Saturday, June 30, 2007
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
I am in North Carolina again until July 3, basking in southern humidity and parental hospitality while I parse the infinite and profound lessons of my ongoing international investigation. Since the sorting has so far been the frustrating opposite of instantaneous, I try to spend as much time outside as possible QT'ing with my dog and reveling in the bliss of a perpetually available washing machine. This image is of an interim project to the north of my parents' house: bounding some previously planted bushes and roping our arbor into the gently rising hillside.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 8:34 PM
Monday, June 25, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
A few of the more legible (to me, at least) European sketchbook pages, freshly scanned and occasionally relatable to the grand scholarly scheme.....
Corbusier's cabin and gravesite in Cap Martin, France
Villa Savoye in Poissy, France
Notre Dame au Haut in Ronchamp, France
Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, Italy
Laurentian cloister and sculpture in Florence, Italy
Artwork from Rijksmuseum and Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands and from Leopold Museum in Vienna, Austria
Scuola Grande di San Giovanni Evangelista in Venice, Italy
Ca' d'Oro in Venice, Italy
The Peristyle in Split, Croatia
Wiessenhof Siedlung in Stuttgart, Germany
Olympic Park in Munich, Germany
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 7:49 AM
Saturday, June 16, 2007
Tuesday, June 5, 2007
*This map, scanned from National Geographic of October 2006, plots Paris' extensive park system. I have highlighted my objects of inquiry, Place des Vosges and the Promenade Plantée, in red.
Designed by Jacques Vergely (landscape architect) and Philippe Mathieux (architect), the promenade is a 2.8 mile elevated park in Paris’ 12th arrondissement that extends from Opera Bastille to the eastern city limits. It reinhabits a 19th century railway viaduct abandoned since 1969 and has inspired several United States parks-in-progress including the High Line in New York, the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago, and the Reading Viaduct in Philadelphia.
I took the three images above from the promenade’s primary section, called Viaduc des Arts. Here the park perches above broad supporting arches filled with arts and crafts workshops, visible in the image at right. The image at center captures the typical condition above: a wide, paved path with periodic resting points engulfed in an overwhelming explosion of greenery whose novel vantage surrenders cinematically screened city views. Panoramas appear when a wider street must be spanned and the viaduct section correspondingly thinned, as on the image to the left. Note that, in the right and left images, the smaller promenade plants naturally conform to the street trees’ height, reinforcing the raised relationship to and urban unity with the
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 10:06 AM
*the place and its context cropped by a 1,500' x 1,500' frame. Lines in red represent building plans I have collected thus far.
The plaza, originally Place Royale, was designed by Baptiste du Cerceau under Henri IV and completed in 1612. Behind a unified façade punctuated by the king and queen’s axial personal pavilions, individual properties were given loose rein. Hence, a host of architects participated in the development’s realization despite its single-hand appearance.
Though the Place is not connected to a major urban artery it does yield one of its sides to a minor throughway, shown in the image to the left. Here, to the north, the place’s façade lies flush with the Parisian fabric, its residential depth embedded and its loggia capped by flanking storefronts. Without the three other walls off-camera to the left, this royal construction could seem to be but a pleasant private development.
The image to the right shows two of those other walls and the family-friendly park space they surround, chaperoned by fountains and foliage. Green seems to do more in
*Top image scanned from Leonardo Benevolo's The History of the City, pg. 655
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 9:42 AM
Sunday, June 3, 2007
Playing my Corbusian cards like they’re going out of [international] style, I visited Ronchamp today. I intended to spend half a day there and half a day at a canal lock he designed—what with trying to stay within my fundamental underlying initial infrastructural framework and all—but there was only one bus to the lock at noon, sans return. So I was proud to dedicate a day to the chapel, which turned out a fitting move on account of its richness and relatively remote location. I’m showing the chapel in its classic contrapposto here because it encapsulates several features in one go . . . and because it was one of the few sunny photographs managed to snatch. At the same time, it strikes me that such a faux-totalizing view tends to construe the masterpiece as more of a toadstool or clog-stand, dispensing with the roving complexity that marks its true genius. There is a lot to this building that the photograph doesn’t show, and even if I couldn’t see it (said with brow-furrowed gravitas), I at least got to take a gander.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 9:17 AM
I paid a visit to Corbusier’s Firminy complex—about 45 minutes outside of Lyon by regional train—and spent most of my time out of the rain in the
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 9:14 AM
Since I first saw them last summer I’ve been interested in the system of corridors and courtyards, called “traboules,” that intersperse
Those doorways presented a considerable frustration until I made the brilliant discovery (i.e. some French guy showed me) that the “service” button opened each and every one without the least bit of resistance. Instant gratification from there on out. In the narrow streets I was jowl-to-jowl with tourists, schoolchildren, and miserably oversized delivery trucks … but once each door closed behind me I entered my own magical world of spiral stairs and anthropomorphic vaulting.
I chose one particularly rich block, which I’ve colored red in the top two pictures above, to bound my investigation. Note its breadth and spiky heterogeneity, marked as it is by multitudinous chimneys and stair towers. One particularly agile traboule courses completely through but twenty or so others inject themselves an average of forty or fifty feet in before turning vertical and dissipating around their courtyards’ perimeter.
As was the case with
*Top image scanned from Raymond Chevallier's France from the Air
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 9:11 AM
Today I dug further into my sack of architectural self-indulgence by visiting La Tourette, Le Corbusier’s Dominican monastery. Walking through it I felt inverted echoes of the scores of buildings it has inspired—from the Elkin Public Library, through Koolhaas’ Kusthal, and deep (if depth is possible) into the very core of Richard Meier’s raison d'etre. Simultaneously mass, landscape, and volume, the monastery conforms to a simple programmatic diagram and a liberally collaged composition. It was a visceral visit and I spent the day wrestling with the building’s awareness of ground, its interplay of darkness and light, and its pervasive material irregularity. The building is a messy, sloppy masterpiece, if for nothing else than the pure ballsiness of its sculptural maneuvers.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 9:10 AM
Come for the Corbusier, stay for the Grand Prix, I suppose. The engines’ whine was clearly audible from the cabin’s front door (I’ve placed a red rectangle around
The top panorama pictures the cove toward the end of the evening. The water is filled with multi-million dollar yachts and the red cranes to the right are busy disassembling barriers and a huge television screen. I’ve placed a red rectangle around where I took the next panorama, just below, earlier in the evening. For me to walk on those bleachers a few hours earlier would have cost 750 Euros, because the race circled the harbor where the yellow moving van and red truck can be seen. On the other side of the road are the yachts, which comfortably replace the American skybox or the RV parked in the middle of a NASCAR competition.
The third image is taken from the opposite direction, standing alongside the track. I include it to reiterate the relationship between stands and yachts and to look with a little more depth at the road boundary mechanism. Here, barriers keep rogue formula 1 racecars in as much as they keep rambunctious spectators out. The setup consisted largely of highway guide rails, chain-link fencing, and lashed-together automobile tires (the chain-link fencing has already been taken down here). Tires struck me as slightly morbid but I suppose it’s a bit like the native Americans using every part of the buffalo.
Unlike other urban celebrations I’ve seen, the Gran Prix is decidedly non-participatory, at least for the duration of the race. It is a carefully regulated linear spectacle, with controlled viewpoints (120 Euros for standing room) and constructed seating. It paralyzes the city for a brief, spectacular, and incredibly lucrative spasm and then life continues and street traffic resumes….only in this case, street traffic consists of Lamborghinis and trophy wives and the life consists of gambling and martinis on the rocks. I thought I had it good to be paid to travel for a year but this event left me feeling absolutely insignificant in the socio-economic scheme of things.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 9:07 AM
I visited Corbusier’s holiday cabin—the only house he ever built for himself—and hiked up the hillside to pay my respects to his gravesite. The design of the one seems to have informed the composition of the other. It was a powerful experience to inhabit the natural environment that so affected the greatest architect of the twentieth century: a steep, rocky landscape that gives way to the two shades of blue.
The cabin sits just above the sea, just below the railroad tracks, and along the aptly named Promenade Le Corbusier. Its door was locked and its windows shuttered but, registering with the Cap Martin tourist office, I was able to take a look inside the next day. After sketching my lodgings’ close quarters for the last few months I felt primed to take in Corbusier’s lessons in diminutive dimensions. That the exterior rusticity is but a self-conscious appliqué is belied by its selective, idiosyncratic fenestration. My excitement to step inside was well-rewarded, needless to say.
After some searching and a bit of charades with the locals, I found Corbusier’s grave in a local cemetery beside the medieval chateau. Understated, its concrete squre-and-golden-rectangle design is unmistakably his, with a cylindrical planter to represent his wife, Yvonne and a stylized shed for himself. Though it faces away from the sea instead of toward it, the resemblance to the cabin and its rounded retaining wall is unmistakable. I’m not necessarily keen on pilgrimage but I never feel as content traveling as I do when I’m off on a Corbusian tangent. Even his headstone is an instructive manifesto.
Posted by Andrew_Ballard at 8:58 AM