Diagraphics of Geometrical Footprint (ichnography):
House for M. Nicoli, Mechanicsville, Ottawa 11/02/2001
"If the Hintonburg area of Ottawa is considered the most vibrant residential quarter of the City, because of an eclectic social fabric that seems to have created a model collective, promiscuous, friendly, warm, caring and unpretentious, because of an eccentric physical environment apparently lacking in savable, if at all any, architecture (notwithstanding the priceless Cathedral of St. Francis D'Assisi) but that still, in its inimitable individualistic, artistic fashion, displays polychromatic streetscapes and facades that satisfy the bohemian in every eye, because, though it does not have a subway, it does have its own challenging "underground", because, since it has been a non prioritized area, iconoclastic interests have not interfered with its natural historical dynamic, then, Mechanicsville, that sector of the area between it an the Ottawa River and separated from it by the OCTranspo urbatechtonic1 rift, is definitely the richest part of its seemingly overlooked and forgotten soul, the muted and enfeebled ever present deep base heartbeat of the community, and it is there, like a neglected mistress."2
The revitalizing of Mechanicsville has begun, albeit slowly, and albeit with good and atrocious spectacles of urban "upgrade" . Espousing doing with current structuralist-formalist tendencies, the latter of the two, in their limited understanding of "contextualism", and indoctrinated by metropolitan behavioural guidelines3, genuflect to it, beging for their legitimacy.
Our diagraph above demonstrates a conceptual attitude which steps aside from that structuralist and formalist posturing-in-ignorance by engaging a doing that includes knowledge of the social, cultural and anthropological dimensions of the area as well as awareness of the demands placed upon it by the superimposition and transformation of its self-made, continually reconcretizing and manifesting urbatectonic history, and whereby standing antithetical to metropolitanity4.
Contemplated is an architectural doing that becomes relevant to its place and time, as it celebrates its triumphant becoming5 while in instances allowing a seemingly narcissistic exhibition of: its own seductive force as science/art; of its new and sophisticated technologies; and of its artistic use of materials.
Achievable is an architecture which never disdains to be placed alongside its humble predecessors6 but, in fact, redefines their value by engaging and including them in its contemporary field of view7 such that they participate in a rhetoric8 of "decontextualization"-- an archetypal, aesthetic formative principle of Mechanicsville.
1. Urbatectonic -- A nice new word the European urbanists/architects (Vincenzo Russi, et al.) have recently coined to mean-- the city viewed or understood to be like a complex piece of architecture, and all its physical parts or characteristics being like all the little pieces that go into making a building. As a student influenced by the writings of Lewis Mumford and Dimitri Stiliaras more so that Rossi and Argan, and still being so today, my immediate interpretation of the word was that of a beautiful concise way of representing the idea of the 2000 years of architectural epistemologies dealing with the study and understanding of how an individual piece of "architecture" effected the myriad of forces (physical, political, aesthetical) at play in fashioning those human settlement patterns know as urbs.
2. From essay, "Synderesis and the Hintenburg Archipelago", by O. Sbrissa
3. See " Metropolis and Mental Life" , essay by Georg Simmel from "The Sociology of Gorg Simmel", New York: Free Press, 1950, pp.409-424
4. According to Massimo Cacciari: "... metropolis is the phase, or the problem, of the rationalization of the relations of production. The form of the process is one which abstracts from the personal and rebuilds upon subjectivity as calculation, reason, interest. ...There is no truly developed intellectual life beyond the "metropolitan type", beyond the metropolis; nor any metropolis that does not express the life of the mind--of reason, that is, in a fully developed form that has successfully integrated within itself the sphere of the social, in all its ramifications."
--Massimo Cacciari, "Architecture and Nihilism: on the Philosophy of Modern Architecture", Yale University Press, 1993, p. 4
Thus, by "metropolitanity" we imply, metropolis, as a social condition(er), limited to the propagation of and legitimized solely by our intellectual nature. All the other of ourself must confront it and the tensions between it and our other natures. This confrontation (rather than fostering a negative reaction like that of Nietzche's or Ruskin's) becomes the objective reason for the artistic trans-avantgarde (for more on this see, Achille Bonito Oliva, "Antipatia, L'arte contemporanea", Feltrinelli, 1987).
5. The city can never be such a simplistic thing as is a building1 and a building must put up its individual struggle to "be" in the city, just as city has to wrangle to be of metropolis. In keeping with Munford's allusions, the city, as a human invention, is like a dungheap2 upon which flowers (and mushrooms) do grow. In that faecal chaos"the supreme beauty, indeed the supreme order are exactly those of a chaos which only maintains contact with eros in order to unfold itself into a harmoneous world" (Friedrich von Schlegel).6. "... l'architetto può essere inteso non come propositore di nuove soluzioni dell'abitare, ma come attento studioso delle valenze progettuali tratte dalla stessa città, in particolare la sua figura è dedita alla libertà artistica e di pensiero, che decostruisce la compatta istituzione del potere, della corruzione, dello sfascio, ricomponendola in uno scenario organico: "fuori di una modernità impegnata, sofferta e disturbata non c'è poesia", ciò che l'architettura di fine millennio consegna al XXI secolo non si riferisce agli eroi d'accademia che tanto hanno teorizzato ma poco realizzato, bensì alla comunicazione dell'uomo corrente: all'eroe quotidiano. "
"A world, a glimmer, or a flower? Glimmering and trembling, trembling and unfolding, a breaking light, an opening flower, it spread in endless succession to itself, ..."
--James Joyce, op.cit.
" a severe image called art glowing like a small and radian flower-- such an image of fiction has haunted me since my first visit to Italy more than forty years ago." --Adrian Stokes, 1968
1. "No wonder, then, that the art of shaping cities is an art quite separate from architecture or music or literature. It may learn a great deal from these other arts, but it cannot imitate them.
--Kevin Linch, "The Image of the City", 1960, MIT Press, p. 2
"For the city should be an organ of love; and the best economy of cities is the care and culture of men." --Lewis Mumford, "The City In History", Harbinger Book, pg.575
2. "The chief function of the city is to convert power into form, energy into culture, dead matter into living symbols of art, biological reproduction into social creativity." -- sup., pg.571
--Vincenzo Russi, "Città e decostruzione: per una semantica dell'architettura e della metropoli contemporanea".
7. "We are not simply observers of this spectacle, but are ourselves a part of it, on the stage with the other participants." Kevin Linch, op.cit.:
We should consider here the double meanings of "spectacle":"something to look at; something to look through. The second meaning, in turn, exploits the double meanings of "to see through": to look at the world by means of a tool that allows a vision otherwise unavailable; to read the spectacle against the grain of its own self-presentation: to refuse to "buy" what the spectacle is selling; to read the spectacle as a symptom of a condition that the spectacle itself was meant to hide." --Earl Jackson Jr. "Another Scene"6. For a deeper understanding of the intended meaning of "eros" and its organic and intimate relation to rhetoric (the legitimate practice of effective communication) see Plato's dialogue in the Phaedrus and Symposium.