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Viagra-tecture

November 21, 2015

image

This house Is this week’s featured project on the website Architizer. It’s Big Gesture is an outsized cantilever – nothing new: I just returned from a near 80 year old precedent:

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But the message behind the images is often lost: extremity is often its own reward. Fallingwater is a masterwork, an intricate dance between site and building far more subtle and enriched than 2D images can convey.

The problem is we only have images to view for 99% of what we see in architecture: Architizer is HOUZZ for architects. Both sites, as with any website, aspire to hits.

Extremity gets hits. “Sex sells”.

The first internet images that a physicist friend said were on the World Wide Web were pornography. Extremity of image and primal connection to the most basic lizard parts of our brains grab attention and do not let go: they goad the viewer to seek more images,and more and more.

In architecture that means the thrill of the new: but the more “New” strives to be “Newer” we instinctively seek “Newest”. It’s a circular, impossible logic that overlays all the other aspects of building: money, materiality, environment, use. It’s an unquenchable thirst: not slaked by ever increasing extremity.

Fallingwater ended up at 5times budget. It’s cantilevers sag relentlessly. It never stops leaking – over 20 permanent, never-ending leaks. The pitch for donations at the end of our tour noted it takes $2,700,000 per year to conduct tours and maintain the building.

Fallingwater is a masterpiece.

But is it a house?

It was a weekend home: but clearly the Kaufman’s knew they were living, weekends, in art.

Is porn love?

Sex wants to be an act of love: but often it’s scratching an itch. Houses want to be homes: but architects want to make masterpieces.

Just like romance and sex occur together all the time, homes can be great architecture. But there are one night stands in sex and in architecture. The ends of expressing genius often justify extreme impacts on families like the Kaufman’s.

When love is not enough, men take Viagra. When the intense devotion of a family to express itself is not enough, architects aspire to genius. Without that aspiration innovation is lost.

But very little Viagra is used for erectile dysfunction – it just makes sex more extreme (or so I have been told). Viagra is unnecessary, as is porn, as is Fallingwater. But the joy they all give is as real as the safety of the basic Capes that kept the Pilgrims alive.

The Kaufman’s knew what they were getting from Frank Lloyd Wright. But the viewers of images on Architizer or HOUZZ cannot know about the costs, misfits and fixings that plague their occupants.

But that’s OK because they are just images on a screen. Part of us wants what Erica Jong called “zipless” sex in architecture – no strings, no meaning other than the moment and the sensation.

But our profession often think images are architecture. Being in Fallingwater showed how shallow images are. “Zipless” design is not design at all, its the image of design. Photoshop can make anything anything. What used to require distortional interpretation can now be realized: virtually, if not experientially.

Porn is not love, and it’s not even sex, but the blurring of the images and the act and the feelings can simulate intimacy via profanity.

Architecture is not images. But that reality is lost on those who want to feel they can define it, ignoring the vast majority of what buildings are.

We are losing the experientiality of architecture: just as porn removes humanity from sex, obsession over image takes the life out of buildings. I hope that the thrill of zipless architecture wanes as its unsatisfying inaccuracies become ashes in our culture’s mouth.

Finding hope in burn out is a sad thing.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. November 21, 2015 9:42 am

    Dickinson that is the best column that I have read of yours to date ———- 😉

  2. dwmarc2014 permalink
    November 23, 2015 10:50 am

    The multiplication of images of every sort continues exponentially. Actually Houzz is capable of doing residential architects some good, in that our little group is often given some credit. Contrast this to HGTV, where we no longer exist, having been written out by yahoos of every stripe. The biggest purveyor of archiporn is clearly the AIA awards program anywhere USA. Yet this same organization did nothing but stand by and watch as the HGTV programmers erased us from the picture- an anti-porn crusade, if you will.

    I met a young interior designer hawking her new book at a bookfair in DC recently. In the photos of her work, she handily disclosed that if the room has good bones, she shoots the entity; if not just the details. So architecture is now reduced to the secret sauce of the ID trade, for those savvy enough to employ it.

  3. November 24, 2015 2:15 pm

    Kudos to you! This is a terrific piece. Thank you.

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