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Chora 4

Chora 4: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture

Alberto Pérez-Gómez
Stephen Parcell
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 392
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  • Book Info
    Chora 4
    Book Description:

    Essays in this group include a discussion of the accomplishments of Gordon Matta-Clark, a reading of Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, and an analysis of the implications of ethical/formal questions in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein for architecture. Contributors include Caroline Dionne (Université de Québec à Montréal), Mark Dorrian (University of Edinburgh), Michael Emerson (University of New South Wales), Marc Glaudemans (University of Technology), George Hersey (emeritus, Yale University), Robert Kirkbride (design director, Studiolo), Joanna Merwood (doctoral dissertation, Princeton University), Michel Moussette (Ph.D. at the Université de Montréal), Juhani Pallasmaa (architect, Finland, emeritus Washington University in St. Louis), Alberto Pérez-Gómez (McGill University), David Theodore (McGill University), and Dorian Yurchuk (architect, New York City).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7080-1
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Lewis Carroll, A Man out of Joint: The Anonymous Architect of Euclid’s Retreat
    (pp. 1-24)
    Caroline Dionne

    Humpty Dumpty is sitting on a very high, narrow wall. It is indeed a precarious situation that nonetheless allows him to claim a kind of mastery over words. Unlike Humpty Dumpty, we shall never completely restrain the words’ plurality of meanings; the words will always evoke much more than what we want them to say – or much less. Because language is polysemic, there is an ambiguity that cannot be resolved. A language is a system. Any system, no matter how complex it may appear, always circumscribes a certain field or realm – a world. The rest is left outside,...

  5. The Breath on the Mirror: Notes on Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque
    (pp. 25-48)
    Mark Dorrian

    This paper has its origins in an extended footnote to an essay that attempted to theorize the historical relationship between the terms “monstrous” and “grotesque.”¹ Its focus is on certain metaphors (it is concerned specifically with references to the breath, to the mirror, and to the Fall) that Ruskin deploys in his theory of the grotesque, as expounded in volume 3 ofThe Stones of Venice.² The paper emerges from two basic questions: what is the relationship betweenmonstrosity(and, more generally, “form”) and thebreathas it appears in Ruskin’s account of the grotesque, and how does the “monstrous”...

  6. Alberti at Sea
    (pp. 49-81)
    Michael Emerson

    The sea is traditionally the site for a wide range of practical, theoretical, and ethical investigations concerning motion and constructive spatial practices. The manner of their collation, like the sea itself, is not fixed and responds to time and place. Three nautical terms – water, navigation, ship – are the shifting objects of this essay’s investigation of spatial practice and fluidity in the early Renaissance works of Leon Battista Alberti (1404–72). This investigation poses the following questions: what sort of place was Alberti’s sea? what traditions informed his aquatic investigations? and what were the difficulties of constructive, spatial engagement...

  7. The Rediscovery of the Hinterland
    (pp. 83-102)
    Marc Glaudemans

    With the above quotation the Dutch philosopher Ton Lemaire started his essay “The Appearance of Landscape,” which describes the evolution of a neutral space into a meaningful landscape. Apparently “landscape” is not an a priori category; it has to emerge from the disordered elements of the world. This arrangement of things into a new, coherent order called landscape follows not only the rhythms of the day or the seasons but also the course of every human life.³ Consequently, theepiphanyof landscape should be understood as a process that is largely mental, not only for every individual but also for...

  8. The Colosseum: The Cosmic Geometry of a Spectaculum
    (pp. 103-126)
    George Hersey

    The colosseum was begun by Vespasian in the year 70 and completed by Domitian in 82.¹ Erected on the site of a marshy artificial lake in the gardens of Nero’s palace, the building received its name, we are told, from a huge statue of that emperor that once stood near. In its heyday the structure was subject to several rebuildings. Then, from the eighth to the nineteenth century, it endured a long, often painful afterlife. During this millennium it was variously despoiled as a quarry for building stone, shunned (or frequented) as a playground for demonic forces, and venerated as...

  9. On the Renaissance Studioli Federico da Montefeltro and the Architecture of Memory
    (pp. 127-176)
    Robert Kirkbride

    Thestudioliof the ducal Palaces of Urbino and Gubbio offer elegant demonstrations of architecture’s capacity, as a discipline and medium, to transact between the mental and physical realms of human experience. Constructed in the late fifteenth century for the renowned military captain Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, thestudiolimay be described as treasuries of emblems, since they contain not things but images of things. Over the past five centuries these chambers have themselves become emblems for the intellectual milieu at the Court of Urbino, crystallizing a unique humanism that bridged the mathematical and verbal arts, as well...

  10. Architecture, Mysticism, and Myth: Modern Symbolism in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby
    (pp. 177-195)
    Joanna Merwood

    For many years in the early part of this century, William Richard Lethaby, a respected teacher and architectural writer acknowledged as an authority on modern design, maintained a correspondence with Harry Hardy Peach, the owner of a Leicester basketware factory. In these letters the two men discussed the weather, the war, Lethaby’s “town-tidying” campaign, architectural competitions, recent publications about design, and, most of all, the shocking state of art in modern England. On a particular morning in February 1923, Lethaby sat down at his desk to answer a letter from Peach. He particularly wanted to comment on something his friend...

  11. Gordon Matta-Clark’s Circling the Circle of the Caribbean Orange
    (pp. 197-210)
    Michel Moussette

    Architecture as middle zone. A place between sky and earth. Closed upon itself. Where everything is either too shallow or too deep. At zero and infinity there is not much to be experienced. No wind no sun no rain. Only dust. Dust coming in. From everywhere. Inexorably relentlessly etc. Dust accumulates. Has to be carried away. In garbage bags bins crates trucks etc. Dust layers over dust layers. Everywhere. Someone once initiated dust breeding.Élevage de poussière. And it reached quite a price per square inch. But no repeat. Wonder why. You can wonder why. Anyway the second law of...

  12. Geometry of Terror: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window
    (pp. 211-244)
    Juhani Pallasmaa

    With its precision of mathematical thought,Rear Window(1954) is probably Alfred Hitchcock’s most perfectly constructed film. It takes place during four days, from Wednesday to Saturday, and the events are filmed from the window of one apartment and mostly through the eyes of one person: the magazine photographer L.B. Jeffries (James Stewart), confined to a wheelchair with his leg in plaster.

    Everything takes place in a block of apartments at 125 West Ninth Street in Greenwich Village, at the south end of Manhattan – or more precisely, within the buildings surrounding the courtyard. The address is made up; in...

  13. The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli
    (pp. 245-286)
    Alberto Pérez-Gómez

    The importance of luca pacioli’s late fifteenth-century work on the golden section and its applications to stereotomy has never been properly grasped. Despite his personal acquaintance with Alberti and Leonardo, his knowledge of Vitruvius’s treatise, and his presence in important architectural contexts such as Urbino and Milan, mainstream architectural history has generally ignored his work. Pacioli’s plagiarism of Piero della Francesca’s work, as well as a lack of evidence that Pacioli’s contemporaries were interested in his book, have not contributed to challenge scholarly perceptions about the relative obscurity and marginality of his work. Although there is a whole section devoted...

  14. Simplex sigillum veri: The Exemplary Life of an Architect
    (pp. 287-312)
    David Theodore

    §1. Let this be known right from the start, even though it comes at the very end of his book: i“Tractatus§7.0:Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen” (whereof one cannot speak, there-of one must be silent).¹ This restraint is the best, the very best we can achieve in all things. In thinking, for instance: “The difficulty in philosophy is to say no more than we know.”² Even in polemic, “or the art of throwing eggs,” the “difficulty is not to make superfluous noises, or gestures, which don’t harm the other man but only yourself.”³


  15. Ranelagh Gardens and the Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade
    (pp. 313-338)
    Dorian Yurchuk

    From the old high german wordpalla(a ball) and the Latinmalleus(a hammer), we get the name of a device called apallamaglio, a stick with a mallet at one end used for playing the French gamepalemaille, a precursor of moderncroquet.¹ In this ancient game a round boxwood ball was struck with a mallet and sent through a ring elevated on a pole that stood at the end of an alley. The game was popular in Saint James’s Park in London and gave its name to the street called Pall Mall.²

    Soon the word “mall” became...

  16. About the Authors
    (pp. 339-343)