Thursday, December 18, 2014

Modernism Word of the Day; 1 -10


From the Latin 'pasticium', something made of paste such as pasta, pastry, pâté etc. In modern

architecture it is a philosophy of attributed plagiarism. If a design is not completely unique, unrelated to anything that came before it is at risk of receiving the negative label of pastiche.

For example, Frank Gehry's Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA resembles his previous design at the Guggenheim Bilbao leading fellow starchitect Zaha Hadid to accuse him of plagiarizing himself. How pastiche!


'Juxta' from the Latin root meaning to 'approach, join together', in the sense of violent conflict,
"jousting" or rape, "jostle". So the prevailing theory goes that by placing aggressive contrasts together of Modern and traditional architecture it helps the traditional to 'pop' visually so we can appreciate it more. 

From the Geman 'zeit', time and 'geist', ghost. Translated the 'spirit of the times', a prevailing theory that architecture can not possibly be a leading factor of human culture rather it should only strive to reflect the times. Anxiety, aggression and collision anyone?  


The specific use of this otherwise common word seems to have been appropriated from the field of fluid dynamics where unbroken lines and untextured planes are critical engineering concepts to minimize turbulence.

Ironically, much of the architecture designed according to these precepts is challenging to keep clean in the conventional sense.


The basic definition is a thin, non-structural exterior wall that acts as a rain screen. Most curtain walls are proprietary, high embodied energy extruded aluminum systems with glass panel infill. They have a working R-value of around 3 and let a ton of solar gain into the building. Windows are typically inoperable resulting in a hermetically sealed building wholly dependent on mechanical systems and caulk which must be replaced every 10 years.


= God


From the Greek ἀνά, ana meaning "against" and χρόνος, khronos meaning "time". Time is a very,
very important tenet of Modernism. Much more so than place or culture.

Built in 2006, the Schermerhorn Symphony Center would be considered in denial or fighting time, thrice wise in fact. It revives Renaissance forms, which in turn revived Roman forms, which in turn revived Greek forms. I suppose it is considered a kind of zombie architecture.  


Commonly held amongst our various architectural traditions, man had always been held as the subject of architectural design, the building was to be the objective reality, an outward expression reflecting his inner, spiritual nature. In stark contrast, Modern architecture enforces the complete extinguishment of any lingering artifacts of human culture, employing a complete reversal of the traditional thought process of design. The new doctrine dictates that "Form" was to follow only practical "Functions". The building and the attendant practical efficiencies of construction usurp the position of subject, placing people as just one amongst many objects such as chairs, toilets, stairs etc. populating the structure.


A fixed window, door or portal penetrating the building skin and surrounded by cladding. Maintenance free (or unmaintainable), the thermal multiple-paned units are replaced as the seals begin to fail, a 15 to 20 year life cycle for the higher end commercial models.


The maturation of Frank Lloyd Wright's earlier work as part of the Prairie Style movement; middle class homes situated in a natural landscape characterized by flat, cantilevered roofs, 90 degree angles and clerestory windows.

Many Usonian homes retained a significant amount of craft, utilized local materials while significant design effort was made to utilize natural cooling and light as well as passive solar gain combined with radiant floors for heating. This almost makes up for the fact that they all leak like a sieve.

Contributed by Patrick Webb

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