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Posts Tagged ‘architecture

Book Arts

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S,M,L,XL 2000


Jose Dávila, S,M,L,XL 2000


A Boing Boing post last week featured book sculptor Brian Dettmer’s work. It got me thinking about another artist, Jose Dávila.  I came across Dávila’s work while researching criticism of Rem Koolhaas’ mega-book S,M,L,XL.  When Koolhaas created S,M,L,XL, he encouraged criticism of the publication as vulgar and confusing; that was the point. Nonetheless, the book was often written off as extravagant and empty. 

Dávila was one of the more offended critics. His reaction to the book involved its destruction for the purpose of his art. As an artist fascinated with the political conceptual art of the 60s and 70s, his work sought emphemerality, was site-specific and irreproducible. Dávila was convinced that theories of dematerialization were best conveyed not in the creation of books, but in their demolition.   For a project, he sliced S,M,L,XL into four pieces, each ranging in size from small, medium, large and extra-large pieces. Taking S,M,L,XL as the quintessence of the state of the art book publishing, Dávila conveyed his discontent by rendering the book useless as anything but a sculptural object. 

To him, even intact, the big books of art and architecture were unable to achieve a non-sculptural importance as the books were “expensive, over-designed publications that are usually entirely devoid of content.” This reception of S,M,L,XL is troubling because Dávila construes the wealth of content in the book (which could even be considered as too much) as nothing. While he has duly noted that the image rich publications like those of Koolhaas and Bruce Mau (graphic designer and co-author of S,M,L,XL) “sacrifice readability for the sake of flashing design, he neglects to engage the compromised readability for a productive result. Complicated doesn’t always equal unusable.

Dávila cannot counterbalance the book’s artistic merit with its role as commodified object.  In referring to the book as an unreadable prop, he is basically refusing to consider anything other than the black text on white paper in non-descript covers as books. S,M,L,XL is a legitimate manifesto, and the hallmark essay “Bigness” is frequently cited in architecture and urban planning texts. Part of the brilliance of S,M,L,XL and certainly integral in its success is the harmonious embodiment of aesthetic object and useful object. And because many critics encountered an entirely new and not readily understandable form in S,M,L,XL, their reactions only scratched the surface of the work’s complexities. 

Jose Dávila, Temporality is a Question of Survival (London: Camden Arts Centre, 2001), 30-32. 


Written by beckyquintal

March 23, 2009 at 1:26 am

I Think This Building is FIT

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Paul Shaw, typographer and calligrapher extraordinaire, can find the positive in anything (or maybe just the lettering). He recently led a group of design critics (me included) by the Fashion Institute of Technology, pointing out the unique lettering that displays FIT’s namesake. The three-dimensional type casts a shadow on the brutalist concrete facade. This might be the only celebrated feature on this building nowadays:  the majority of its inhabitants (I assume), probably hate the behemoth. Quirky, weird buildings seem to be on their way out, or at least those from the 60s are.

It is only a matter of time before this building is added to the hit list, destined to join St. Vincent’s O’Toole Building on death row. I appreciate how it interacts with the street, the building arching over 27th Street like a sky-bridge. Do you like the building, or do you think the only positive is the lettering?

Written by Wegener

March 22, 2009 at 1:11 am

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LoMEX Revisited

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Never has a map sent chills down my spine (okay that’s a lie). The Lower Manhattan Expressway probably seems like a bad idea in retrospect–but Robert Moses almost built it. We know what happened to cities throughout the country as freeways sliced them apart: usually the affected neighborhoods were destroyed or at least separated from one another. This is what would have happened to SoHo and the LES, had Jane Jacobs not intervenied in the 1960s.

How would Manhattan have been different if the LoMEX came to pass?

Written by Wegener

March 22, 2009 at 12:35 am

Death of Modernism, Part II

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If you didn’t catch the link at the end of the previous post (“Watching, Hearing The Death Of Modernism”) Then here is that clip again. Remember to fast forward to about 0:35:00 for some “deconstruction.”

Written by Wegener

March 16, 2009 at 5:58 pm

Posted in architecture, Did You Know?

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Looking Around

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I was “looking around” and having difficulty finding Richard Lacayo’s blog on art and architecture. Somehow Mr. Lacayo has the time to write long essay critiques in addition to the regular columns he publishes. I’m not sure if I agree with how he addresses architecture (as it is closer to art than I might like) but it shows how difficult it is to get an audience for this stuff. There are rarely comments on his board (as opposed to the easy debate starting political topics). Is this the fault of the magazine? The audience? Or the content?

Written by Wegener

March 6, 2009 at 3:18 am

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Bill Gates Cribs

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What would your dream house look like? For royalty, how to best show off wealth has changed somewhat from past to present. What Louis XVI desired in a home is much different than, say, Bill Gates.  A 3D flythrough animation of Gates’ new home in Seattle (or a bit outside of it perhaps) inspired a few thoughts:

1) Everyone that enters wears a “pin” that activates personal settings for each room (music customized to each person, etc).  I wonder if we can expect this in our homes of the future?  Also cool: lights that automatically adjust to incoming natural light levels.

2) Funny how the creator of Microsoft gets such a crappy animation . . haha just kidding secret architecture firm, you know i love you.

3) Overall, its wood and glass aesthetic is certainly a contrast from Louis XVI’s Versailles. But the technology is, in a way, baroque gaudiness.

Which would you rather live in?

Written by Wegener

March 4, 2009 at 11:04 pm

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