Cosmograms + Pompeions

15/06/2014 Comments Off on Cosmograms + Pompeions

The catalogue edition of the Architecture of the Processional City atelier is now available to view online. Co-edited by Olivia Paine, Raphaé Memon and James Taylor-Foster, this publication gives a concise overview of the research and design work undertaken by the atelier of 2013/2014.

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06/03/2014 Comments Off on Aura

Abstract form process (s)

Processional activity is a method for making the ethereal feel real, and the distant appear closer through congregational activity embedded with both individualistic and corporeal sensory experiences. It is the experience and evaluation of time for all participants which is opened for own interpretation with some point of personal identity and recognition with the event. Individually, through historical consciousness, we project procession onto the urban fabric as ‘prejudices and fore-meanings in the mind of the interpreter’ (Gadamer, 2004). However, identification is primarily a social concept, concerned with defining the processes that organize the human cognitive condition. Identity is simultaneously collective and individual, because we can never solely identify ourselves as either part of a group or as an individual, both always exist. The act of processing is the practice of recognising oneself as being part of a community on a meso social scale. It invites us to re-orientate ourselves with in the city, beyond the immediate confines of the building. Rather than serving to break down social barriers and join the group into an undifferentiated unity, the procession fluctuate between the foreground, middleground and background of different realities in ordering to establish a ‘meaningful whole’, just like an aura or a field of congregation.

Such observations can also be applied to understanding of the baroque as an intense sensory assault and how it corresponds to the analysis of both urban and architectural settings. Rather than using the term ‘baroque to simply’ describe the cultural movement, Patrick Lynch’s notions of the baroque city infers that it is more valuable as ‘a way of thinking about the world and of re-representing this worldview in spatial settings’. He goes as far as to suggest that considering ‘art has largely become spectacle today, and public life a series of spectacles’, ‘the baroque period marks the birth of modernity’. The duality of “man and the world” has often be understood as the dialogue of “man and the environment”, which the environment appears as the articulation and embodiment of our life that endures our experience in the world. Vividness of the memory of a building in our mind suggests that the environment is reciprocity of the actual and the possible.

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Inspired by Peter G. Rowe’s notions of Civic Realism, the investigation opens up the idea of power sharing interests between authorities and various elements of civic society by introducing interpretation of community. Rowe pulls the various themes of Civic Realism together and summarises the thesis that the civic realm lies between the public and private aspects of our lives although it tends to be produced by both. Derived from mainly informal networks of associations of society, favorable social and political conditions are required for good civic space to come about. Also the term civic represents a point of view about public
conduct. Something civic is educational and worthy of being seen and heard in public, and furthermore something to be passed on to further generations with pride. It is not a style or specific aesthetic ideology. It is at first a transcending state of being in the world, and secondly an orientation or principles to be taken and implemented when making urban architecture into something that is civic, and is distinct from simply being public or personal experience. Co-extensive space contain a pluralism of attitudes with a sense of common accord: they are adaptive, and support everyday life, and allow for group or individual expression.

My first program intention is using gold as the metaphoric representation of ‘aura’, which ties to the mentioned agenda in twofold.
First, Gold means Halo means Aura. The chemical element gold with the symbol Au, from the Latin word aurum, meaning ‘shinning dawn’. The continuous use of gold leaf for haloes in majority of panel painting was considered a shiny, lively and reflective medium and was a metaphor since the late Middle Ages. Noticing that gold is the material that enhances the radiation of holiness, it has the same property as aura. It is always a ‘foreground material’ that oscillates between the planes of reality, the earthly and heavenly spheres, and forms the best effect of an iconological auratic presentation. Gold in its sacred shrine and symbol of authority could be understood as the mediator between observer and the significance of the parading institution.

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“the gold ground is a metaphor of the supernatural light and symbolizes other-worldliness.[…], it ‘embodies both material and immaterial values.’ 

-Warhold Gold Marilyn (1962)

Second, Gold is the kind of transcending value from civic to individuals. Paintings, stone artworks, textiles and metal were usually glided to look like real gold for decoration purposes. Gold has to fulfill the highest demands and in the past, in every era and every culture, it was reserved for the ruling houses and the senior clergy. The basic value of human passion on gold, always similar, and present in all cultures and eras since very beginning of civilization. From crafting objects of worship and beautification to coining elegant coins as means of exchange and stores of wealth, the varying religious and economic values attached to gold are a result of changing of point of view. Nevertheless the value of gold lies on all aspects of meaning. On one hand, for some of the authorities, gold collection in treasury is a showcase (an icon) of the significance of power ; on the other hand it is crafted as jewelry for individual’s creative appreciation. This is coherent with processional display of power thought the icon that transformed to an individual synaesthetic experience.

Theorisation and Consolidation Theorisation and Consolidation2

Ancient Inscription

28/02/2014 Comments Off on Ancient Inscription

The decoration of the first Roman sarcophagi reflect anxieties and questions about life after death. The examples shown are pretexts for a demonstration of the supreme Roman ethical value, courage. Roman funerary art indulges in all manner of aesthetic experimentation, such as the play of light and shadow, depth of field, balance and continuation of form. The first Christian sarcophagi would soon forsake these ostentatious effects for clarity and symmetry.

‘Dionysus discovering Ariadne’ . Ca. 235 AD. Rome, Saint-Medard-d’Eyrans.
Mythological frieze sarcophagus showing the Labors of Hercules. Ca. 240-250 AD. Rome, Palazzo Altemps.

These linear strips of decoration, also seen in the carved friezes of Hoysaleshwara temple are processional in nature. What holds it together is the formal rhythm of the ritual itself, though the details are important, a consistent attribute is regularised motion.
Ornate molding frieze at Hoysaleshwara temple, Halebidu

Here the “Hellenic” style reaches its fullest expression. Yet if we compare the Ara Pacis procession with that on the Parthenon, we see how different they really are, despite the many surface similarities. The parthenon frieze belongs to an ideal timeless world. What holds it together is the formal rhythm of the ritual itself, not its details. The Ara Pacis, in contrast, celebrates a recent event- probably the founding of the altar. It has been idealized to evoke the solemn air that surrounds the Parthenon procession, yet it is filled with the concrete details of a remembered occasion. The participants, at least those belonging to the imperial family, are meant to be portraits, although all are idealized as well. The detail of the attire, from shrouds, togas and mantles is clearly exhausted.

Imperial Procession, a portion of the frieze of the Ara Pacis, 13 B.C, Marble

Procession, a portion of the east frieze, Parthenon 440 B.C Marble

A Cacophony of Private Rituals

08/01/2014 Comments Off on A Cacophony of Private Rituals

The Dutch Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder | Click on the image to see it in high resolution

The Dutch Proverbs by Pieter Bruegel the Elder | Click on the image to see it in high resolution

Inscribing Space, Inscribing Words, Inscribing Mind

01/12/2013 Comments Off on Inscribing Space, Inscribing Words, Inscribing Mind

Every procession whether a choreographed parade through the city or an individuals journey through a market place has a prescribed route and, as shown in David Leatherbarrow’s text “Architecture Oriented Otherwise”, any prescription will leave an inscription on space after use. This can be as simple as a conversation with a stall holder or as complicated as the collective procession creating a moment of “frozen ritual” within an everyday area. Procession, whether big or small, speaks to the masses on a pedestrian level, mirroring social conventions and altering everyday norms.

Inscribing space is merely a stones throw away from Inscribing words. Indeed, text has often been used as a reinforcement of processional intent. The Remembrance day Parade gathers around the plaque commemorating lost soldiers, providing a centre piece for the service. It is then redigested by the city as the masses swarm forward to pay their respects. The act of reading these etched words elevates the onlooker to the processional level, making it clear to see that writing is merely another form of processional activity.

Writing has a beginning, middle and end, just the same as any procession and, like processions, it tells a narrative which is derived from society itself. There is a constant eb and flow of ideas between society and author; both finding inspiration in the other, both representing it back to the other with slight alterations to the everyday norm. It is this circular process which inscribes the mind, not once, but a constant process of overwriting which develops theories, explores plots and explains narratives. An education through procession.

The Junction between Inscribed Space and Word

Compressed World: Decompressed Kosmos

29/11/2013 Comments Off on Compressed World: Decompressed Kosmos

Harley 647 f.21v

The wider social life of the city is compressed during a procession.  Inversely, ideal archetypes are decompressed in order to generate a field of meaning.  This ancient image, sourced from the British Library and taken from Retronaut, wraps – or warps – the outward flow of an emanating cosmos into a dense figure.  Emanation is followed by an implied reciprocal movement – return.

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