answers. It is like the search for the weave which binds all the strands of the cloth. We are always in search of the soul of the site, the surroundings. I wonder how many of my fellow mates has talked to a craftsman about what they need or what they would like.
The problem is that people have forgotten to talk to strangers. The society forbids now to make interactions. You have the internet in front of you and it answers all kinds of possible questions. But sadder still is that people even don’t use the internet for their improvement. Instead, we are more hooked on the photos shared, where the latest gizmos are displayed, what is the price of newest galaxy phone etc. Pleasure is consumed in seconds in front of a digital screen and young has forgotten to be happy. If you would like to find where is Pago island you would just type in Google and find instantly that it is in the east of Australia and Papua New guinea. But if you try to find it in old Atlas then you would spend a good 20 minutes or so to locate it & in the meanwhile, you would know about so many other places that you did not think they exist. The Internet has become the go-getter of copy-paste culture, even not acknowledging the original authors. It is ending up doing more harm to more people than doing more goods to few people.

Nowadays architecture students are obsessed with latest soft wares, plugins and other possible ways to glitter up their presentations. Unfortunately, a fraction of this time is spent on the design idea, the concept, and understanding. People are going gaga over the latest development that enables one to create parametric design solutions. But one has to understand what is parametric is. In easiest terms it is the best possible use of available resources. Doesn’t traditional design uses the best possible angle of solar orientation and ventilation? Computer literate architects disobey the traditionally knows concepts and instead devote their time to rediscover the same old principle that lived centuries. They instead develop some curves inspired by some western architects and term it Green in the name of LEED. They control their space by mechanically conditioned air and yet term it green by placing more saplings of the tree that would take years to mature.
Places of the world have now become some amusement parks thrown by some litters of some so-called star architects. They develop structure on their own and call that ‘fantabulous’. They know it won’t be possible anywhere else. An analogy of this is like Shah Jahan who ordered to take the hands off the master craftsman in order not to make anything even close to Taj.

Architecture is a curious craft. I love it because it offers to study me the history, culture, craft, society and multifaceted aspects of it. It is not only an architect’s responsibility to save the society from ugly structures called postmodern but to show the much-treaded path already left behind by our ancestors. The chaos, dynamic synergy that exists in culture is too strong to ignore. The essence of soil tells you to soak into it and not to indulge in the uber ugly towering structures. The tallest structures have been the ghoulish expression of animals within us, not the peaceful one. It underestimates the values, culture and an even undercurrent of passions. It seeks to touch the new height. The height of ugliness. They speak out to each other see how many people I can accommodate, see how many luxury I can provide. It is a never-ending competition between the monsters. A hotel in Ahmedabad seeks to touch new height by its curves. The hype around it is so tremendous that one forgets to tell that it is a shoe. It is like the child who questions the naked king where your clothes are? We need child like those. Fearless questions, which can tear apart the vague theories. The theories put together by Derrida are beyond the understanding of a common man. It seeks to create an intellectual raj where you cannot question an erudite for the fear that erudite might not able to explain it.

Another thing that haunts me is the expression. Students are told to explain graphically. What is the intention of the teachers? To devote less and less time to understand a potential problem to society? To give less than 2 minutes in a sheet made in 10 hours. It undermines the thought, the intellectual capacity to think. Just some colours and graphics are sometimes too little for the story. Students are not encouraged to write papers anymore. They are taught how to apply interesting graphics instead. Students are encouraged sometimes to make 3 dimensional renderings which are like real life. They end up making a dream image which might not be possible in real life. The concept cries foul. For the sake of beauty treatment, the concept takes backstage. Computer-generated views take centre stage. In present scenario if one say I can only do AutoCAD he or she is stared at or becomes the next topic to discuss. On the flip side of it, someone is too interested in applying Luna colours to whatever design is produced. A well-coloured drawing can never be bad design is the opinion in the mind.

One thing that lies beyond the understanding of mine is why everything has to be designed? Cannot something grow on its own? What happens to the much talked about marketplaces that have grown on its own? No architects have designed it. Urban designers heaped their praise around it and showcase it to compare the failure of Starbucks and big macs.
One has to learn to be travellers, not tourists. A true traveller does not any plans, foreground information about the things to be visited. He or she just travels and learns from the people, culture, and nature. Designing a craft centre which is not a museum is living piece of history itself. It is being created then and there. Before your eyes.
All we have is measurable materials. That is to create immeasurable truth, beauty and strength. No one is going to tell the architect about the secret attributes of it. It is his curiosity that will generate the immense sense of place, of understanding, of interaction and sense of accomplishment.

Curiosity is the eye of an architect.