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A Treatise on Symbolism In Architecture

What we learned from "Learning From Las Vegas"

Jessica Hartwig

on 16 June 2012

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Transcript of A Treatise on Symbolism In Architecture

Robert Venturi
Denise Scott Brown
Steven Izenour Symbol Context Image Pop art Allusion Ornament Vocabulary text form program/process sign order light space style permanence speed scale SIGN-SPACE-SPEED-ORDER ...symbol in space before form in space Complex programs require signs, not just clear plans/paths
Complex modern life requires the same Freemont Street/Pedestrian scale/Train Station
The Strip/The Car/Airport Now symbol dominates space, orients us at our speed Urban space has been changed by the speed of the automobile

communicating/clarifying connections
text + graphic + sculpture
to persuade and inform

Information as space Sign is the only thing creating space strip messages Vitruvius: Observation + Application -> perfection

Alberti: Example + Practice

Laugier: Nature’s process + Rules

Ruskin: “For we are not sent into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts” (174).

Wagner: Modern Life

Corbusier: Modern Needs + Standardization Applied Research -----------> Study of Strip Architecture Main street can be seen from single image (from train station)

strip from speed of car-> movie (from airport) ORNAMENT-SIGN-SPACE-SPEED Scale plays a role in how we see ornament

Sign Replaces Ornament Ornament- the servant to space/defines space SIGN-FORM-CONTEXT-PERMANENCE Decorated Shed accommodates for changes in function over time

How real cities grow and continue to function

Ability to change sign when obsolete “The architect’s concern ought not be with what ought to be but with what is – and with how to help improve it now.” "It is not the architect’s role to question society’s values." SYMBOL-CONTEXT “The strip shows the value of symbolism and allusion in an architecture of vast space and speed and proves that people, even architects, have fun with history that reminds them of something else.” “All effective symbolic images…are intended to look familiar and unfamiliar. They are the conventional element used slightly unconventionally.” The Hersey House
Hyannisport, MA
1968 It is a decorated shed
“...both little and big, dumb and sophisticated” Vocabulary of a classical order applied to a summer beach house SYMBOL-CONTEXT-VOCABULARY-ORNAMENT-POP ART IMAGE-ORNAMENT-CONTEXT-SYMBOL-VOCABULARY-STYLE "Ironically, the modern architecture of today, while rejecting explicit symbolism and frivolous appliqué ornament, has distorted the whole building into one big ornament. In substituting articulation for decoration, it has become a duck.” “By limiting itself to strident articulations of the pure architectural elements of space, structure, and program, Modern architecture’s expression has become a dry expressionism, empty and boring – and in the end, irresponsible. Space+Structure+Program = DUCK FORM-PROGRAM-PROCESS Firmness + Commodity = Delight
Firmness + Commodity + Delight = Architecture "Presumed in these equations is that process and image are never contradictory and that Delight is a result of the clarity and harmony of these simple relationships, untinged of course, by the beauty of symbolism and ornament or by the associations of preconcieved form” Not architecture Allusion should be used, not to copy form, but to provide rich meaning. SYMBOL-ALLUSION The “Form-giver symbolism” of the modernists usually results in buildings that “glorify originality through copying it” = + + + FORM-SIGN “It is now time to reevaluate the once-horrifying statement of John Ruskin that architecture is the decoration of construction, but we should append the warning of Pugin: It is all right to decorate construction but never construct decoration” "The building, as a duck, promotes “Space and Articulation over Symbolism and Ornament” Sign is necessary as the scale of ornament has changed.

We can evaluate the content of the symbolism of modern architecture by comparing it to the commercial and popular symbolism. The duck distorts program and structure to achieve its form. The decorated shed costs less and derives its form from program. ...why “we have been designing dead ducks” Building as ornament instead of decorated shed, unecessary expense FORM-CONTEXT ...avoiding “costly and empty gestures” SYMBOL-CONEXT-VOCABULARY-FORM ORNAMENT-ALLUSION Symbolic ornament has always been necessary

Modernists substituted exaggeration for ornament

Symbolism of the ornamnet adds meaning ...not ornament and exaggeration Architecture's meaning comes from emotional associations
These perception are unrelated to the form, structure and program
They may even be contradictory... Ordinary and conventional image because that is the system of construction

Modernist: Uses the same constrction to appear more complex ...boring?...complex? Explict symbols look like what they are
Implict symbols have an image that doesn't match the substance Caesars Palace = Bernini (plan) + Yamasaki (scale/vocab) + Early Christian tomb (ornament) + Baroque (symm.) Creating a new technology and ignoring the needs of modern life IMAGE-PROCESS Respect the urban sprawl and learn from it Lawn ornament connects the house to the street.

Identity is given by the use of alllusion.

Sign and symbol increase in scale create a connection between public and private sectors and create space.
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