From Palladio to Perspective

palladio-villa

I’ve spent the past few days after Christmas mayhem reading old treatises on architecture (I know, I’m a nerd). Since the puny library in my hometown neither had Vitruvius (!) nor Alberti (!!), I had to settle with I Quattro Libri etc. Did some precedent-illustratoring yesterday, nothing worth posting to the blog; today, I wrote myself a direction for the project (drawing to follow tomorrow), which I will summarise in these theses:

– The office is the factory. The perspective is the machine. The collective is the product.
– My factory produces itself; it is a factory for views, viewpoints, and vanishing points.
– Each office (that is: factory) pushes its perspectival technique to the breaking point.
– The rallying point is the escape from architecture into architectural culture.

That’s about as clear as I can get at this point.
Below, the texts that led up to these points.
(Are you tired of the word “point” yet?)

——————

The office of the infinite horizon. Sitting in the midst of his architectural Panopticon
in which his servants produce drawings that are constantly scrutinised for their accuracy
days before clash control, before the Navisworks (Avexnetwork?) routine goes awry
the master is the senpai we are continuously poised to overtake, despite good manners
adequate respect, and a modest self-critique (which may or may not include the critique
of your peers). This office contains most of all the pollution of perfection, in that it
serves perfectly the intentions of the master, who, in a fit of conceptual realisation
converts the office into a prison (was it really any different before?) and shifts the cells
of the interns and seniors to confuse their own roles; a truly flat hierarchy
in that everyone is subject to the same horror story; sleeping under the drawing board
dining in silence, with a speaker in every corner instructing employee #114
to speed up the review process and transmit to employee #032 the plans
for the next Vitra showroom. This is dictatorship! you say. But the new prison
is exemplified by it being our own choice to be here, our own search
for enough attention and expertise to be trusted with greater matters
(such as a legendary villa, or a university extension, or a pavilion, a fountain
just about anything sufficiently small to pave the way for the ridiculously large).
If you didn’t want to be an architect, you could’ve chosen so at so many previous points
that the responsibility is yours, and yours alone. The only reason you’re here is because
you want yourself to be here. The figurative rape that one goes through, in which
the victim is told to “enjoy the process”, as it will be much easier next time, is part
of the agreement. Like a Lazy Susan, the building rotates around itself
all around the centre (which is occupied at all times, night and day), a machine
that cannot be turned off, and a man who cannot stop to sleep, at least not until
the competition proposal is FedExed. Light finds its way into this building by way
of electric armatures; some have resorted to suicide, but even this is prevented.
All is controlled. There is no way out, as you tell yourself that the Luddite revolution
was a joke, a caricature and a satire, and all that remains is work. It is a sinister beast
thriving on ambition, spitting out hundreds of crushed dreams, and one successful upstart
who the master can claim “to have taught him all he knows.” But the products
of this office is not architecture; it is architectural culture. The drawings are
of the building itself, thus completing the loop of attention diverted
from the very space it is concerned with. Perhaps it is another kind of machine
than that which Corb envisioned, perhaps we find in it a dark, noisy, dirty machine
which operates much like the Cube, whose success hinges on if the draughtsman
is able to draw it. That is the test. The product is the Technical Studies.

The office of the inhabitable picture plane. As preposterous as a sphere in Flatland
we can only understand each other’s points-of-view by observing how they go in and out
of vision, that is, they transform, while the origin of their manifestation might be
in a curled-up presence, a five-dimensional folly. You draw yourself in the drawing
and you draw yourself drawing the drawing of yourself in the office
furthermore exploring the thickness of the plane by providing a zoom of details
in every instance of the drawing experience, where the plane moves somewhere
between the camera and the objects themselves; this is the beginning of the distortion
into another kind of master, the one who does not merely observe, but contemplates
his position of observation as integral to the understanding of the space
we’re about to create. Each office produces itself, and each office
produces something different, something to determine
what kind of space it is that we’re constructing by simply being employed to create?
What are the implications on the structure of the city by the proliferation
of the architecture office? Are we simply too small to matter? Or is our responsibility
simply a (badly kept) trade secret, in that the first thing we design is the office itself?
Can the architectural graduate make his career by the office he builds for himself
like Ando’s concrete chameleon, and Fantastic Norway’s caravan? The picture plane
is drawn just in order to be destroyed, like shredding art, endless sections of the office
we cannot understand, a mystery box (for it is just a box) that we photograph
from all directions, in order to make an array of images which, each on their own
give rise to the office we’re trying to describe. Perhaps it suffices to say
that the function of Eliasson’s studio is to enforce the “no cameras”, “no selfies”
and, especially, “no selfie sticks”-policy that invites every new graduate to consider
the form of architecture to be its place of production, making architects
by their very association with the space they’ve chosen to depict (we didn’t see
a “no drawings”-plaque, did we?) to exist as part of the office. The space defines us.
I am a child of this house, this city, this non-dimensional point which gains
all significance when determined as part of the three-dimensional world
which has a two-dimensional lie attached to it, or, perhaps not a lie, but a world
which we perceive as beyond our grasp – if we touch it, we break it. The picture plane
is broken, not only because it was made of glass – a necessity to bring it into existence
as the perspectival engagement only becomes clear when being viewed
through something perfectly perspexy. What are we drawing?
The positioning of positions within a field which gains significance
through never assuming just one position.

The office of the one-point eternal extension. Our choice is merely a choice
of how many paces we can proceed ahead without disturbing the parallel inclusion
of a space which is defined by its own placement in the picture plane.
It is mere convention that has put us into discovering this projection in spaces
where the horizontal aspect is reduced to a linear voyage, taking place
only in the direction of the main sight line. But it is such a beautiful convention …
so we proceed to design the linear office, where one drawing is made and then
shifted over to the right, as we receive the drawings from the left (with twice the space
for the ambidextrous). Each one of the draughtsmen construct the view they have
in both directions, from where they begin, and at the end of the process, the results
are plastered on the walls for the client to exclaim: “But you have done nothing here!”
And it is true. All we’ve accomplished is the proof of drawing skills, a tech-demo
a showreel, if you will, for the office without commissions, which then flogs them off
to whatever fancy gallery is found next to the hostel. And yet, the one-point perspective
is perplexing, as it has no field-of-view, no focus, nothing which it cannot portray, for
by merit of being mathematically correct, it can predict the “true world”
aeons from perceptive flaws and subjectivist truisms. The drawing can become as long
as the world it portrays, and, indeed, by way of its knack for the endlessly parallel
nothing stops the draughtsman from drawing the facade of the building
he is caught within. By doing so, he escapes the drudgery of the perfect procedure
by extending the process of drawing as much as the drawing itself requires;
through drawing not only what we see, but also all of which we do not see
we can infect every perspective with our own personal opinion – but, you may object
isn’t this altogether what the architect is doing? Isn’t everything which we set forth to do
a manner of sharing what we see, our understanding of a scene taken from our position?
Is the establishment of overlap not enough to deduce whether a picture viewed
from a distance has any form of depth? Do we *need* the perspective?
This is to miss the point. Because we’ve discovered the one-point perspective
we are compelled to fuse it with its impossibility, to test it towards what it cannot do
or, rather, what it does to the degree that it is not longer believable, but so thrilling
that it *doesn’t really matter.* The one-point office is, as are all the others, a factory
of itself. It brings the absurdity of creating a projection of the world, to which our eyes
are attached, to the absurdity of production itself. In the end, what we challenge
is not only a manner of addressing architectural drawings, but that of the architectural eye
the gaze of the master, or, at least, his apprentices in-the-making. We are recognised.
We ask ourselves: can we ever see more? The answer? Fortunately, there’s always more.
It begins at the end of the drawing, and continues for as long as we draw.

The two-point split office on the edges of sight. The progression from one-point
to two-point is not solely the detachment from the parallelism that governed
the construction of the tunnel, but altogether a change from the focus of an eye
to the focus of the object. Suddenly, architecture begins to create itself.
It does not need you, and it will be here for as long as the drawing itself remains
not the eye that measures it. It follows that an office applying the two-point perspective
to its concept of surveillance must necessarily change its manner of production to that
of the detached: from sight, from subject, from visitor, to the absolute in itself
“absolute” both in the sense of being able to sustain itself regardless of exterior fashions
and being objectively “there” beyond the doubt of the self (if there’s anything
we should doubt, it is ourselves). The mystery of the two-point perspective is not
that (or how, or why) its lines-of-height remain parallel, but that this is where sight
meets its zenith. We disregard what we see in favour of concurring that what we see
meets its destruction at a point we cannot describe, because we cannot see it.
“Yet”, we should say, because it is in the construction of the two-point perspective
that we undress, or (as drawing is seldom an erotic encounter) unmask the depths
that are implicit in the drawing. It is peculiar that the only way of showing true depth
in real architecture is to resort to fiction, for what else is drawing, if not the betrayal
of reality in order to achieve hyper-reality, the office we want to have
rather than the office we have … one could say, that the two-point perspective
is the most ideal of them all, in that it is the first departure from the correct, the true
and the suitable, in favour of disappearance, not that of architecture, but that
of the architect. The edges are more important than the centre.
Is this altogether another manner of favouring format ahead of content?
Not quite. The drawing always requires multiplication, a reluctance
towards surmising opinions, seeing as with every new vanishing point
another set of parallel lines can emerge. How do we prove this?
By requiring of the two-point perspective to be drawn? Precisely so.
On these merits, this kind of image is the first departure
from the existing – which is spherical, in any case, to be elaborated
on further points (pun excused) – and the first venture into the hypothetical.
It remains plausible, in fact, even more so, seeing as everything that can be pictured
can even be brought into existence. This is the merit of “architecture.”
The two-point perspective is subsequently the transition from projection
to production. It compels itself to produce itself. Every worker in this factory
extends to the edge of what the other is able to portray. Their heads are fixed
but their positions are not. Eventually, this will be an office that covers
all of the world, incessantly obsessed with that small deviation
from the ruler which makes their finiteness possible.

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