Rebirth of Reason

The Free Radical

What Is Architecture?
by Peter Cresswell

An architectural review of What Art Is by Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi
(Originally published in slightly different form in The Free Radical)

'Beauty is truth, truth beauty, - that is all
Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.'
John Keats, Ode to a Grecian Urn

In their book What Art Is, Louis Torres and Michelle Marder Kamhi suggest that architecture is not art. Now, this long-awaited book from the editors of Aristos is certainly an important one - though nowhere near as important as they think it is, and nowhere near as important as Rand's own Romantic Manifesto on which their book is based - but unfortunately it is seriously flawed.

Both Rand's Romantic Manifesto and this recent book are important because art itself is so crucially important to human life, and because the field has been overrun by quacks and charlatans. Rand's artistic theory was ground-breakingly important in pointing out precisely why art is so enormously crucial in man's life, and in demonstrating how to identify and disembowel the art-fakers; The Romantic Manifesto was a clarion call against the charlatans - it said that art can be judged objectively, and it demonstrated how. This recent book is the first since to seriously wrestle with Rand's theory and to explicate it, and for that we must be grateful.

Inspirational New Zealand Architect Claude Megson. The architect, Megson told a generation of New Zealand architects, is not merely creating an object, but "a whole universe for ourselves to inhabit - we are not building buildings, we are building ritual, building occasion, building life itself."
But it is flawed. First up, Torres and Kamhi appear excessively eager to challenge Rand over minutiae in what often appears to be a childish desire to court controversy. Second, The Romantic Manifesto was a passionate call to arms for romantic realism in art - this book cries out for the same passion, or any at all; indeed it cries out for the sense-of-life exposition of art that this sense-of-life subject demands. What Art Is appeared on the shelves at the same time as Alexandra York's bravura call to the artistic barricades, From the Fountainhead to the Future, and York's crusading zeal only serves to underscore the absence of any real fire from the Aristos editors. (That they hail from the 'subjectivist wing' of Objectivism perhaps helps explains the lack; witness for example David Kelley in his own review of the book, confessing that in his view "sense of life [is not] essential to the explanation of why art is a major human value"! [Exclamations of dismay mine.])

Third: What Art Is contains far more theorists speaking about art than it does examples of actual art - it has far more 'office work' than 'fieldwork' - and for a book explicating and concretising art that is a major flaw.

In my view these flaws undercut what might otherwise be a valuable update of Rand's aesthetic theory, and in my view their childish suggestion that "architecture is not art" is such a major blunder that it seriously undermines their veracity as aestheticians. On this issue, Torres and Kamhi are simply wrong and their arguments mistaken. They are wrong in large part because, like many other theorists, they avoid the 'fieldwork' of dealing with the works themselves and consequently misunderstand the essential nature of architecture. What they end up criticising is not architecture as she is in essentials, but instead a straw man of their own making - they are criticising what architecture isn't.

Let me explain briefly why Torres and Kamhi are so wrong on architecture, and in doing so I think I can throw important light on what architecture actually is.

Plan view of Villa Rotonda (also known as the Villa Capra), showing 'space for man' at the centre. Instead of an interior space, from the very heart of the building and from all directions comes an invitation out into the landscape

What Architecture Isn't

Architecture is not theory

As Tom Wolfe points out so hilariously in The Painted Word, in much modern 'art' the theory itself is the art - the so-called artworks themselves are distinctly secondary. Torres and Kamhi fall into this trap by discussing at length assorted theories about architecture, while forgetting that arguments about art and architecture actually require 'fieldwork' - experience and understanding of the artworks themselves and discussion about particular concrete examples. Metaphorically speaking, these theorists are like Goethe studying optics - they never leave their own armchair. Their fieldwork is undone, and their conclusions as a consequence are mistaken.

Instead of a wealth of examples of architecture, theorists such as Batteau, D'Alembert, Alberti, the Kantian Roger Scruton and others are wheeled on and their weak architectural theories summarily dismissed; buildings themselves appear only as an uncomfortable and awkward intrusion and are mentioned only clumsily and in passing. The failing is not in this chapter alone, but is a common fault throughout their book. One senses that, unlike Alexandra York who seems to revel in experiencing fresh new artworks, they instead prefer to talk about art than to experience it. This fault, I submit, leads them directly to their mistaken ideas about architecture.

Architecture is not a decorated box

Contrary to widespread belief, architecture is not simply the result of decorating a box inside and out. To be sure, we see decorated boxes all around us and have done so throughout recorded history, but that does not mean that architecture itself is about decorating boxes - it merely means there are a lot of decorated boxes around us.

To put this view succinctly, as has a recent participant on SOLO's forum:

The role of architecture is ... to make utilitarian structures. Beauty can be added to it, but at this point it becomes similar to other visual arts - you may see a building as beautiful as a painting, but that doesn't make the building in itself a piece of art! It is not the building as such which is artistic, but some aspects of its form.

Villa Rotonda from below. A living and vibrant presence on a ridge overlooking the Vicenza landscape, the setting and layout of this Palladian masterpiece inspired Thomas Jefferson's own house, Monticello. Both admirably display the Palladian sentiment, "see, and be seen." And above all: Enjoy!
I submit that this is not architecture, it is masturbation1... Architecture, in this view, is simply adding some 'wow factor' to an otherwise lowly, utilitarian structure - like adding a tattoo to a tart. Unfortunately however, this view is all too common - sadly, this is the view that Torres and Kamhi take, and naturally enough they end up rejecting the results as not art.

This is certainly a common view of architecture, and architectural theorists from Vitruvius on have commonly advanced this view. Some two thousand years ago Vitruvius declared that architecture is a package-deal combining "commodity, firmness, and delight" - an arrangement which sees architecture today commonly divided into three categories: structure, function, and aesthetics. This trichotomy unfortunately separates the utilitarian (structure and function) from the aesthetic - buildings on this view can sometimes be practical, or sometimes beautiful (and sometimes both if you're particularly lucky in your choice of architect) but the beautiful and the utilitarian are separate factors altogether. Architecture, in this view, is just a box with beautiful and "expressive" features grafted on. Most Objectivists should side-step this false dichotomy with ease, but Torres and Kamhi step manfully into the abyss without even a safety-line to extricate themselves.2

They are not the only ones lost in this abyss. While some of the better architectural theorists like Alberti did go as far as suggesting the three architectural categories be 'well-integrated,' the worst - like Charles Jencks, and philosopher Roger Scruton who Torres and Kamhi take as their guide - consider integration unimportant, and in the case of Jencks et al they crusade militantly against it. Beauty, they maintain, is never in and of a building, it is literally only skin deep. Torres and Kamhi give houseroom to this view quite uncritically, and simply throw architecture out of their gallery as a result.

Now, it is true that many architects often treat their work as just applying candyfloss to a box, but while this may occasionally produce what might be called 'good craft,' it is more usually just bad architecture, and certainly not good art.3 And, like all crafts, while decorated boxes and handicrafts may well be very attractive, their visual purpose as Rand said is primarily sensory and perceptual; good architecture is neither. Like all art, its purpose is primarily conceptual, as I will show.

Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao praised by morons as 'architectural sculpture'. Glaring incoherence under the Spanish sun, a beautifully crafted celebration of disorientation. Also an excellent example of what architecture is not.

Architecture is not sculpture

Since the nature of architecture is unclear to so many it has often been wrongly equated with non-objective or non-representational sculpture: the all too predictable effect has been to raise the stature of non-objective sculpture - which can never be low enough - while simultaneously lowering the standing of architecture.

Architecture is not sculpture. To be sure, Ayn Rand was herself confused on this point; in a passage I've long had difficulty with she describes "architecture, qua art, [as] close to sculpture: its field is three-dimensional ... but transposed to a grand spatial scale." Now I hasten to say that good architecture is often sculpturally exciting, but the excitement comes from a clear and vigorous expression of the building's purpose, and a clear and vigorous purpose to express.

Torres and Kamhi display their own misunderstanding of this point when they rightfully criticise Frank Gehry's egregiously incoherent Guggenheim Museum at Bilbao - universally praised by posturing morons as a work of "architectural sculpture" - before concluding that "treating buildings as abstract sculpture" is "a lamentable consequence of the claim that architecture is a fine art." It is not that at all, it is in fact a lamentable consequence of misunderstanding the nature of architecture.

Good architecture reveals the nature of a building. As Louis Sullivan correctly noted nearly a century ago: "Speaking generally, outward appearances [in nature] resemble inner purposes ... so why all this lying architecture? Are we a nation of liars?" Are we? We often seem happy when architectural exteriors are simply grafted onto interiors in total ignorance of function - a practice all too common - but as Gehry has demonstrated so eloquently in Bilbao this practice simply creates incoherent, and 'deconstructed' architecture.

Frank Lloyd Wright resisted all such affectation; he used to say that the proper exterior is what happens as a natural, organic result of what happens inside - the building's form, to the extent it is successful, expresses its function; they are an integrated whole and should be judged as such.4

Hatsheput Palace. Lifeless, static and (quite literally) cavelike - a perfect reflection of the Classical Egyptian sense of 'life '. A culture built around death, expressed perfectly in its remaining buildings.

Architecture is not 'representation'

The book has as its main thesis that art is representation - or mimesis - but is shockingly equivocal on what this actually means, sliding between Aristotle's notion that "art in a sense completes what nature is unable to finish," and an overly literal meaning paraphrased from a Canadian neuropsychologist. It is this latter very literal interpretation that allows them to airily dismiss architecture as "non-mimetic" and thus non-art. Once again they display their lack of understanding of architecture, a misunderstanding related to their dismissal of architecture as non-representational sculpture.

The Egyptian Stepped Pyramid at Saqqara. Not a place where you'd want to live - but of course, this wasn't a place to live.. This was a place to die, or at least in which to spend eternity as a corpse. For thousands of years the Egyptians performed prodigious feats to celebrate death. They did it very well. The irony clearly escaped them.
It has of late been fashionable to talk of architecture as representation, yet some appalling attempts at literal representation demonstrate the flaw; I give you, for example, Stanley Tigerman's 'humorous' hot dog-shaped hot dog stand, Ian Athfield's 'playful' octopus-shaped restaurant on Wellington's skyline, and Aldo Rossi's frankly grotesque cemetery laid out in the shape of a skeleton, complete with a crematoria smokestack representing a phallus. All these have been praised as "works of real architectural rigour"!

A typical Iron Age turf hut. While man was happily adapting nature to himself in Greece, Rome - and Crete - others in other places such as Ancient Britain were less happily adapting themselves to nature. The result of this reversal of things was a squalid life, lived quite literally 'close to the earth.
In fact, architecture does not do literal representation well unless you simply view architecture as a signboard. Architecture is in fact closer to Aristotle's concept of mimesis: as Wright said: architecture involves "making human life more natural, and nature more humane." At its best it can be a stylisation of nature for human habitation, in a sense completing nature to make a home for man.5 What a work of architecture expresses is what best makes a home for man in the particular context of this particular work of architecture, allowing one to understand the artist's own view of existence which is Aristotle's actual view of mimesis. As Leon Golden has it mimesis comes from a fundamental "desire to know." People derive a pleasure of "learning and inference" from mimesis; a katharsis far different to one commonly understood by the word. Katharsis, says Golden, is "that moment of insight which arises out of the audience's climactic intellectual, emotional, and spiritual enlightenment, which for Aristotle is both the essential pleasure and the essential goal of mimetic art."6

For Aristotle, all art forms use mimesis, each using different means of representation, different manners of communicating that representation to an audience, and different levels of ethical behaviour represented. The particular means used by architecture is the subject of my next, and main point.

Casa dei Vettii

Architecture is not bricks and mortar

My fifth and main point, if I may become momentarily Sciabarrian7, is that architecture is not primarily about the material stuff of a building, it is more accurately about its 'lack of stuff.'

It is this misapprehension more than any other that causes so much of the misunderstanding about architecture, for much of the criticism is about the 'stuff' of building rather than the 'lack of stuff' of architecture. Architecture is often thought of as just so many elevations and so many 'architectural features,' but to think in these terms is to miss the essence of architecture. It is a difficult point to grasp, but I think once grasped the error of Torres and Kamhi becomes clear. What do I mean by 'lack of stuff'? Why does this misunderstanding lead to error? Let me explain. At length.

What Architecture Is

The private and airy Casa dei Vettii at Pompeii derived from the Classical Greek model of the self-contained courtyard house - the result of man adapting nature to himself - an interior landscape built for his own pleasure.
"Architecture ... does not re-create reality, but creates a structure for man's habitation or use, expressing man's values," identified Rand in The Romantic Manifesto. Architecture is primarily about making spaces for human beings to inhabit, and in doing so expresses what it means for man to inhabit this earth.

The Stepped Portico of 'King Minos' Palace at Knossos, Crete. The palace is perhaps the first extant example of 'the good life' made concrete - light space, & colour combined for the purpose of human delight. Decoration is an integrated part of the whole delightful package.
The work is utilitarian, but not primarily so - in the words of the late New Zealand architect Claude Megson: "The architect is creating, not merely an object, but a whole universe for ourselves to inhabit." The architect creates an integration of structure, function and ornament according to the architect's own implicit values in order to make a home for man. The stuff with which the architect works is space - human space. To paraphrase Protagoras, man is quite literally the measure of all architecture.

This is an important and overlooked point, and much criticism concluding that 'architecture is not art' arises when architecture is considered only in a two-dimensional fashion, as being only a simple skin deep armature made up of more or less elegant facades and gorgeous surfaces. It is not; it is a space for man to inhabit. Architecture is more than just the raw materials that make up a building - what is crucial is what those raw materials delineate.

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello brought Palladio to the New World. Sited so as to overlook and be a part of the space below - as was Palladio's Villa Rotonda - Monticello encapsulated what a home of, by and for a genius might be like.
To illustrate this idea, Frank Lloyd Wright used to love using the example of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Centuries ago Lao Tzu asked: "What is the essence of the cup?" observing poetically "It is the space within that makes the cup useful." It is the space that the cup contains that actually gives meaning to the cup - this is its essence. Paralleling Lao Tzu, Wright used to point out that the essence of architecture is the three-dimensional space(s) created for human habitation.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Unity Temple: "When I finished Unity Temple there were no walls of any kind, only features. ... When I finished Unity Temple, I had it. I knew I had the beginning of a great thing, a great truth in architecture. Now architecture could be free."
Essentially, the architect's real work is in the stuff of the non-material rather than the material; the non-material is the key here. As with the cup, the material from which the building is constructed and the way that material is arranged are servant to the real purpose of the building - to contain human life. In computing terms, the architect is constructing a 'virtual reality' - the armature of the building is there to shelter, to mask, to caress, to offer, to make the spaces and to make them what they are, but the reality of architecture is in the space itself that is created.

The Larkin Building of 1903, where Frank Lloyd Wright first felt he had 'beaten the box.' In doing so he produced the world's first interior multi-storey atrium space.
This view is a revolutionary one to be sure, so I shall spend some time on it. It is hinted at historically by Palladio in the way the four axes of his Villa Rotondo go out into the landscape - it was used in some later Baroque architecture, and it is well expressed in much traditional Japanese architecture - but it is still revolutionary enough that most architectural critics, theorists and practitioners do not understand it. Sadly, Torres and Kamhi are among those theorists who don't.

Frank Lloyd Wright understood this idea utterly - he was the first to consciously and explicitly realise the full import of space as the reality of architecture and to begin to work with this sense: it heralded "the destruction of the box," he said. "I was the free son of a free people, and I wanted to be free. I had to find out the cause of the imprisonment. So I began to investigate." Describing this 'investigation' he later said:

I think I first consciously began to try to beat the box in the Larkin Building of 1903 ... You will see this feeling growing up, becoming more apparent a little later in Unity Temple: there perhaps is where you will find the first real expression of the idea that the space within the building is the reality of that building. ...So that sense of freedom began which has come into the architecture of today for you and which we call organic architecture.

The conception of the room within, the interior spaces of the building to be conserved, expressed and made living as architecture - the architecture of the within - that is precisely what we are driving at, all along. and this new quality of thought in architecture, the third dimension, let us say, enters into every move that is made to make it - enters into the use of every material; enters the working of every method we shall use or can use.

With this revelation he now felt his "hands were in the very stuff of architecture," and that the days of cardboard architecture would be over:

Not only had space come upon a new technique of its own but every material and every method might now speak for itself in objective terms of human life. Architects were no longer tied to Greek space but were free to enter into the space of Einstein.

Wright averred that the idea itself was not new at all, suggesting it was first conceived by Lao Tzu who had said:

Knead clay in order to make a vessel. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand, and you will have the use of the vessel. Cut out doors and windows in order to make a room. Adapt the nothing therein to the purpose in hand and you will have the use of the room ... Thus what we gain is Something, yet it is by virtue of Nothing that this can be put to use.8

In other words the Nothing, i.e., the space contained by the building's armature - the Something - is shaped, and decorated, and related to the exterior, and interrelated to other spaces, and nested within other spaces, and lit and arranged and proportioned ... and all according to the purpose in hand. The result is a new thing - human space adapted to human purpose.

The floor plan of Monticello shows a space within in which to view the expanse of space without. The viewer feels anchored, yet intently aware of his surroundings - man placed securely at the very centre of the landscape.
"The reality of the building is the space within to be lived in, not the walls and ceiling" - as Wright paraphrased Lao Tzu - with the purpose to be derived from the architect's own value-judgements in that context.

Specifically, the purpose is derived from the architect's selection of specific aspects of man's interaction with his surroundings and with other men, re-created in a particular, specific context.

Speaking somewhat poetically on this architectural space, Claude Megson suggested, "whatever space and time mean, place and occasion mean more. For space in the image of man is place, and time in the image of man is occasion. ... We are not building buildings, we are building ritual, building occasion, building life itself." We are building space for life, human life, and it is by that standard that a work of architecture should be judged good or bad - not by what its elevations look like, or from whence its ornamental features derive - but to the extent that it reflects and expresses this overriding purpose.

Dining under an interior tent. John Soane's Breakfast Room in his own Georgian townhouse shows just how much airy and elegant spatial delight can be packed into a space surrounded by other London buildings, and measuring just ten feet by eighteen.
To repeat the point, the reality of architecture is in the space contained - space contained for man. As Wright said: "man is both the subject and object of architecture" - the end in architecture is always man.

We can say therefore that architecture is a selective re-creation of reality according to particular value judgements made by the architect, and thus paraphrase Ayn Rand's definition of art. When making these spaces, the architect is necessarily making and expressing value judgements about existence and about man's place within existence. Specifically he is answering the question: "In this particular context, what spaces, and what about them, are important to this particular human life?" and he is answering the question by the manner of his chosen architectural expression.

As Sherri Tracinski has suggested, the basic question to be asked then when reviewing architecture is this: What kind of man could be and should be at home here? The question is a fundamental one and the answer will be a product of the architect himself; it will come from his own implicit view of the nature of existence and of man's place in it - as Ayn Rand said of the artist, from his "metaphysical value judgements."

In contrast to Palladio and Jefferson, who placed man at the centre of the landscape, the prison etchings of Piranesi put man at the centre of a nightmare. Here we have an architecture of complexity - deathlike complexity.
Let's do some fieldwork, putting this question to a range of architectural examples: What kind of man would be at home in the sunlit Minoan Palace of King Minos as opposed to the cave-like temples of death in Ancient Egypt; or in the private airy courtyard houses of Classical Greece as opposed to the ordure of an Iron Age turf dolmen; or in Palladio's dynamic Villa Rotondo (which inspired Thomas Jefferson's Monticello) where man is put confidently at the centre of the landscape, as opposed to an oppressive Piranesian prison with man at the centre of a nightmare; or in the open, relaxed gardens of the Katsura Palace in Kyoto as opposed to the unintelligible Karpinskian proposal for public space in Berlin; or in the elegant spatial delight of a John Soane wonderland, as opposed to the chaotic spatial confusions of Zaha Hadid; or in Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in New York as opposed to Gehry's monstrosity in Bilbao?

What kind of man would be at home in each of these places, and how can we tell? What is it about each of these buildings that allows us to decide what kind of man could be and should be at home in them?

The open, relaxed gardens of Japan's Katsura Palace - man is invited out to explore the landscape.
It is in the way that man is asked to inhabit them that gives us the clue. Is he offered shelter and comfort, or danger and darkness? Is he invited to move through them and enter them, being guided gently, or is he almost forced to move in a way he might rather not? It is in the way he is asked to respond: Is he led to raise his eyes, or to kneel?; in the way he is linked with the landscape - does it open up to him like a benevolent friend, or is it hidden from him like an adversary too powerful to confront?; in the way he is asked to meet others within the architecture - does he meet them by choice in suitably appointed facilities, or must he be forced to do battle with them in a daily struggle for privacy and a civilised existence?; in what he is offered within - are the spaces open, sunlit and delightful, or overpowering, enclosed and oppressive? - do they open up to him in an easy, logical, ordered manner, or come upon him in jumbled surprise? - are they dynamic and engaging, or static and lifeless?.

Unlike the garden's around Japan's Katsura Palace, Daniel Karpinski's proposal for open space in Berlin is intentionally uninviting, militantly uninspiring, and overtly unintelligible. The viewer would be lucky to find a way in - should he even want to.

All these possible ways of forming space for man are open to the architect. Each choice is implicit in every decision of the architect's pen (whether he knows it or not); all these decisions in carving out this new reality embody his own deepest metaphysical value judgements (whether he chooses to recognise it or not). Each building made for man answers for itself the questions: is existence essentially benevolent or malevolent?; is it open to man's actions or closed?; is it knowable or not?; is man's proper estate flourishing or suffering? - fundamental judgements all, and all expressed in the way space is carved out of the material of existence.

Consider for example two values so overwhelmingly expressed in Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater: motion, and purpose. Man is here put, as Wright said "in possession of his earth," with his proper estate being to act purposefully, and to prosper from his actions. Readers wishing to understand architecture could do no worse than to thoroughly scrutinise plans and drawings of Fallingwater (or better still, scrutinise by paying Fallingwater a visit!) in order to ask and answer each of the above questions in turn, followed by an examination of how exactly Wright achieved the effect he sought. They will find no better example to teach them what is possible in architecture.

As Rand said in The Romantic Manifesto:

Man's profound need of art lies in the fact that his cognitive faculty is conceptual, i.e., that he acquires [and retains] knowledge by means of abstractions, and needs the power to bring his widest metaphysical abstractions into his immediate perceptual awareness. Art fulfills this need: by means of selective re-creation, it concretizes man's fundamental view of himself and of existence.

Where John Soane could weave spatial magic in just 180 square feet, Zaha Hadid weaves spatial chaos on a much grander scale, and with a much larger budget. This mess, designed for the poor fools at the Cincinnati Art Centre, was budgeted at $34.1 million. The fools were a lot poorer after paying for it.
I defy anyone to move through Fallingwater and not be sharply aware of Wright's fundamental view of man and of existence, and to realise what exalted fundamental view of man and of existence this work of art concretises. To deny this is to blind yourself to reality. Speaking to Howard Roark of the new house he has designed for him, Austen Heller says: "Do you know, that's what I felt in a way? I've felt that when I move in to this house I'll have a new sort of existence, and even a simple daily routine will have a kind of honesty and dignity that I can't quite define. Don't be astonished if I tell you that I feel as if I'll have to live up to that house." And, I would add: don't be astonished if architecture makes you feel this way. That is, after all, its role.

What Art Is

"Art," as Alexandra York says in her book From the Fountainhead to the Future, "is a shortcut to philosophy." About architecture, I say it is the pre-eminent shortcut; architecture certainly is art, it is the master art. In offering us our philosophy as a part of daily life and on a scale encompassing all the arts it recreates the potential for human experience based on the architect's selective re-creation of what experiences are of value. I want to explore this more fully at the forthcoming SOLO conference, but I suggest what architecture does is literally re-create reality.

Despite the paucity of their 'fieldwork' and the massive error Torres and Kamhi make by dismissing architecture, their book does in many other respects provide an enormous and rare service. Although one might quibble with some of their choices of research and researcher, in seeking to update and defend Rand's aesthetic theory with recent research they do deserve commendation. It is not always successful in choosing its sources, but a beginning has been made. In defending art that is Objective this book offers a wonderful bullshit detector to beat back the pretentious quacks who defend the dribbles, the smears and the noise of the anti-art, and in this Age of Crap any allies in beating back the crap are valuable.

In that respect it is an essential book to have on your shelf - but not, I suggest before you buy and digest a few other things first. Rand's own book on art on which this one is based, The Romantic Manifesto, should be on the shelf and in the hands of anybody who has any interest in art; Alexandra York's From the Fountainhead to the Future is a wonderfully passionate book which oozes with the analytical fire this book hasn't. I also suggest you do some fieldwork yourself: listen to plenty of Rachmaninov and Ellington, Gershwin and Strauss to concretise your arguments on music; pore over plenty of books on Michelangelo, Rodin, Wright and Ingres and others; visit the galleries and museums and houses and experience them in the flesh as they were intended to be. Only then should you enter these pages, with your fieldwork as your experience, and your own field notes beside you as your guide. You will benefit from the experience, I assure you, but I do suggest you keep your bullshit detector about you at all times.

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater - perhaps nowhere else is Aristotle's dictum better expressed that " art in a sense completes what nature is unable to finish" - art that makes even hardbitten professional critics want to sing.


1 The late Auckland architect Claude Megson used to frequently criticise the projects of young architecture students - myself included - as just so much meaningless posturing, dismissing students' pretensions by telling them: 'If it doesn't have meaning then you're just wanking."

2 Sherri Tracinscki neatly punctures this dichotomy in The Intellectual Activist of July 2000, suggesting that "the three primary elements of architecture are structure, function and ornament ... "beauty" or "esthetics" [by this standard] is not a separate category; it is not some extra quality tacked on to the utilitarian aspects of a building. Instead a building's esthetic message is conveyed by all three of its aspects - by its structure and function no less than its ornament."

3 It is certainly not art "'in the esthetic-philosophical meaning of the term because in contrast with painting and sculpture, it is not essentially conceptual in its focus but is primarily sensory and perceptual" as Torres and Kamhi correctly say of craft.

4 Wright, who hated dichotomies, in fact maintained that form both followed function and affected it; in his words, "form and function are one," a truth lost on both the Gehry school of post-modern masturbation and also on Torres and Kamhi. Winston Churchill would have agreed: writing on Churchill in 'Recombinant Architecture - Fašade/Interface' the authors commented: "There [is] a complementarity of life and bricks and mortar, like that of snail and shell. If there was a mismatch, then the building had to be modified or the institution was forced to adapt. ... remarking on the British Houses of Parliament, Winston Churchill cast this point into a much-quoted aphorism: we make our buildings and our buildings make us."

5 As Sherri Tracinski said in The Intellectual Activist of April 1998:

The reason architecture seems more difficult to evaluate is that it is non- representational. As Ayn Rand points out, it does not produce a recreation of reality. It does not show us; for example, a building in the shape of a human figure. Nor does it attempt to directly imitate man's natural environment. A column supporting the roof of a house, for example, is not a recreation of a tree. Instead, architecture creates an entirely new environment for man to live in.

This, however, is the key to the artistic power of architecture. Architecture does what no other art can do: All other art forms recreate some portion of the world - a single human figure, or a two-dimensional scene on a canvas. Only architecture can create a total environment, one that literally surrounds the viewer. Architecture creates a man-made, idealized world - an environment created by the architect to fit the kind of life he sees as proper to man. Architecture conveys a view of man indirectly, not by projecting an image of man himself [as sculpture, painting and literature do] but by projecting a proper environment for man to live in.

6 Leon Golden's analysis allows perceptive readers to once again see Rand standing on Aristotle's shoulders when she talks of art 'recreating reality'; one giant standing upon the shoulders of another. Golden has long been known for his advocacy of the view that Aristotle's tragic katharsis is neither medical purgation, nor intellectual purification, but "intellectual clarification" a view that should resonate with Objectivist aestheticians.

In fact, given that Golden is one of the leading contemporary authorities on Aristotle's aesthetics one wonders then why a Canadian neuropsychologist rather than Golden is used by Torres and Kamhi to explicate the Aristotelian theory of mimesis?

7 Sciabarrian, a. to talk in acadamese, or in what appears to be a foreign language.

6 A warning here: Strictly speaking, what Lao Tzu means by 'nothing' is non-existence in the full-blown metaphysical sense. His example of the cup is intended to give praise to the negation of being - non-existence as such - that oriental philosophy views as important. Wright's conception of space is in fact closer to that of Aristotle's notion of place, or topos. Aristotle spoke of space as a 'nest of places,' contextually related to one another; he distinguished between place and form, concluding that the latter contains the former; place being "the interval between the extremities." Lao Tzu's example is more poetically descriptive however.

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