The story I tell here, whose Dramatis Personae play the lowly role of mere bricks and mortar, leads directly to the fall of the Anglo-American Economic Order of 2007, the impending collapse of the EU and the three-trillion Dollar debacle of the Anglo-American expedition into the Middle East. It is said, in the defence of the mathematics of Chaos, that the beat of a butterfly wing causes a typhoon in some other place.
AN UNLIKELY BUTTERFLY
Well, the butterfly wing whose beat I will argue here was the seemingly innocuous decision that was made, back in the 1940s, to abandon using an 'Architectural Order', when designing a building. Looking back on it from half-a-century I can say that this curious decision, which we young and ignorant Student Architects thought nothing-of at that time, was the single greatest cause of the ruin of the marvellous cities that Architecture had once made both intelligible and pleasurable.
How this led to the cataclysms that I described above requires that you, Dear Reader, invest a little of your short supply of patience. For the more unlikely the proposition, the more careful must be the proof. So at least allow me to hint at one.
LET'S MOVE THEN.
When I was young (in the 1950s), it was said that "when General Motors sneezed the world caught a cold". Later-on the great machine of the US economy progressed to the point at which its power had expanded far, far beyond the making of millions of automobiles. Its engine of consumption had come to focus on the whole of human "dwelling" - as Heidegger termed it. The fiscal revenues of the USA, as it struggled against Russia in the Cold War, had become dependent upon her citizens 'moving house'. It was now their entire domestic terrain that the consumer ecomomy ploughed in order to raise the fiscal crops to support the "Star Wars" that brought Communism down. Nor was this 'churning' confined merely to the vast tracts of the American suburbs.
"A SKYSCRAPER ON ITS SIDE" said the CODE-JOCKEY.
Whole city-centres were thrown into the furnace of Urban Renewal. Their periphery was a blast-zone in which new skyscrapers sprouted next to the broken floor-tiles and cracked asphalt car parks of demolished older sisters. The amortisation rate for these behemoths was 15 years (it is two centuries in Switzerland). One could not rent-out an "old" skyscraper. When JOA built, in the early 1990s, a new Engineering Faculty in Rice University the City of Houston Building Regulations Surveyor (his Title was "The Code-Jockey"), termed our invention "A skyscraper on its side". Skyscrapers were the norm, anything else was eccentric.
THE "ONTIC CONSTITUTION".
My point is simple: the economic power (aka. the fiscal tsunami), of the USA, and anyone wishing to catch-up with her, is derived from the level of 'churn' in the infrastructure (our human lifespace to you and me), and the concomitant opportunities offered to buy and sell everything related to it. It was the desire of the Bill Clinton administration to enlarge its scope by including persons who would not normally qualify for a mortgage loan that led, butterfly-wing-like to the breaking of Lehman Brothers and the cult of monetary "easing". Yet it was not, ultimately the Banker's fault. It was the political logic driving the success of 'government by fiscal design' applied to the whole human condition. This, precisely, is the "politico-economic reality" which I describe as a culture's "Ontic Constitution". It needs no great insight to discern that Architecture, Housing and City-Planning, or as I prefer: "Urbanity", all lie so close to it as to be ONE AND THE SAME THING. These are the new "Playing Fields of Eton. These are the Champs de Mars of today - the "War", as I describe it, of the "Arts of Peace".
THE "NEED" TO MAKE ONE'S MARK ON THE VIRGIN CONTINENT.
Yet the British problem is not enthusiasm for change or reluctance to "develop" but Generalship. The USA has always had a simple and clear ambition driven by its deepest psychic and moral imperative. A colonialist must 'change' the landscape of its conquered territory in order to 'prove' his new right to have taken it from the aboriginal owner. In the case of the Spanish the blood-soaked "conquest" itself, bolstered by religion was sufficient Title, or 'proof of ownership'. But it seems that, to the Protestant English, mere military victory had to be followed by "work" - that very Protestant sign of the Deity's approval. This "work" had to leave its "mark". In the case of the USA, this can now be seen from high in space as President Jefferson's extraordinary "Enlightenment Quadration" of a whole Continent. This very English, and indeed 'Nordic' cult, led to the USA becoming an economic and military Titan, not to mention its extraordinary dominance in the popular culture of the 20C.
'BROKE' AND DIVESTED OF 350 YEARS OF EMPIRE.
The circumstances of Britain in the later-1940s were rather different (to put it politely). While the USA was under-populated, Britain was the reverse. The USA was self-sufficient in every raw material. Britain could not even feed herself. While London centred the most extensive Empire in history, these imbalances were offset by her Mercantilist politics. London always had the world's money. Britain exported more capital than the USA, right up to WWII. At the age of sixteen my father snatched from my hands a copy of E.H.Gombrich's "The Story of Art" with the words: "John we have no time for Art. We have an Empire to run!" My ex-Indian Army father had been born in India in 1900. But Britain's post-war Socialist Administration had cut loose his Imperial Patrimony just three years earlier - in 1947. My father never forgave them. At sixteen I already had a vague premonition for what I would need to earn a living now that the 'Empire' was no more. These post-imperialist fragments, mere islands marooned off one end of the Eurasia we once girdled with our posessions, were up against the Rational States and the Cameralist Cultures of Europe now - not the Village Headman of some Marsh Arab Tribe. My father, and his generation of Imperial Retirees knew nothing, absolutely nothing, of these new adversaries.
A NEW 'POSTING' FOR THE 'MANDARINS': POST IMPERIAL BRITAIN.
The war in Europe was remote for me as a boy in India. Even the Pacific War was thousands of miles away. But there were Americans everywhere in Delhi and it was more 'in the news'. I recall that my adolescent image of Britain, to which I had been trained to wish, longingly, to return, was of a nice green island that was spoiled by some nasty black smudges. These smudges were something called "industry". I felt that it was necessary to erase them so that Britain would be completely fresh and green 'again'. Looking back on it, it is hard to to imagine a more suicidal icon for these partying Imperialists. I associate this image with my first-ever cocktail, a "Gimlet", awarded on VJ Day. Built on money (not even our own but stuff lent to us by the entire globe), serviced by the dividends of a trade reserved to our own ships and enforced by our own Navy, the "black smudges" were the Empire's 'sine qua non'. These were the manufacturies of the goods that Britan sold to its captive markets. These 'smudges' kept in being the, by now (it was 1946 when I left India), doomed fatheads who did not even understand the history of their soon-to-vanish splendours. What was this repatriating 'ruling Class' going to do with all these millions of clever, proud and savvy "Native Brits". Had these 'manufacturing islanders' not "won the war"?. Perhaps with a little help from the Russkis and Yanks! Had these Brits not "ruled the world"? Had they not just thrown out this entire Imperial Ruling Class, with Winston the War Hero at their head, by a MAJORITY even larger than the ENTIRE OPPOSITION? How, then, should they be governed?
MARCHING AWAY FROM THE SOUND OF THE GUNS.
It was under the banner of Socialism that this New Model 1945 Army marched. But its route had been forseen. Reports and Plans had already been prepared, during the War, by Committees (there is safety in a Committee decision), under the leadership of Lord (ice-cold) Beveridge. It was widely understood that Cities, even of the shambolic smokestack variety constructed during Britain's rapid industrialisation, encouraged the growth of the civic communities and the sorts of political awareness that led to, well, the sort of 'Socialism' which had just been voted into overwhelming democratic dominance.
But it was understood that factories could be run on electricity and serviced by automobiles. They no longer needed to be all crowded together around rivers, railheads and coal mines. Buses could bring the Workers to their work. Automobiles carrying the Owners and Management could run on the same roads - perhaps one day, as in the USA, the Workers themselves could enjoy a New World constituted entirely of asphalted-over car 'parks'. There was no need, therefore for the potentially Socialistic Workers to live all together, close to the 'Works' as before.
What was there between the JOINT STOCK COMPANY and the COUNTRY HOUSE? Was it a CITY? No it was a "TERRA NULLIUS". But it rented out.
These thoughts coincided with the lifespace culture of the Mandarins themselves. Raised "in the Country" and retiring "to the Country", the centuries-old Imperial Establishment had never used the British cities to manifest themselves. British cities, unlike those of the European Rational States, played no political role in our 350 years of Imperial governance. To the British Establishment a city was a merely rentable commercial extension to the land they had once enclosed and farmed with 'cash crops'. I once asked a Banker why there were no wide and grand boulevards in British cities, all lined with trees and fine facades. He cocked his head to one side and answered, tartly: "they pay no rent". The Empire extended this "joint stock company" ethos over the globe. Queen Elizabeth I gave the East India Company its articles on December 31 1600. This was not a new trick for us. The Imperial mandarins had learned, with centuries of practice, how to rule the rustic populations of Asia. So, just as when the sea disappears before a tsunami, what could one expect when it returns but to be overwhelmed by an excess of it. As the Empire collapsed what could one expect but to have all of its 'successful' techniques applied to its sorry little rump, the no-longer-so-Great Britain herself?
A SEVENTY-YEAR 'START' DOWN THE ROAD TO URBANITY.
This island of city-people, rendered 'savvy' by centuries of urbanity was the most advanced in the world down the road to 'Urbanity' - albeit for reasons that reflected no very admirable political ambition. If the ambition had been available, Britain could have continued to lead the globe, but with a very different ethos than its Empire, and towards a very different end. But the Ambition to create democratically self-governing cities was not merely absent, it was exactly what would have filled any capable Imperial Administrator with horror! What if the "natives' built the power to govern themselves? What role would be left to the Empire to interfere with them, and profit by the confusion and muddle of native ignorance, incapability and chaos? Divide, muddle and rule were the principles of our benign Imperial administration. After all, did the Empire not bring British Law and sound administration to the rescue of these poor benighted Asian cultures, locked into ideas of quite ridiculous antiquity - millenia older than those of the victorious West? In 1947, with nowhere much to employ our centuries of Imperial skills, the Imperial Establishment brought them 'back home'. It did not really signify that the Agent of this catastrophe was the Attlee Administration. It was going to happen anyway. It was, after all, entirely "British".
WHAT TO DO WITH THE "BOLSHIE BRITS"?
Looking around for an example as to how these teeming island urbanites were to be regressed into a docile Imperial Peasantry (Asia, though 'known' seemed hardly appropriate), it struck our Establishment that it might be possible to imitate the glamorous, victorious U.S. of A? Urbanised Britain could be rusticated into a miniature of American Suburbia. There, after all, was a population whose charming insularity and industry had spawned the super-power that had helped Britain win the war. Why not change the 'Bolshie Brits' into jolly Norman Rockwell families all driving-around in those amusing bench-seat sofa-on wheels automobiles from their ranch-house to their electric factory to their Victor Gruen mall? It was this astonishing prescription that so angered Bulganin and Kruschev, on their State visit in 1956, that they quarrelled bitterly with the Labour opposition (Gaitskell's Father-in-Law had been a judge in Shanghai), and preferred the companuy of Anthony Eden's Conservatives. The CIA, after this revelation, slated the British Labour Party as an "anti-Communist asset".
ALL-ABOARD in 1947 for a "WELFARE SOCIALIST-CAPITALIST USA"!
And so it was that the 1945 Labour Landslide administration published, in the poetically-dated "Summer of 1947", "The Redevelopment of Central Areas". This substantial booklet, printed on kaolin-coated Art Paper that was rare in those days of postwar poverty, squarely aimed the Governing Establishment 180˚ in the wrong direction for Britain. Our 'Generals' have been, for the last seventy years, marching the Brits AWAY from the sound of the guns of what I call "The War of the Arts of Peace". The Attlee Administration imposed the project that Britain was to imitate the suburban lifespace of the USA. From 1947 onwards the island's cities were to be evacuated of both homes and workplaces (of what else is a city mainly made?), and reduced to mere "Central Areas". The British People, in spite of their brilliant and extraordinary history, would never have the chance to know man's greatest invention, a civil city mediated by Architecture, reliably described as "the paradigmatic medium of civilisation".
CHAINED TO CONSUMPTION.
The happy evacuees from this immensely well-deserved reward would inhabit grassy-verged Housing Estates, grassy-verged Industrial Estates, pint-sized automobiles and, eventually, Motorways and out of town Shopping Centres. Britain was to copy the transatlantic cult of Conspicuous Consumption described by Thorstein Veblen. But, without Imperial Britain's Asiatic millions, and without Imperial Britain's monopoly of trade guaranteed by 'Imperial Preference' this 'American Standard of Living' would have to paid-for IN COMPETITION WITH EVERYONE ELSE. It was a sentence to hard labour without even the reward of payrolling the most powerful state on the globe. That was the USA now. No longer was it Great Britain.
KEEP CALM AND CARRY ON.
No sense of this huge crisis ever seemed to pass the untroubled brows of Britain's serene Lifespace-Planning Generals. Britons would be just like those happy hayseeds on the cover of Saturday Evening Post. With a nice warm climate, plenty of land, an agriculture so plentiful it could feed half the world, and huge industries all consuming their own native resources, what was there to be worried about? What need was there for these Atlantic Islanders, now reduced to an isolated ruin freshly fractured from their pinnacle of Imperial Commerce, to engage in a bout of fresh thinking more drastic, even, than any of her neighbouring states who had JUST LOST WWII?
LABOUR'S LOVE AFFAIR WITH THE USA.
Britain's Establishment, in all of their political and intellectual confirmations, decided that having just won WWII, the island would engage in a love affair with America. This passion, between British Welfare Socialism and the US Democratic Party has carried-on ever since. One day, Britain will awake from the suicidal hallucination imposed by Labour's ex-Imperial retiree Mandarins and realise the terrible crime they committed by changing the second most urbane country in Europe into a slow-thinking, slow speaking, dull citizenry of Bungalow-Bumblers and Mall-Rats that proved so incapable of competing with anyone they just ran away and hid in pathetic little 'Country Towns'. Britain's great 19C Cities, the island's very own "Lost Civilisation", filled-up with uncomprehending strangers from her lost Overseas Domains, who wandered-in to camp amongst her ruined temples to imperial industry.
LOOKING FOR THAT 'ROLE'.
Dean Acheson, the Secretary of State to President Harry Truman, said back on Dec. 5th. 1962: "Great Britain has lost an Empire and has not yet found a role". Then, on 1st January 1973, Britain joined the European Union. The island found a useful role within this huge Community'. She played 'herself' (ie. not really a Continental culture), and prospered rather better than before. This role was appreciated by her Continental neighbours, all 'burnt-out' by their own recent histories. Everyone played "jaw, jaw, instead of war, war" and we all seemed to be discovering interesting things about each other. It was not a 'United States of Europe' - far from it. Many old enmities remained to be calmed. But it was an interesting project in which there was, at the very least, a rather high level of intellectual difficulty. Now a narrowly-won 2016 Referendum has "advised" Parliament to 'Brexit' even this 'surrogate-for-empire' - just after much of the island's industries became wholly integrated, and even mainly owned, by EU-wide companies.
"WHO TOOK THE TELEPROMPTER? aka. "FROM PUNK TO JUNK".
Whenever our Foreign Secretary appears on the T.V. you can see the "doubt" now entertained about our once-great country in the faces of the other EU politicians. The British, once thought to be so politically adroit, have been revealed as not only "disloyal" to our neighbours, but possibly foolish. As a 19C Frenchman was overheard while he watched the British Milordi sporting on the 'newly discovered' (for them), Cote d'Azur: "What would the British be without their money?" Now we suspect that the whole world thinks that we may be just as incompetent as everyone else and maybe even rather less 'interesting'. I mean who except overpaid juveniles really buys into "British Punk"?
STILL WAITING FOR THE 'RIGHT' SCRIPT.
The island still has no persuasive script for its future. It still thinks it's a World Power. Yet without any insight at all into how to fight the "War of the Arts of Peace" it could not even pacify Basra, an Iraqi town it had already conquered twice in its long Imperial History. On January 1st. 2009 the British Army, after being driven out of the city by irregulars armed by the Iranians, handed their final Basra Airport Base over to the Mahdi Army. It was an ignominious end to a very, very long Middle-Eastern military history. The effect of this cruelly wasteful "Three-Trillion Dollar" debacle is now being felt as a new extremism in Anglo-American domestic politics. Yet this massive set-back to the Atlantic hegemony could, indeed should, lead to a better understanding of how to deploy Urbanity, Architecture and Ornamentation to their properly Polis-tical ends.
NOR WAS IT "SOLEIL, VERDURE, ESPACE". (Le Corbusier).
For me, today, at 82, the city-cultures that I have seen being obliterated and suburbanised during the 'cold' Wars and Peaces of the last half-century were not so very 'Old'. I still remember them, and their fast-talking, wisecracking citizens (who could learn ANYTHING new), as they were before they were destroyed by my dear colleagues, ALL OF THEM - especially the most illustrious...who built the 'NEW SUBURBIA. Most to be vilified are the "Progressives" who built the intensely SUBURBAN vision of Le Corbusier. Corbusier was the man who hated cities so much he worked-out how to ruin them with giant roads, skyscrapers and Verdure Sauvage more akin to: "Soleil, Verdure, Ecrase!". There would have been little (for me as an immigrant from the Raj) to regret at the nice and shiny new buildings if the "New" had been better than the "Old". The Parthenon, after all, had been just like a Dravidian temple, shiny and glistening with polychromy like a turtle-waxed Cadillac. How else to get Athena into her 'chryselephantine' body? But, for the reasons which I have intimated, and will now enlarge upon, "The New" was all, or nearly all, much, much worse.
FAHRENHEIT 600 (the temperature a book will spontaneously combust).
For there was imposed, at the same time as this mid-20C anathema upon the Orders, the edict that Literacy, that is learning about Architecture from books, and the 9,000-year physical evidences of the ancient medium, were also to be abandoned if not deliberately suppressed. These edicts were delivered, more than once to my post-WWII generation of Student Architects openly, clearly and in person - as I will retail.
"JOA'S 50-YEAR "WAR OF THE ARTS OF PEACE".
I worked, from my qualification in 1961, to the founding of my firm of JOA 1974 to its last major work in 2008, to combat this deliberate and consistently imposed "Architectural Illiteracy", of these last seventy years. My sole ambition is now, with my 2017 Internet Course, to teach those who wish to learn how to build a lifespace for the future in which the metaphysical needs of humans are not seen as antithetical to our material needs (and to be therefore forbidden), but as entirely complimentary. The particular, even the unique, quality of the argument I put forward in favour of my course is simple. My Theories produce Architecture that is both Modern, as well as in the direct line of the last 9,000 years.
"YOU ENGLISH ARCHITECTS DON'T SEEM TO WANT TO WIN".
Not only does no other Architecture do this - for the obvious reason that it is stiil, after seventy years of 'Architecture Autre' futility, considered "immoral" by my Peers, but that even when the late 20C Architect tries to engage with "the Past" they either just fail embarrassingly or (as with the Venturis'), fail deliberately and grotesquely. Venturi's "Complexity and Contradiction" studiously avoids being in any way 'serious' about Architecture - as such. The book regales its reader with categories like "juxtaposed contradiction" and "crowded intricacy", which while being amusingly descriptive are never related causally to any persuasive ambition apart from that of 'surprising' his Architectural Peers. The whole of the built work of the Venturis is an explicit denial of the serious mating of the Past and the Future in the sense of birthing a cognisable present. That would be too entirely shaming! These matters are expanded in my Lecture Nine: "What Taboo?". A detailed analysis of the 1991 Extension to the National Gallery, the Venturis' only building in my native city, is given in Lecture Fourteen: "Zomby Army".
The opening party for this immensely prominent building was entirely captured by the appearance, in a frock of intense scarlet, by the ageless Joan Collins, elder sister of the originally, even more seductive, Jackie Collins. Joined in a quiet corner by Denise Scott Brown, who may have been piqued by the scrum around the A-List actress, she enquired of me why it was that "English Architects don't seem to want to win".
"THE STRANGELY TORTURED CORPSE OF CLASSICISM".
What could I say? Politeness prevented me from explaining to her that I considered her invention the most squalid and depraved rendition of the Hellenic Architectural Order on this dear Earth! If a single building could stand for everything evil about the commercial ethos that has powered London, Britain, and the USA through their glorious history, it would be this cash-crop of Italy's most beautiful Renaissance paintings housed in the World's most disgustingly necrophiliac exercise of the very 'Architectural Orders' that the paintings inscribed. Not that I am so foolish as to disapprove of the beauties of the Joint Stock Company, or even the freedom given by money. It is just that this power makes it possible to do evil as well as good.
"YOU IN YOUR SMALL CORNER AND ME IN MINE."
It is curious that the building's Client was the late Simon Sainsbury, donor of some of its collection. He was also, decent and kind man that he was, one of JOA's own 'twin' Clients in Cambridge, on the building that ruined the reputation of my own firm. I bear him no grudge. Being liberated from my English Clientele gave me, as my dear wife put it: "time to think" (and spend 17 years "scripting" my 44 Lectures). I mention this merely to say that although the Neo-Classical tendency have been a steady support to JOA's project to mate the past and the future so as to birth a Present that, (as Dame Alison Richard demanded in 2004), showed some Signs of Life, when offered the opportunity, in 1994, to really win (with the interior of the Judge Institute), a resounding victory in the "War of the Arts of Peace", the Anglo-Classicists turned tail and ran. They prefer dressing-up in satin breeches and dancing quadrilles in Country Houses to actually taking up the Field Marshal's baton and leading the 'real' world out of its cult of the aniconic. Anthony Sampson pointed-out in his "Anatomy of Britain" that the price that we pay for our 'British liberties' (which are real), is that the cog-wheels of our National machine are designed to seldom engage with each other. The Neo-Classicists whirr away in one corner, and the Neo-Modernists in another. Those who seek to enmesh both of them together into the 'wheels of power', will, from my own experience, never succeed in these dear islands.
FINDING SOMETHING USEFUL TO LEARN...
Most extant theorising is either useless to the Practical Architect, or devoted to reinforcing the taboo on "Historic Architecture", as the euphemism is now employed by our Royal Academy of Arts. Much of the torrents of Theory emptied over the heads of the unfortunate Architectural Student prides itself on not only being 'pure' in the sense of being autonomous and unrelated to anything else, but in being far superior in cognitive status to Architectural Practice itself. This, in itself, is hardly suprising when Architecture, as a cognisable medium, has been officially anathematised for seventy years.
Needless to say that the student, of whatever age, will find nothing like this Course of the "War of the Arts of Peace" in any 'recognised' Academy of Architectural instruction. The taboo against the literate, aka. the metaphysical in Architecture, holds as strongly today as it did in 1947, the time of its imposition. Architecture, like hand-guns, is considered too dangerous to be allowed onto the streets. Nothing frightens the ignorant more than their ignorance itself. The Academic Professors will have, in the main, never built any Architecture. If they had, in some distant past, they will be careful to either deny it or at least disown it. Hence the need for the "Breaking of the Taboos" in the title of this Essay. The Student of Architecture must make his own way, as we have all had to for seventy years, spending his five to six years of fruitless pedagogy educating herself and himself as best he can. As a good friend mis-printed, with his large woodblock type, in the 1957 Polygon II, one of the first post-WWII student magazines: "Suave qui Peut!"
"WHAT SHALL WE TEACH".
For who can doubt that Architecture (as it has been known for the past 9,000 years), is ruined when a walk-about visit paid to Sheffield University's "Arts Tower" in September 2009 (to accompany my Grand-daughter's accession to Particle Physics), evidenced a pre-semester call to the Faculty of Architecture titled:
"Full Faculty Meeting at 5 pm: "WHAT SHALL WE TEACH?"
This was not a merely rhetorical enquiry. They really and truly did not know!
But what could a British Architectural Pedagogue find to teach in a culture that had declared cities (the raison d'etre of the Architectural Medium), to be politically inadmissible, along with the Ordine needed to bring the "picture plane" into existence, along with the Literacy required to invent the tabooed decoration for this 'picture plane'? For this, precisely, is the 9,000-year-old way to bring ideas to the mind in quotidian, everyday, urban space? The proof that there is, after this seventy years of abegnation, no "teachable" theory of 'Architecture', as such, is that the Senate of Cambridge, patron of what the Guardian consistently denotes the best Department of Architecture in Britain, has, from 2004, refused to pay anyone to teach the subject of 'Architectural Composition'. Environmental Physics can earn a stipend, and even Spatial Neuro-Science, but not "Architectural Design". That must be brought up from London, at their own expense, by fashionable young designers strutting the cat-walk of our trade's "show-and-tell" image-fests.
The 'Martin Centre', the Department's thriving Research Centre, recently finished spending over £M2 of reseach funds proving, in their own words, that the physical arrangement of buildings, in villages, towns or cities had less effect on their occupant's use of energy than their actual lifestyle. "Lifestyle" used to be called "Culture" before the Baroness Thatcher abolished "Society" by announcing to "Woman's Own", in 1987, that "it did not exist". This marvellous discovery is the sort of nonsense delivered by a Department that no longer even tries to treat Architecture as a totalising, social or cultural medium but as some mere debris (aka. "trash"), left behind by the 'free' activities of fully-bungalowed, lone-car-driving "responsible (Thatherised), individuals".
"Fenland Tech" indeed!
"ODEUR DE SANTETÉ".
I seem to recall that, at that time, the Sheffield Faculty was led by an Architect whose claim to fame (which was and remains considerable), was the occupation of a house made from bales of straw. Today, seven years later, one is hard put to find a single academic in this 48-strong Faculty whose C.V admits to an interest in Architecture, as such. But what is seven years when this taboo has been in place for the last seventy? The passionate declarations of Professorial commitment are to "shrinking our carbon footprint", "low-energy design", "learning from practical projects", "global environmental change", "sustainable excellence" and so on. These are all, I am sure, admirable and decent professors and lecturers, but their dedication to the avoidance of the slightest whiff of Architecture (mit ein grosser 'A'), is akin to the passion of the Devil for "une odeur de santeté" with which to dispel the Satanic whiffs of sulphur. What is one to expect of this circumlocutory pedagogy if one were to enquire of it what it could offer to extend Architecture's 9,000 years of service to the metaphysical in Man?
THE 1960s "GREENS".
I myself will admit to have been concerned with soil degradation, back in the 1960s, and joining the Alternative Technology Unit at my Alma Mater, the Architectural Association, from 1968 to 1970. We knew all about reversible-chemistry heat storage, bio-gas chicken-shit, panemones and vacuum-tube focussing solar collectors. We knew about thermal mass and the diurnal temperature flywheel. The conversion of photons into electricity was not so commonplace some half-a-century ago. Nor was recycling taken so seriously in building materials. Buildings have never been the throw-away consumer goods that the slash-and-burn Bucky-ball Modernists wanted them to be. It is one of the gifts given by real property to Architecture - that the land keeps its value while the 20C trash parked on it falls to bits. The energy used in brickmaking tends to beome imponderable after a couple of centuries creaking over big pine planks - as in my own house. One thing that we all concluded was that all this noble planet-saving technology need have little effect on our ancient medium of Architecture (if only someone could re-invent it for the 'now'). 20C scholarship had established that Architecture had never been derived directly from Technology in the way that the 18C Enlightenment "Rigorists and Purists" had half-credited and that the proud ignoramuses of 20C High-tech so pugnaciously trumpeted today.
THE 'SIXTH ORDER HAS NO QUARREL WITH "GREENS" OR "TECHNO-GEEKS".
We of this 'First Green Movement' also suspected, as came to be proved by the 1970s Thatcher-Reagan backlash, that "Something More" (as Madonna would come to sing), was both needed to "turn the techno-twaddle ship around", than the bland and meaningless Prefab-Panel Folk-Art being flogged to the Public of Post-War Britain. My years in the Alternative Technology Unit established that no one had to abandon their commitment to 'Green Ethics' in order to theorise and practice a powerfully semanticised 'Architecture'. The seventy year taboo on 'The Orders' sprang from quite different roots. None of JOA's radically 'Architectural' inventions had to deny what we learned in the 1960's Green Movement.
"IT'S ALL THE SAME".
To the Architectural outsider these puerile squabblings may seem insufficient evidences of the slow, yet total, collapse of my great and ancient Profession, along with its even more excellent and essential Medium, denoted by L.B Alberti in the 15C as "the paradigmatic medium of civilisation". But then the Public today do not expect very much after seventy years of Social Welfare prefab design, whether from the Public or the Private Sector. "It is all", as Warhol cleverly explained, "the same".
Reasons for the abandonment of 'The Orders' will spring to the minds of both the learned and the less so - amongst those few who even know what an 'Architectural Order' is.
I catalogue these popular excuses in the Preface to my three-volume "44 Lectures" of 2015, as;
" One must "serve the masses" and so avoid elitism and the arcane. One must cope with all the machines, pipes and wires. One must advantage Building by using the new structures and materials. One must accept the sheer 'bigness' of contemporary projects. One must be 'Green'. One must reduce costs. One must be flexible. One must use mass-production and machine-production. One must invent a New Style for this New Era. One can go on almost indefinitely."
Indeed one can.
NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR METAPHYSICS.
None of these preclude the use of an 'Architectural Order', or as I prefer to denote it, an 'Ordine'. Architecture, as such, is not a native invention of the British Islands and if, as the Brexiteers, proclaim, we are now open to business to the Entire Globe, we should not be shy in taking from it whatever we need, providing that we can, as we used to be able, pay the going price. Yet even this is quite modest. 18C and 19C Britain was full of brick buildings of considerable economic modesty that, even so, partook, and still partake, because of their adherence to the simple rules of the Classical, and even the Gothic Orders, of the whole of the metaphysical powers of Architecture. Perhaps needless to say that the extreme economy with which these houses, barns, railway buildings and so on manifest their 'Architectural' conformities the more their human 'readers' are required to be 'Architecturally' literate. The quieter the singer the better the audience must know the song. No one has yet invented, as Jean-Jaques Lequeu of the French Revolution hoped, an "Architecture Parlante" that actually told you, vocally, what it wanted you to know!
Although, today, with GPS and a smartphone, even this deficiency might be alleviated - at least for the more or less literate!
DR. MARTIN'S MAGIC WAND.
The substitute for these prohibited 'Orders' was provided by the singular genius of Dr. Leslie Martin. He was the first to both own a Doctorate and to be entitled THE Professor of Architecture in that relatively young Department of Cambridge University. It was born in 1912 from Archaeology. Like many a destructive genius before him he substituted the clothing for the body, the polite fiction for the mysterious truth. Dr. Martin gradually abolished, during the late 1950's, the teaching of Architecture as a three-year Liberal Arts Course, founded on the physical evidences of its long history. He replaced it with a five-year vocational qualification founded on late-19C and early-20C mathematical transforms and symmetries. Architecture's 'History' was declared to be as dead in Cambridge as it had been proclaimed already to be (and rather earlier), in London's Regent St. Poly. 'History' was split-off from the newly-Vocationalised Cambridge curriculum and elevated (kicked upstairs?), to enjoy its very own BA.
OPENING THE DOOR TO THE TRIVIALISATION OF THE LIFESPACE.
It was this ontically trivial substitution that opened the way for the ultimate denaturation that Architecture and Urbanity, the political 'home of man', is suffering today at the hands of the formal puerilities of 'parametricism' and its attendant 'Deconstructions'. It serves Oxford right for being even more illiterate concerning Architecture than Cambridge. For, presumably to show that it is no laggard in Architectural fashions, two of Oxford's recent buildings are from this "parametrical" kindergarten.
THE CAM'S GENIUS LOCI.
The Senate of Cambridge rightly prefers teaching the Theoretical over the Vocational because theorisation provides a wider and more universal scope for the mind to conjure. But the Mathesis Universalis has always been the Cam's 'genius loci'. The Senate was duly charmed by Dr. Martin's promise to bring down the obdurate and tiresomely elusive mysteries of Architecture with Cambridge's 'silver (mathematical), bullet'. So the cleverest undergraduate entrants to my Profession have been led into intellectual futility and Political impotence by this wretched piece of Architecturally-illiterate pedagogic conjuring.
It ought to be literate, political Oxford that has the Faculty of Architecture. But that would be to treat the medium seriously - another very long-standing island taboo. If Cambridge does not radically alter its pedagogic paradigms then Oxford could start its own Department and remove, without any difficulty at all, the intellectual cream of Britain's annual Architectural Undergraduate cohort. When one understands that infrastuctural 'churn' is the beating fiscal heart of the contemporary State, one is left wondering what makes Oxford waste any more time. Would none of the impecunious scholars of the Liberal Arts appreciate a gentle 'asperging' from the billions that would be released if 'lifespace churn" became a rite to be generally desired rather than, as at present, a nightmare to be fiercely resisted?
KEEPING THE CLOTHES AND DITCHING THE EMPEROR.
The Five 'canonic' Architectural Orders had never obtained a persuasive verbal theorisation. Their 'canonisation' by Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola in 1562 had been accompanied by hardly any text. His book merely illustrated the parts of the Doric, Ionic and so on 'Orders'. But his engravings were both exactly scaled as well as accompanied by measurements and even proportional ratios that related parts to the whole.
NO ONE HIRES AN ARCHITECT WHO CAN'T ADD-UP.
This definition by numbers is, as any Architect knows, essential for the Builder. The Contractor must know not only the form, colour and material of his work, but its exact sizing. Building is also expensive. No Architect likes to be thought innumerate (though some of the best undoubtedly were). These proportionate relations had also, in the 16C, been much exercised in the service of an alchemical mysticism which sought to find correspondences between the acoustic harmonies of plucked strings, their 'music' (harmony of the spheres), and finally, the proportional relations between walls, ceilings and the ornamental parts of Architecture. Dr. Rudolph Wittkower published, in 1949, his Warburg Institute studies of Alberti and Palladio that later became the much circulated "Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism". He explored this cult of what I prefer to call "numeromancy" and concluded that, for a mathematician, it offered little of intellectual interest.
A WELFARE POLITICS THAT WOULD DE-POLITICISE THE PEOPLE.
To those who read Wittkower's studies with a mind more open to his (tabooed) black-and-white illustrations of domes and columns than his laboured arithmetics it was clear that the 'higher' functions of his numerologies were closer to that of the mysterious 15C author of the Hypnerotomachia Polyphilia. These mysterious 'harmonies' were to clothe with garments of fertile myth and poetic decency (that owed nothing to either Christianity or Feudal bloodlines), what was to be the physical body of the newly Rational, Scientific City-State Politics described by Machiavelli. But by the time it all came around to the British Architectural Culture of the 1950s it was as if it had all been DOA (dead on arrival) for centuries.
THE RISE OF THE EXAM-PASSERS AND THE KEY-TAPPERS.
But this was not to say that the Corpse of Architecture was not capable of a very decent level of continuing animation. For it is of the hitherto sadly untheorised nature of successful 'Media' that the Practical Artist may enliven his medium with exercise and study accompanied by no very coherent understanding of its metaphysical origins or capabilities. It is, as it is said, "his gift". But it is, one may propose, also the mysterious nature of the 'Medium' as such. This recourse to the 'practical' was always recognised as 'valid'. Well, why not when it has been 'going on' for some millenia! When I was a boy the question "why is this done so" was more often than not answered by "because it is so". When extending a tradition that is either mysterious, as many are, or even more so: exotic to these Northern climes, to argue that a thing is done "because that is how it is done" is to be preferred to the invention of some implausible justification. It is even more to be preferred to the abandonment of the tradition, merely because one's own culture has not had the wit, during its brief life, to theorise it.
THE OTHER TABOO: "EMBRACING ILLITERACY".
Baudrillard's "All that is solid turns to Air" is what Cambridge did to British Architecture under Dr. Martin. And I mean "Architecture" not the sorry little shacks in Solid Brick and Solid Wood that Cambridge has pretended is "Architecture" ever since the advent of Martin's Mathematricious Fraud. For it has to be insisted that the idea that Architecture was a subject that included a "literacy" (ie. was a "Learned Profession"), was abandoned at precisely the moment that it was forbidden to use an Order to design a building! I can date these prohibitions for myself as Monday 19th September 1955. This was when I began my Architectural Studies at the Central London Polytechnic (known familiarly as the "Regent St. Poly"). Our Dean (he was known then as "The Headmaster") informed us on the Tuesday that "Architecture is no longer a literary subject". We were all more or less ignorant of Architecture - and much else beside. I was twenty-one and had recently completed my military service. Headmaster John S. Walkden continued with "Architect's lost their charisma when they abandoned the Orders". We really had no idea what he meant and certainly no sense of the loss of a "charisma". He completed his oracular trilogy with "My son is likely to be chosen for the British Olympic Swimming Team".
THE ECLIPSE OF A 'CLASSICISM' UNDERSTOOD AS MERELY 'POSH'.
Thinking, some forty years later, on this interview, the only one he gave us, for he never offered us a Lecture or a Critique of our designs, I conclude that Walkden was a 'Classicist' (the body of the naked athlete?), who found himself, after WWII, in the alien milieu of the British Labour Landslide antipathy to everything old, 'posh', traditional or upper class. So he, after warning us of the pitfalls ahead , confined himself to Administration and disciplinary matters. Thinking on it some more I cannot also help regretting that he had not either the insight to outwit this bestial prescription, or the courage to fight its swinish prescribers. But the probability was both that Architectural illiteracy and the hatred of those with the money to 'patronise' the Medium were so widespread, in those 1945 Labour Landslide (LaLa45), days that it was more than his pension was worth.
BESTIAL AND SWINISH.
I call these twin Prescriptions, for an illiterate Architecture and one designed without recourse to the Ordine (a device as old as the 9,000-year old Medium itself), "bestial and swinish" for that is exactly what they were, and exactly the effect that they have had upon the lifespace that all humans are coming more and more to inhabit - namely that of 'Urbanity'. Their inventors and perpetrators, more especially of the 20C rather than the 19th, are marked, whether capable of genius or not, with the criminal responsibility of prescribing a lifespace for the Common Man, or "Generality", as I prefer to call them, that has deliber- ately denied him the grace of occupying a lifespace that can be 'read' to contain 'meanings'. These architectural swine, and the more famous the more they deserve this porcine epithet, were the inventors of the "Architecture Autre" of the 20C (and now even more that of the 21st). Their 'Architecture Autre' was deliberately engineered to be entirely stripped of any and every sign, symbol, story, or narrative whose ambition is, as were those of every previous Architecture, to lead to the satisfaction of the natural human hunger for a metaphysical dimension - yes even to everyday life! It is the deliberate denial of any and every such 'metaphysical' satisfaction that properly deserves the adjective "bestial" when applied to every inventor of the 'Architecture Autre' of the late 20C.
"LE MAUVAIS FOI".
For I can say without fear of contradiction, after spending sixty years fighting this anathema, that its main and primary ambition was to effect the denigration of the 'Generality' and the denial of their widely expected and accepted place upon the stage of Hannah Arendt's "Space of Appearances'. Architecture has been, for 9,000 years, one of the prime media for the engineering of the epiphany of the political elites of the Church, Aristocracy, Plutocracy, and so on. Why was it not to serve, after WWII, the epiphanic reification of the "Generality". Surely, after Belsen, Hiroshima, Mau and the wholesale massacres of the trenches the 'Ordinary Man' had earned his place in 'History'.
DYNASTIC 'CAMERALISM' WITHOUT THE HUMANITY OF A 'DYNAST'.
Yet there remains a very deep fear of the "Generality", especially when animated by a Demagogue of unusual talent, if not Genius. It is for this that the European Union is designed to avoid the dangers of democratic politics that ended, especially, in World War Two. The EU governs, instead, and by preference, through an enlightened bureaucracy. But this has been normal to the Continent for centuries, and at least since the Renaissance. The path, for a Commoner, to a career in Dynastic Politics led through the Court to the "Camera", the inner chamber in which the 'soul and spirit' of the Dynast arbitrated between his advisers. London, as the European capital of the global language, has filled to overflowing with a mutal admiration society of the Academic Athletes trained for this ancient Continental tradition of a Cultural Bureaucracy. These Continental Academies, founded centuries earlier than Britain's amateurishly professional schools, spawn the infinitude of PhDs and Professor-Doctors who today overwhelmingly staff London's multiple Academies of the Visual Arts, including Architecture. Few of them have built anything of note. They are (which is a pity), mostly ignored by the agencies that design and build the British lifespac. They have, faute de mieux, little appetite for life outside the Academical. Their pedagogy appears, in spite of good intentions, largely useless to the Practioner's intellectual needs. Their main effect, now, is to train more and more of their sort.
MY CITY: THE WORLD CAPITAL OF FREEDOM, INEFFECTIVENESS and FAILURE.
The main impediment is that few of them dare to rebel against the burnt-out Taboo on Architecture itself. 'Historic Architecture' is associated, in their minds, with Europe's history of Socialist Dictatorships. Yet they are, in the main, professed Marxists (of a wonderfully infinite diversity). What they really are, almost entirely, are clever young persons with neither talent, inventiveness or commitment to the media they profess to teach. Their stock-in-trade is to rehearse the dull and useless histories of early-20C Europe's collapsed 'protest' anti-design Movements. They have all found, with a kind of dreadful symmetry, a fertile lodging in the confused and decayed capital of the biggest collapsed Empire in History. These islands, having created this power, have now succumbed to the cult of failure taught by the European Continent, the biggest failure of the whole 20C. The recent "Brexit" vote, and the even more recent shock of the Trump Presidency, signal the failure of the hitherto 'victorious' Anglo-US 'Elites' to invent a persuasive response to the recent catastrophes mentioned in the first paragraph of this essay. These populist rejections of the received wisdoms evoke corresponding signals, from the Generality of the post-Totalitarian Europe of the last seventy years, of the EU's own decline of belief in a desirable future.
THE SOUND OF RUSHING WATER.
Can one now, perhaps, propose, that the time has come, with this curiously masochistic event of the Brexit Vote, to focus NOT upon international relations or racism, but the much deeper problem of what it is that the Brexiteers, and now the Trumphiliacs, really hate? We could begin, in our own sphere of life-space design, by pulling the chain on the tiresomely precious, a-historical, aniconic, and culturally toxic Academic gravy-train of Dadaism, Unconscious Writing, Musique Concrete, Glasarchitektur, Existenzminimum, Deconstruction and every other movement of time-expired Protest against L'Ancien Regime which actually make-up and constitute the reality of Rem Koolhaas' self-promoting "Age of Trash"? Koolhass' personal prophylactic, displayed in the Super-Big 2014 Venice Biennale is (ironically) a technical lie, in pursuit of an ideological anachonism that actually cements-in the "Trash" and the "Trash-iteers" at the very summit of the lifespace-design culture. All these 'Stars" in the Liberal Left-Overs waxwork subscribe to the drearily conformist, "Mauvais Foi", the prohibition of both a literate lifespace and its indispensible instrument: the Architectural Order. Brexit proposes to "Break with Europe". This is overkill. Europe expects everyone, including even us, to help them out of the mess they became over the last two centuries. It is a thankless task, certainly, for as it is said : "No good turn ever goes unpunished". But it is our island fate to be inventive and original.
Britain never had the need to 'protest' against Britain. Britain, as the hegemon of its Capitalist Empire, was what was being PROTESTED AGAINST by the burnt-out movements of Fascism and Communism. We did not invent this sad counter-cultural engine of 'Protest'. So why import it? Those who did, in 1947, have much to answer for. They themselves are now the discredited, futile, empty of self-knowledge ex-Blairite Corbynistas.
A CHANCE TO SHINE AMONGST THE RUINS.
Good is lost as well as bad when one pulls the chain on a whole culture. There are many reasons for "leaving the EU". My firm's experience of Holland and Belgium are of laziness, stupidity, pride, incompetence and a building whose Architecture was so wrecked by these vices that it grieves me to think of it. I never even tried to publish it. Yet the politicians and people of the city built its 1:15-scale replica in their park of miniaturised monuments to the Netherlands. Ex-Fascist, Ex-Communist Europe is an ethological ruin. She needs inspirations at many levels to become whole again. These are invitations for innovation for which these islands are, in certain departments, well-known. They include Architecture. Why not city-design? The EU is one of the more 'noble' enterprises on the planet. To just "leave", especially just for money, is cowardly and reflects as much upon Britain's ignorance and incompetence as upon that of the 'Continent'.
BRITISH 'FOOLS' CAN ENTER WHERE EUROPEAN 'ANGELS' FEAR TO TREAD.
It goes without saying that Europa is not the girl she was. But then who is? Is Britain so 'Great'. Of course not. The comparison is even more laughable. Most of what is cognitively admirable in European Architecture ceased being invented in the mid-18C. Yet it still physically remains, here and there, and can be studied. Europe during the 19C fussed about becoming 'decadent'. In Architecture the post-revolutionary Parisian Beaux Arts practised (in spite of the admirable, indefatigable, but ultimately incoherent Camillo Sitte), a city-planning that had huge virtues. Its mysteriously powerful area-planning iconologies still require a full theorisation in English. But this vital body was crowned by a mind completely rotted by the millenial Western incapacity for a clever iconics. Beaux Arts Urbanity was overlaid by the puerile ornamentation of Le Stile Pompier. The Continental 19C suffered from the very long-standing iconic infantility of the West's symbolic imagery - especially in the dimension of graphics. The paintings in the Architectural Interiors, even of Italy, were never much more than 'stills' from what turned, during the 20C, into Cinecitta epics. Yet these interiors were, as many on the Continent knew (although few in Britain did), the metaphysical engine of Architecture.
BROUGHT BACK TO LIFE BY THE "OUTRE-MER".
The 'decadence' of Western graphics, which was real (as revealed by the glutinous kitsch of Gustave Moreau), was 'rescued' by the sundry decorative iconographies of the "outre-mer", as presented to the general public by the "Great Exhibitions" of the latter half of the 19C. These introduced media which, although practised by technologically weaker cultures, achieved a greater iconic power and subtlety than those of the West. The final collapse, at the 19C's Fin de Siecle, of the Western Artistic Tradition was the context for the invention of the graphical marvels of the "Salon des Refusés". These percolated downwards into the variable, but nevertheless inventive and hopeful Exhibition des Arts Decoratifs and its transformation into the global enterprise of the Moderne. Le Corbiusier, a failed mass housing advocate like the later Bucky Fuller, coined the term "Art Deco", a pejorative I refuse. The Moderne was extinguished by its failure (so commonplace in Western iconic history), to invent a theoretical backbone to its glittering limbs. The 'Modern' (without the 'e') suffocated it, partly by such asphyxiatory stratagems as those revealed at the beginning of this essay.
FROM "FINE ART" TO ICONIC ENGINEERING.
The separation of the 'Arts' into Applied and Fine became absolute under the Post-WW II "Modern" and coincided with the expulsion of Literacy (aka. History), and the 'Orders'. Nothing was left for Architecture to 'carry'. What could building become except become Baukunst or funny-shaped 'stuff'. "Fine Art" has been, for far too long, the mantra justifying the limp conformity of the Very Highest Artists to the "Spirit of our Times". Naming them individually is pointless for they all seek, like Lemmings to the cliff, or Cy Twombly to his delinquescent Zeigeist, to be identified with the the Rem Koolhaas Age of Trash. What is needed is some semantic and syntactic 'Fight" - which is why I prefer "Iconic Engineering".
SETTING A COURSE THROUGH THE SARGASSO.
Pretty well everything built since WWII is semantic dross unfit for occupation by iconically literate beings. Its effect, as well, is to prolong the iconic illiteracy of its users. If we place the re-lexicalisation of Architecture, and the invention of as many new Architectural Orders as will serve our purposes at the very prow and charging of our project we will find ourselves sailing through a great Sargasso of Trash. But it will give us the freedom and the courage to just knock it flat and build cities fit for human beings with both minds and imaginations.
UNCHARTED WATERS: NAVIGATING BY THE SIXTH ORDER.
Yet let us also remember that it has been seventy years since the anathema on Architectural culture was imposed in Britain. No one remains who has any memories of the past, or experience of a 'literate' architectural practice. Not that this should be judged an entire disavantage. My essay "Into the Void" argues that the main engine of the Architectural Interior was never well understood or exercised on these islands. Nor was the Medium of Architecture ever theorised at a sufficiently 'deep' level to guide a Practitioner on how to renovate the 'Ordine' so that it could be suited to the present day. The Ordine does not have to be restricted to the five which Vignola canonised. But this 're-invention' has had to wait for a successful 21C theorisation. While well aware of the hubris of claiming to have developed a novel systemisation, I shelter behind the august opinion of Bob Maxwell, the Dean Emeritus of Princeton's Faculty of Architecture when he wrote: "the invention of a Sixth Order is an act of Architectural terrorism". Although it has to be registered that the only persons it "terrorises" are well-educated Architects. The Public loves a decent 'Ordine', gives them prizes and puts them on 'Art-Bus' Tours. Such "Sixth Orders", built by my firm of JOA in many forms and in many places have proved their contemporary capabilites. I have extended these in my 1000-page, 3,000-illustration '44 Lectures' to the point where they 'mediate' into epiphanic being the 'tabooed' Architecture of Literacy" for the whole built environment from a single bathroom (my firm's), to a city quarter for 30,000 citizens sketched (I have to say rather plausibly), onto the site of the 2012 Olympic at Stratford.
By these proofs I propose that Architecture, as such, in the 'light' of its real history, is an entirely new medium - for everyone alive today - and not just in Britain.
3000 YEARS OF TRADITION LEFT US WITH NO EASY BLUEPRINT FOR THE FUTURE.
So with this in mind, I am encouraged to propose that the interpretation of the Architectural Order that was discarded, back after WWII, was, in any case, sadly useless as a vehicle for its renewal. My proof, again, is the magnificent research during the 20C into these 'Orders'. There is no reason to doubt its 'truth', or the intellectual authenticity of its Authors. It is just that it has all proved sadly enemployable for Practice and for 'Practitioners' - like myself. "The Dancing Colum, MIT 1996", a magnificent book of 600 pages by Joseph Rykwert, which he kindly autographed for me, was widely read. Yet it produced not the slightest stirring of the Pencils of Practice. For there was in it no employable 'techne' for the contemporary production of the metaphysical that Rykwert so brilliantly reads-into Hellenism.
2004, CAMBRIDGE and the THE TOTAL FAILURE OF ARCHITECTURAL PEDAGOGY.
The same tragic deficiency overtook the final work of the late Dalibor Vesely, another erudite and charming Professor. Dalibor invited me up to Cambridge in 1980, at the the turning of its pedagogy away from the 2H pencil-on-tracing-paper cult of mathematricious craftsmanship that was the legacy of Martin. Vesely asked me to be what he termed "his Practitioner". My work was to tutor seven students in a seven-hour day. One ended it exhasted by these exercises in undergraduate psycho-analysis. My best prophylactic was to show the youth that he, or she, was not quite the 'creative' genius for which they hoped, but had equally insane predecessars - like the Hans and Bodo Rasch of the 1920s who preceded the completely loony Buckminster Fuller. My reward was supper with Dalibor and Peter Carl with the occasional fourth guest being Rykwert. Yet Vesely's "Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation", MIT 2004, failed so deeply to serve as a text-book, after two decades of teaching at Cambridge, that it was in that year that the University's Vice Chancellor, the humane and cultivated Alison Richard, decided that the Department of Architecture must be shut down because it appeared to be already quite mortified - evidencing none of the signs of life that this amiable anthropologist recognised as such. I repeat that I do not judge these works of theory 'as such'. I only remark that the the buildings built before, during and after their publication became steadily less capable of cargoing anything one might call a notion, an idea or an intelligble thought. Indeed the Architectural style (to call it a "movement" might be to invite a coprophiliac determination), of 'Deconstruction' arose and prospered at precisely during this Fin-de-Siecle period.
THE PAST CAN NOT BE ABOLISHED.
The scope of my post-WW II generation was never narrowly European. My father was born in the India of the Raj, my mother in Argentina and I in Malaya. We were all genetically English - mere fragments of the Imperial Diaspora. Mogul Architecture was more familiar to me than that of the 'West'. I soon came to regard as parochial the "Bauhaus System" model of our Labour Landslide Architectural Education. I was born into the greatest empire the world had ever known. The early-20C 'protest' Architecture of the Czechs and Netherlanders were not enough for me. Besides which, after Belsen and Hiroshima more was required of my medium than white walls, gardens and electric light - however 'whacko' their footprint. Compared to the lost Empire into which I was born, Europe, though clever, did suffer from a crippling parochialism (when it was not outright racism).
'THE PAST', CAN, INSTEAD, BE SURPASSED..
The theories that I offer in my "44 Lectures" of 2015, are both developed from the examination of previous theories, (including the mythic from the last 9,000 years) and from the evidences of diverse works of Architecture. But what renders them unusual, as theories, is that they have also been developed out of the work done by JOA in actually MAKING the sort of Architecture whose wish was NOT that of L'Architecture Autre's to ESCAPE from my Medium's achievements, but from the wish to render them MORE effective than ever. What would Ictinus, the architect of the Parthenon, have given to be able to fill his huge columns and entablatures with real machines, instead of bulging rock and waxed-on brown sunburn-skin lotion?
The Hellenes loved their machines. But ours are so much better!
THE "PHOTOLITH" IS TO THE PICTURESQUE WHAT PHYSICS IS TO PAINT.
Reading Rykwert's kind dedication again after 22 years, I see he said: "for John who knows about coloured buildings and about columns". Colour is the key that unlocks the prison walls of matter. But paint has never been good enough. The Hellenes had paint. All that I could see in the Parthenon Museum were a few grains of red on the lips and glimmers of gold edging the peplos. The 18C was able to "get away with" the thanatophilia called "peinture á grisaille" that marked the final death of the 15C ideal of a lively, pink-cheeked, revival of Hellenic paganism. Yet even the "a l'Antichitá" of the early Renaissance had found it hard to allow all the colour bleached away by time to flood back into 'Classicism'. But the 20C could do far better than a merely surface titillation. JOA perfected, over a period of some twenty years, the material that I named "Photolithic". It mated 'Phos', Hellenic for Light and 'Lithos', Hellenic for Stone - that is to say Matter. Needless to say no-one has copied it. Le Corbusier's "Le Beton Brut" is the limit of the cognitive ambition of my iconically-castrated Profession.
FOR PHYSIC TAKE THE PHOTOLITHIC.
However, after this, the REVOLUTION could be made in which meaning and matter could become, as Warhol might have said "ONE AND THE SAME". Here, just as the radical technology of the "Ordine Robotico" had allowed the Hypostylar "Veil of Lethe" to penetrate the whole body of a building, so it would be that a body made of the Photolithic would enable a building to both flesh and mind, machine and text! This would make of the human lifespace both a carnal instument of physical force as well as the textual fabric of cognitive delight - with none of the puerile quibbles as to the "extra costs" or "artificial distortions". The photolith is as direct as a soprano singing inside one's own body. It will, as the Yanks say: "bust your ass".
THE GLOBAL PREMIERE OF THE "PHOTOLITHIC", 1993 IN CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY.
I showed it first, in 1993, at my half-finished Cambridge University Paul Judge Business School,to the assembled Professors who taught the subject of Concrete to all the Student Architects of Britain. Read of their paralysed reaction in pages four to six of my Lecture No. 15 . I have no pity for such people. Like their colleagues, their deliberate refusal to study such elementary components of the human lifespace as colour, pattern, decoration and symbolism renders them guilty of colluding, for seventy years, in the denial to the Generality of an intelligibile lifespace. They should all, at the very least, be guided away from lifespace-design into skills better suited to their inclinations. The 'most' I leave to luxuriate in your imaginations.
CARRYING THE 'LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS'.
With a Photolithic body a building can, at last, fulfil the main function for which the Ordine, any Ordine, was invented. This is not to cargo kilograms of 'stuff', any 'building' can do that. The prime function of the Ordine is to 'cargo' ideas. It is for this reason that the key to the Sixth Order's design are not its columns, but its entablature. It has been the The Great (seventy-year), Taboo upon Decoration, Polychromy, Literacy and the Architectural Order that has obscured this obvious fact. The interstices between the metopes of the Parthenon's entablature were coloured red (to signify the (well, Hestia's actually), 'fire' being carried along within), as were the stars in the centres of Propylea's coffers (a fact that even Corbusier's 'grisaille' photos in Vers Une Architecture revealed - but that he ignored). While studying (by kind permission of the British School in Rome), the work of the restorers of Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel, when they came across to fix the 'other' Palazzo Massimi, I learned that the background to the 'cassone's' golden flower (whose genus poor Dresser tried to guess!) should be a very dark blue, but not black. It is a real colour, but it is the colour of "Nothing", the "Negation" that precedes the "Light" in the mystery of the "Coming into Being".
THE "COLUMNA LUCIS" DESCENDS FROM THE ENTABLATURA.
When the polychromy of the Sixth Order is understood , it becomes clearer that the Entablature is the key to its "textual' functioning. Its 'columns' descend, in the first instance, DOWN from it before finally ascending UP to support the "revealed cargo" whose other components make up the Camera Lucida which reifies the sequences of Event Horizons that confirm the Ontic Constitution by which the Body Politic of a City Quarter establishes its solid and permanent State of Being. These 'narratives' (which JOA term "iconic engineering"), require polychromy to 'work'. A photolithically-engineered building material increases the credibility of the ontological phenemomenology that the Ordine must effect. To saturate the body with the icon is to effect a genuine 'incarnation'.
SPLASHED WITH CASH - THE CHARIOTEERS OF THE "TRICORSO".
It is also, which must be of interest to our orphaned 'Liberal arts' Professors, Faculties and aficionados generally, promises to bring their 'understandings' within the scope of the tsunamis of cash that slosh around the boardrooms of 'Property'. If the seemingly remote dicta of Headmaster Walkden were to be reversed, and Architects to be enslaved, not to stripping the lifespace of all sense, but to inscribing it with ever more fascinating ruminations, might not a splash from these vast capital flows sprinkle the 'Arts' - and especially of those who could ride the "Chariots of the Tricorso" (another JOA mystery/mastery!).
For it would be a relatively easy process for any elected Town or City Authority to pass a Building Regulations Ordinance, especially in areas graced with some "listed buildings" or in a "Conservation Area", that required all new work to be designed with some sort of Architectural Order, or 'Ordine', whose nature would have to be specifically argued as such. Such an ordinance would be fiercely resisted by the Architectural Profession. But in that they are now totally ignorant of the nature and purpose of the 'Ordine' they may be safely ignored. Ignorance is its own condemnation.
"PROVING" THE SIXTH.
The work of JOA, over a half-century, has proved the technical efficacy of our "Sixth Order" in its variation of the "Working Order" - or "Ordine Robotico". This, the equivalent of the Vitruvian "Firmitas", was first built, in a small way, back in 1974 and reached its perfection in the Judge Institute. The "Talking"version of the 6th Order was also proposed for this 1994 Cambridge University building. The refusal of JOA's proposals for this interior led directly to the ruin of our reputation in Britain (an event which saved us the trouble of the inevitable future refusals by our iconically paranoid Establishment!). However the reification of the "Talking Order" - equivalent to the Vitruvian category of 'Venustas' - was achieved on both the Exterior of the small "Ark Block" of the British "Judge" and the 1996 Texan "Duncan Hall". The most complete "Talking Orders" are on the 1999 Groenmarkt Centre, in Den Haag and the 1999 "Millenium Balcony" for Wadhurst Park. The Vitruvian triad was completed with 'Commoditas' in the form of the Sixth Order variant termed the "Walk-in(g) Order built to facilitate the internal circulation (as well as the Net-to-Gross), of Duncan Hall. Its "yoked' form also proved amenable to the clearer reification of the Phylogenetic and Ontogenetic phenomenologies of the Wadhurst Millenium Balcony.
"TAKING BACK CONTROL".
It may now be understood that the employment of an Ordine for any new building represents no fiscal burden to a Developer. It does, however provide a political advantage to the town or city that obliges a builder to use an Architectural Order. For it provides the foci, on the Ordine itself, and on the ceilings and floors of its interiors, to inscribe such signs and symbols as will appropriate the town and city to its citizens. This offers a tool, and a powerfully and permanently INSISTENT one, with which to overcome, without destructive tariffs and other more personal pogroms, the corrosive effects of Globalisation. The public places of the City can perform, especially if facilitated by the modernised ordine Dean Maxwell named the "Sixth", the quietly persistent action of "taking back control".
INVENTING "ICONOLECTS, aka. THE POLITICAL ROLE OF THE LIBERAL ARTS.
This "surface-scripting" is not a technique to be easily acquired. It requires its practitioner to be not only a fluent writer but an equally adept graphic designer. Not only is talent as well as practice required but a deep iconic literacy. For we aspire here to an effective intercourse between text and image - conventionally separated, for convenient functioning, in the brain - if not the mind! Skill and subtlety are required if the performance of the 'Iconic Engineer' is not to fall to the level of the mere propaganda rightly condemned by Clement Greenberg. Greenberg's 'cure', however, which was an entirely de-semanticised graphicality, killed the Painterly Patient. Anyone who attended the 'wake' after the 1956 death of Jackson Pollock, that was held in the basement of Peggy Guggenheim's Venetian Palazzo de Leoni, would have seen, laid out on the floor, Pollock's early mapping of the Age of Trash to come.
It can be seen, from this history of seventy years of failure to use the power of the Architectural Order to solve the problems of local "identity" how both of the neglected 'liberal Arts' of Painting and Writing can come to the rescue of our log-jammed infrastructural economies. The Literate is as important as the Iconic in the pursuit of the technique of the "Tricorso" used to invent the "iconolects' used by the Picture Planes that the Ordine holds steady in quotidian space. For this is the way that the Camera Lucida at the centre of every Event Horizon can reify the chosen culture of each Quarter of the Constant City.
"HOW MUCH DOES YOUR BUILDING WEIGH"
When Buckminster Fuller asked his only partly rhetorical question "how much does your building weigh" he sought to prove that his triangulated, "geodesic" structures were more statically stable than the cubic ones built by "Architects" (well, everyone actually!). What neither he, nor anyone else at the time, knew he thereby also proved was that the phenomenology of the tabooed medium of Architecture, which had been cubic for 9,000 years, had never descended from the haptic "pumping iron" patrimony of Physics.
BOYS OWN BRITISH RUBBISH aka. MECHANIX ILLUSTRATED.
Yet Buckminster Fuller and his aerospace fantasies became the ideal of the most admired Architects in Britain, the icons of British Labour "High-Tech" and a complete waste of political energy - always assuming that this was not the original (false-flag), ambition. These Architects are all younger than I. Sir Peter Cook, who was chosen to hand the late Dame Zaha Hadid her 2016 Riba Queen's Gold Medal, wrote in the 1990s that "John Outram's roof-top boiler-house of 1958 was the first time I had ever seen a design of the sort to be later named High Tech". I was through such curvy-plastic neoprene gasket juvenilia and out into 'Architecture' by the late 1950s. I argue in my Preface to Volume One "WINTER", of my 44 Lectures, that it was the Great Taboo of LaLa45 that forced my generation into the infantilities of High Tech (with Reyner Banham (the "failed technologist"), as a popularising cheer-leader).
"SUB SPECIE AETERNITATIS".
I told Helen Castle, Editor of 'Architectural Design' (now owned by Wiley Medical and Technical of the USA), when she interviewed me over JOA's design for the V & A's major summer exhibition for 2002 titled: "Victorian Visions, Designing the New Britain, 1837 t0 1903", that "I expected nothing from either Britain or (Continental) Europe". JOA had recently (in 1997), fulfillled my 40-year-old struggle to realise an Architecture that was a direct descendant of the last 9,000 years as a perfectly 'ordinary' (in function and budget), but hugely aggressive reification of all the powers that Architecture harnessed. My reward was to have been banned, by the Faculty of Architecture of Rice University, from the customary valedictory "show and tell" lecture for anyone who built on their beautiful Campus. A further punishment was levelled upon Rice's Architectural Freshmen and Sophomores. They were advised to refrain from entering the polychrome interiors of Duncan Hall, the School of Computational Engineering, for fear of corrupting a tenderly infantile sensibility which their careful education had kept free from any infection by 'Architecture'. The response of Malcolm Gillis, the newly-installed President of Rice, was to lay-on an illustrated lecture to which he invited both the town and the gown. Houston, Texas, was the only place, in which JOA had built, where a human being can live an ordinary life "sub specie aeternitatis" - in the mirror of Eternity aka. the light of the superhuman realities portrayed by both myth and science. My many attempts to bring this illumination to my projects in Britain, and JOA's single work on the 'Continent' had all been deliberately 'blinded' - and I speak literally. We live, in a culture today, like mice or rabbits, in a perpetual darkness whose capability for ontic dignity is the lowest ever.
"Why", as I remarked to Helen C., "should one expect more from the broken ruins of the West?"
At 82, with a four-year-old pacemaker, I can do no more than to pass on my Methods. I am in no condition to do so in any other way than seminars, using my 44 Lectures, with persons happy to bring good minds and willing spirits (and modest cheque-books), to the tasks that the 2017-2018 "Camera Lucida" will set.
You may find out more of this from the Course Website: "War of the Arts of Peace".
DIRECT E-MAIL link.