Archive for October, 2005

The pot

Monday, October 31st, 2005

Object I made for my CAD CAM class, first assignment
more info

Project: Memento Box

Friday, October 28th, 2005

The Memento Box is a personal door to souvenirs. I designed this interactive box as an attractive passage from door to space. The door leads to my souvenirs and is always slightly opened.

The door to souvenirs

I usually gather my souvenirs, my life memento artefacts into a shoe box . This shoe box gets older with the souvenirs and is such a precious element in my life . Any of the objects it contains recalls a passage in my life .

What if these souvenirs could be recalled though our senses? a smell can prompt a memory, a taste can suddenly recall an old story, e.g. the Madeleine of Marcel Proust and whenever we day dream, memories just pop up to our mind .
However, when we try to concentrate of souvenirs, they just fade away. There is this illusory sensation that it is impossible to grasp them, and the hardest we try, the less clearer the souvenirs become .

What if the process of recalling souvenirs were embedded into a shoe box and what of this shoe box becomes a space, our personal space of souvenirs .

I designed this interactive box as an attractive passage from door to space . The door leads to my souvenirs and is always slightly opened . A bright light shines in the back of the box clarifying a few objects and pictures around it . However, whenever my hand tries to grab what captures the eye, the door closes onto my hand and all is dark again . Whenever I go away for a tiny bit, the door opens up and more lights shine into some parts of my souvenirs and I can travel though them from far away …

This project is my first assignment for the Kinetic Architecture class at Harvard GSD . More information about this project -its computational implementation, design properties, and concept details- can be found on my technical blog .

Inside the box

  • When you first come close to the box, the door is slightly opened with some light in the back. When you come closer, the light turns off and the door closes. If you step back then the door opens mid way and a few lights shine in the back. It never opens up completly as you can never recall all of your memories even from a single moment …
    It connects a bit with Tantalus story where water recedes as he tries to drink and fruits retreat as he tries to reach.
  • Inside the box.
    well you cannot really see everything as it meant to attract you and represent the process of remembering souvenirs. If you go from far away you can then see few Legos everywhere, pictures of my childhood, my favorite doll as a child and few others objects …
  • Process of building the box.Hardware:
    I am using a BASIC Stamp Rev. Dx Module to control a photocell sensor and a servo motor.

    I am using a rotational to linear motion system I made with Legos pieces.

    I am writing in Basic for this Basic Stamp

  • I am using a rotational to linear motion system I made with Legos pieces that is hidden among the Lego objects inside the box
  • Electronics consist of a programable BASIC Stamp Rev. Dx Module, a photocell, few LEd’s, minimum electronic components, and a servo motor
  • From Nokia to Vertu

    Tuesday, October 25th, 2005

    Nokia, from cell phone manufacturer to …

    Nokia has developped 24000 dollars high end luxury phones … vertu
    It raises the design aspect, it is hand craft like a high hand brand. The idea here is to propose the newest material and a taylored service, same idea than Gucci, you buy a Gucci because you try to reach the high end.

    ‘Vertu was born from an obsession to create a personal communication instrument that deployed craftmanship and technology in a way that had never been achieved before’

    on Vertu’s website

    From the product design, GSD course 2315

    The Making of the Modern Architect and Engineer

    Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

    As part of ARCHITECTURE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AN INTRODUCTION, course by Antoine Picon, Harvard University.Pfammatter U., The Making of the Modern Architect and Engineer. The Origins and Development of a Scientific and Industrially Oriented Education, Basel, Boston, Berlin, Birkhäuser, 2000, “The Ecole Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris,” pp. 103-205.



    After 1815 there is a strong progressing industrialization in France and the establishment of an industrial culture of education. Saint Simon had a positive view of the industrial revolution and has influenced the school culture. Alphonse Lavalee has created the Ecole Centrale in 1829 that wanted to create a new system of ‘industrial sciences’. The goal was to provide basic training to generations of architects and engineers, which as a form of ‘armee industrielle’ would allow them to work towards social progress in all countries.France was behind England in term of industrial development (Iron Bridge 1775-1779 compared to the Ponts des Arts 1801-1803. Also bringing French and English industrial progress into line with each other primarily took place in the area of railway engineering.


    Lavalee said that the school should contribute to scientific progress. The notion of industrial sciences is then established as a methodological instrument in establishing the correlation between basic theoretical subjects and practical exercises of application. The ideas of the Enlightenment were formative here in the sense that scientific and technological developments and achievements were to contribute to the general well being. The students activities adressed working processes, production and assembly procedures at the level of actual construction activity (in contrast to the polytechnical school).




    - The modern industrial courses: example of visits to construction and production sites as well as of laboratory experiments which were used as modern forms of teaching and learning in the course of instruction, e.g. Perdonnet’s railway engineering course.
    - The course on mechanical engineering by Colladon (e.g. Construction of water turbines in mechanical engineering).
    - Architectural engineering by Gourlier (civil construction or architecture).
    - Architecture course by Mary as an encyclopedic compendium of the then current state of development of architectural engineering.
    - Features of Architectural theory : structure was art of execution, of erecting a building, determining the site and volume, deciding the proportions and structural features. Mary presented detailed calculations of statistics for arcuated and other structures.
    - Teaching and methodology: step by step process and a sequence program and building site analyzes, the establishment of spatial needs, and the view of the procedural unfolding of solutions…


    The centraux of the first two generations


    - Pelonceau in construction; he was engineer and architect at the same time
    - Trelat in metallurgy
    - Muller as constructeur and architect-engineer (successor of Mary)
    - Edoux as mechanical engineer and the pioneer of the hydraulic elevator
    - Eiffel (tour eiffel)
    - william le baron jenney (american) and the chicago school
    - Moisant as constructeur worked as an engineer and businessman in metal construction production as well as agricultural engineer.
    - Contamin as one of the most famous engineer of the 19th as a mecanicien.
    He created the palais des machines (or Galerie des machines) with Dudert in 1889
    - the engineers of concrete: Coignet (beton agglomere)
    - engineers of services and of the technical quipment of building (e.g. modern heating)
    - civil public construction with for instance Henri de Dion




    The life and work of Gustave Eiffel


    The beginnings of Gustave Eiffel
    He comes from l’ecole centrale and was more an entrepreneur than a designer. He is linked to Nepveu so started a bridge for Nepveu in Bordeau. Eiffel created his company with Seyrig who is a better designer from l’ecole centrale.


    Great achievments
    Viaducts by Nordling and Eiffel was in charge of constructing them, he influenced precision. He improved diagonal bracing and invented rolling devices to move the deck across the span and said that iron should reign.
    The bridge on the Duoro River in Portugal is a bridge based more on intuition. Precision becomes absolutely necessary in construction.
    He also constructed buildings in Paris: le bon marche, and railways.


    The Garabit Viaduct in 1879 is the biggest achievement, it is more parabolic than an arc and there is articulation in the structure.



    The Garabit Viaduct


    Then he created the Statue of Liberty in 1884 as a gift to the US, with a reflection on the pure symbolic element (it is said that this is his mother, a not very smiling mother). He applied his bridge technic onto the statue and because the statue has a hand raised, it create dissymetry.In 1886 it was installed in New York.



    The 300 meters Eiffel Tower in 1889


    Artists were against the tower because Paris was with horizontal lines and said it would disfigured the city. It is a self supporting surface and he invested all his fortune in the tower. 12000 pieces, 700 engineering drawings and at the time it was huge. We enter a time of specialization ex: drawings. Organization: if one part was not very fitting, you had to bring it back so there was a high degree of accuracy. Foundation was detailed and pressure is relatively low. The most difficult part is the groun part because it has four parts to build together, so the performance is not in the high but in the base. There was problems with elevators because of the curves of the Tower so they built two stage elevators. The Eiffel Tower was the radio broadcast system for Paris and Eiffel had an apartment there.


    After the Panama affair, the career of Eiffel was ruined and then he changed career and built tunnels.

    Patterns of Technological Thought

    Saturday, October 22nd, 2005

    Notes taken in the course Architecture Science and technology taught by Antoine Picon at Harvard University. These are notes and were taken quickly during class, beware of the writing style!

    Peters T.-F., Building the Nineteenth Century, Cambridge, Massachusetts, The M.I.T. Press, 1996, Chapter 6, Patterns of Technological Thought: Buildings from the Sayn Foundry to the Galerie des Machines pp. 205-279.

    Like most other prefabricated systems, the Crystal Palace (British) designed by Paxton and Fox in 1851 and destroyed in 1936 was a composite of iron cast and wrought iron, wood, and glass. Its name was due to the fascination of the public for the glass and the light.

    One most fascinating antecedent to the Crystal Palace was the Sayn Foundry created in 1830 by Althans made of Iron with neo gothic detailing.

    Another iron structure (before the Crystal palace) that did not need masonry walls for stability (unsupported iron building): the Kew Palm House by Turner in 1846-1848. It was entirely wrought iron except for the columns and the brackets, it was prefabricated in components and there was simplification and standardization of connections. Turner thought about the hierarchy of structural members and their relationships (advancement in technology in building) with the idea that the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

    New approach to systems: Turner had to think of his building as a complete shape and the dissect it into parts of prefabrication. Open system are then more flexible but need two levels of design: the design of the structural system and the design of the building form. The leap into mathematical literacy between the middle of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th changed the way technologists thought.

    The new method of computing liveload on a bridge desk exemplified the change. In 1825, the suspension bridge pioneer Dufour insisted that there is no sense in over designing a bridge, e.g. The maximum overload does not need to be if the context of use of the bridge did not necessitate it, however one can want to compare similar bridge structures of different plan. Engineers developed models, architects appropriate design, manufacturers: means of production and builders: strategies in construction.

    The crystal palace frame was then a modular assembly with standardized interfaces. Also, Fox thought the building in 3 dimensions whereas most structural designers think primarily in two dimensions. Durand developed his incremental and modular design method around 1800 in France to control architectural form and scale, the Brompton Boilers is one example.

    The conflict between cultural standards for facilities and for works of architects became sharper, e.g. The Eiffel Tower. Competing for superlative height was typically a 19th century preoccupation. And Eiffel found some form of logically ordered thinking process to develop a simple sophisticated catalog of wrought-iron parts and connection rules. The Eiffel tower uses only nine basic connection gussets that are generator of his construction system defining the system geometry. Eiffel designed an open system to build any iron structure. This kit-of-parts approach to construction has been adopted by Mecano in 1904 and engineering construction toy for boys.

    The Eiffel Tower and the Galerie des Machines (by Dutert, 1889) was showing this approach to construction design.The Galerie des Machines was said to be the most appropriate use of Iron in the exhibition of 1889. It was not the first iron frame in which structure determined formal expression, but it did mark the point at which the analytical engineering model, the material, and the manufacturing method became the form.

    In 1851, the Crystal Palace had expressed the open system by default because there had not been time to cover it appropriately. Thirty-eight years later, the Galerie des Machines expressed system and structure by choice.

    Nineteenth century iron construction: from Ironbridge to Crystal Palace

    The material and its evolution
    Iron is the first industrial material even though it existed before. Iron is light compare to a pyramid structure but it requires the engineer to calculate more because of the snow, the wind. It is also the first modern material that makes people happy (modern) and unhappy (artificiality is criticized. At the beginning people were fascinated by the artificial, now we are surrounded by it):

    1- Cast Iron (a lot of carbon), from a furnaise. It is easy to get and resist to compression (it is 60 times the resistance of stone) and limited in term of tension. It is used for arches
    2- Iron proper. Easy to get too and resistant to compression, but big problem: it rusts. It is use for trusses (type of framework with joined usually fixed)
    3- Steel (between the two). Mechanically the most sophisticated, can avoid rust to a certain extent, resist compression and tension

    Evolution and techniques of assemblage
    The production of iron results from innovations: starts with the production in cast iron and the idea is to make cast iron construction cheaper. By the end of the 19s they decarbonate iron by burning carbon.1st they are inspired by carpenters then in the 19th they invent the rivets, then bolting with steel and welding.

    Constructive poetry
    Iron is linked to a new sociability, and allow collective gathering. It is seen as a material to overcome problems in society . Iron will produce a visual crisis.
    In the late 19th century they begin to understand that tubes are to be used for compression and other bridges members in tension (structural poetry)

    How does a material develop?
    Abraham Darby 2 produces cast iron. It starts in engineering then in architecture where the bridge is a strange compromise. In 1830, England produces half of the production of iron and France produces half of what England produces. Later it generalizes. In Paris, Napoleon authorizes two cast iron bridges: le Pont des Arts (in front of le Louvre) designed by architect Cessart and the Austerlitz bridge that will be demolished because of vibration coming from cars that ruin the bridge. Telford proposes the construction of the London Bridge.

    Le Pont des Arts
    The English mills

    The British start to explore cast iron columns and later beams. People are surprised by these buildings because it is so utilitarian, so this is an aesthetic shock.

    Early American developments
    30 years after the development in England, it goes to the US. James Bogardus develop cast iron elements in Soho: prefabricated buildings + decoration.

    Between utility and pleasure
    Iron will be then found in leisure and pleasure places such as parks, new urban life, passages coupled with glass. Iron is then collective gathering and identification of the individual. Other examples, the glass house in the Jardin des Plantes or la Coupole des Halles in Paris by Belanger, le Pont du Carroussel by Pelonceau (now destroyed but it was in front of Le Louvre).

    The glass house - Jardin des Plantes

    The most spectacular is the Britannia Tubular Bridge by Stephensen who used tubes and consolidated them which became an emblematic of British engineering. British seemed more inventive than French when French are more into the arc bridge when British as more interested in new lenticular structure-like forms.

    Britana tubular bridge
    Technology and memory
    New materials can be associated with the total inverse: memory and nostalgia

    The development of suspension bridges
    Iron being accepted as a material is the most essential step. It existed in China for pedestrians but a suspension bridge starts in the US for scale and prices reason then it goes to England. The idea is to suspend deck on chains, the Finley system. In the early 19th century this invention made by Finley became popularized. Telford made the Menai Bridge which is a record. Then it goes through France via Navier and in the mid 1820’s suspension bridges are widespread in France and everybody wants these bridges because it is cheap. There is an anecdote about a catastrophe that happened. The army marched on a bridge and it collapsed. However the resonance problem came from the wind and not from the army.

    Menai bridge by Telford

    Why are suspension bridges important?
    It is the first truly calculated structure that raises the idea of trust of the material (resistance and standard quality). The Seguin Brothers did a survey before launching the suspension bridge. It is the 1st non vitruvian structure (the pyramid type of structure) so they fakely used columns to make the bridge look visually solid until the mid 19th century.

    The crystal palace
    1851 it is the first structure of this size, it is international but there is a national identity; it uses cast iron, wrought iron and carpentry techniques

    The use of iron in architecture
    the problem emerged on how to use iron in architecture. Monuments of iron based: Bibiotheque st Genevieve by Labrouste with cast iron, not revolutionary because cast iron had been around.

    Oxford: the university museum as the bone and skeleton metaphor. The association between gothic and wood is a very british tradition and Viollet le Duc discusses the problem of iron in architecture: Iron is too gothic for architects and it does not ‘look’ solid.

    A Productive Countryside

    Thursday, October 20th, 2005

    As part of ARCHITECTURE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AN INTRODUCTION, course by Antoine Picon, Harvard University.Picon A., French Architects and Engineers in the Age of the Enlightenment, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1992, Chapter 9, “A Productive Countryside,” pp. 211-255.

    as in

    This chapter studies the country in term of cartography, look at the productive aspect of the country and introduce the effect of the state.

    The map was the most important tool for the engineers. Maps could indeed ‘reduce a considerable space to a very restricted space’ and allowing an overall perspective, offer a theoretical approach to the problems raised by the land. Learning to draw map was the deal of the engineer profession: referred to the topography but also learning of the landscape, its logic.
    The ecole des ponts et chaussees organized its instruction around the drawing of maps and until the 1750’s 1760’s maps were linked to the problems of road construction. Then the cartography took another form and were not about real situation anymore but about ideal territories imagined (more symbolic, colors, etc…). The maps drawn by the pupils from the Ponts et Chaussees resembled the art of gardens, due to the scale and the qualities of the relief. Learning to draw a map involved learning to read nature and it signs and involved the use of graphic codes: to represent the grass, one used a pale green. The cartography at the Age of Enlightenment oscillated between the need for conventions and the desire to imitate nature. They introduce some dissymetry into their axial compositions. And whereas the garden in the French style had been an image of plenitude for Blondel, for the engineers it became a simple repertoire of means. The engineer was primarily concerned with physical communication. To link up province by means of roads and canal, to throw builds or build ports. To avoid arbitrariness, the engineer had to proceed rationally and the territory acceded to a programmatic dimension.

    The confrontation between engineer and territory was violent: the engineer was supposed to ‘level the mountains, join up the seas and render the uninhabited mountains fertile’. Country and garden were linked also in the instrumental sense. Then country and garden differed as for instance geometry was no longer derived from the art of architecture, this took on the form of a crisis of representation on .
    The bridge then reconciliated the engineer and nature as it impose continuity upon a fractured terrain. It represented then the fault but also expressed a regularity as much as the road linked the logic of territory and the need of society. There was a convergence between what territory revealed and what the design required. Bruke then discussed the aesthetics of the sublime in 1757. The notion of sublime always reposed on the divided nature, and was independent from any notion of beautiful. Bruke: ’sublime is whatever is fitted in any sort to excite the ideas of pain and danger’ Since the bridge was born from the suffering of the engineer and his workmen, and since the danger in braving the river, it was then regarded as sublime. The bridge helped to express a duality and a conflict: the duality of the engineer (inspired by nature in order to combat it) and a conflict between the ideal landscape revealed by planning and the real landscape with faults.

    The picturesque was intimately linked to painting an the bridge through the sublimity of its origin became picturesque and lost it sanguished character. The maps of the pupils of the Ponts et Chaussees took then a narrative character.
    As Kant puts it: ‘the sublime resided primarily in the mind of the spectator, who had to have an aptitude for the sentiment of (practical) ideas, that is to say, for the moral sentiment. For the engineers, this aptitude was their concern with social utility.
    Preoccupations with territory or with landscape involved a persistent encounter with technology, economy and society, thus Trees on the edge of canals helped to combat deforestation played a big part in the solution of serious problems. The territory was the natural soil in which both experiment and calculation were rooted. The territory in some sense gave rise to planing as the realization of his deepest aspirations.

    By contrast with the town, the country was natural (planning there to perfect it). It was also a tool for both the conception and the execution of the design (which helped to unify these two moments). Finally is represented a catalog of products of every kind, the necessary conditions for economic progress.






    Eighteenth-century bridge building and the split between architects and engineers


    Engineering becomes a profession with ideals and professional organizations in 1747: the first engineering school (civil) in the world.
    Bridge becomes a network thing as a continuation of the road and engineer becomes ambitious by knowing the world.


    Change in conception of bridges in the 18th century
    Before they were massive, semi circular arches, pillars ex: the pont neuf in Paris. Then oval arches in bridges, piers much thinner, and general line of bridge is more tense, more tansparent as possible and bridge becomes intimately linked to circulation on the deck, linked to what is transported along it. In the 18th
    century idea comes about that circulation is good: birth of economy in a sense and bridges are part of this mobility. Flattening of the bridge arches brings more lateral force. There was this idea that redundancy should be avoided and the idea of infrastructure emerges purely to support circulation.


    The bridge transforms itself:
    1- prolongation, a support of the road, bridges used to be isolated parts on the passage
    2- destroy houses on bridges: houses block air movement . It was part of the urban sequence and it becomes a pure infrastructure. Architects want to make bridges no longer a place, but a circulation.


    Perronet and his pont de Neuilly: The decoration becomes minimum as the beauty of the bridge comes from function alone


    Dessin du pont de Neuilly - Projet de Jean-Rodolphe Perronet en 1768

    © Coll. Ecole nationale des Ponts et Chaussées - MS9(1)2



    Concord Bridge: non standard because it has a slope relation with colonnades

    Concord Bridge


    Ideal bridge: chinese bridge as described by travelers, say that ideally brdige should be a colonnade in the water.
    The bridge becomes then the colonnade in the water and becomes a circulatory device very similar to architecture

    Engineering versus architecture
    Longing for autonomy from art and see bridges as pure utilitarian element by refusing linguistic connotations. The dimension of calculation is important too as engineers have aspiration to be better in math using calculs of variations. There is a desire for a new engineering science apart from architecture and proportion. It is a dynamic process where engineers have a new obsession of process in space and time, and we begin to see the relation between labor, construction, pleasure and pain. There is an obsession in the 18th about process and progress, e.g. Charlie Chaplins ‘modern times’.


    The bridge is a part of the territorial system because it is part of the road and engineers merges the territory and nature, and the contraction of distance with this idea that the whole planet can become a garden. There is an implicit disorder that the geometry can’t order the world. Engineers become synonymous with a flight against nature and the bridge is nature redeemed by technology where the bridge is sublime. The structure has an organic relation to the body as the interiorization of being part of the structure. In the 18th century it is the last time the architect and the engineer share the same culture. There is the wealth agriculture mass in which connecting and integrating the wealthy with the rest of the city is done through the infrastructure. Even today technology is meant to pacify things. Architecture has to reason what it is doing and lends towards technology. Transparency is also always about what is shown and what is hidden in that it must hide something in order to reveal others.



    The Abbé de Cordemoy and the Graeco-Gothic Ideal

    Thursday, October 20th, 2005

    As part of ARCHITECTURE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AN INTRODUCTION, course by Antoine Picon, Harvard University.Middleton R., “The Abbé de Cordemoy and the Graeco-Gothic Ideal,” in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, XXV, 1962, XXVI, 1963, pp. 90-123



    The Abbé de Cordemoy’s “New treatise on architecture” (1706) begins the century with a statement of the superiority of Greek over Roman architecture. It looks back past the ancient Roman achievement to the work of the Greeks, whose architecture the Abbe and others saw as being similar in structural principles to Gothic. Needless to say, the Abbe held the peristyle of the Louvre in great respect. The colonnade of Le Louvre by Perrault is seen the “good in the Gothic”, especially the model of space between colonnade (rhythmically paired columns). Soufflot introduced neo-classism, and his idea derives from Fremin and Cordemoy as well as his strong liking for Gothic churches. His experiences on Saint Genevieve’s shows how much Soufflot saw in Gothic the inspiration for modern architecture (Soufflot created the Pantheon to replace the ruined St Genevieve in 1755).


    Middleton R., “The Abbé de Cordemoy and the Graeco-Gothic Ideal: a prelude to romantic classism” in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, XXV, 1962, XXVI, 1963, pp. 278-320

    The ideal church of Cordemoy emerges as a building planned along the lines of a Gothic cathedral but with everything translated into Greek. Perrault wrote on Vitruvius’s work and served as the basis for all Cordemoy’s doctrines.
    Looking for rationality and efficiency, Soufflot analyzes Notre-Dame de Dijon which will be described in Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in his dictionary. The chapter presents the propaganta of gothic that leads architecs to then use columns rather than piers in their church interiors. Soufflot’s rational Gothic aesthetic so dominated architecture in late eighteenth century France. As much as Frézier, he thought that cathedrals were a solution to equilibrium. But Frezier never considered the rich elaboration of Architecture as having and aesthetic raison d’etre, but only technical consideration. Finally Felibien was the one to make the distinction between Gothic ‘ancien’, Gothic ‘moderne’ and wrote about Amiens, Reims, Strasbourg.






    New attitudes and ideals from the colonnade of the Louvre to the Pantheon


    The colonnade of the Louvre
    In the first half of the 17th century, kings wanted to increase size of buildings because they become more egostitical. The Château du Louvre was begun in 1546 and in 1665 Perrault builds the eastern wing crowned by an Italian balustrade along its distinctly non-French flat roof, was a ground-breaking departure in French architecture. ‘His severe design was chosen over a design provided by the great Bernini, who came to Paris for the purpose. Perrault had translated the Roman architect Vitruvius into French. Now Perrault’s rhythmical paired columns form a shadowed colonnade with a central pedimented triumphal arch entrance raised on a high, rather defensive basement, in a restrained classicizing baroque manner that has provided models for grand edifices in Europe and America for centuries.’


    La colonnade du Louvre


    it is a greco-roman building huge in scale (one of the main problem because it is a mix between ancien and modern), free standing columns. The colonnade are unorthodox in their construction because of a vaulted structure and it has double columns which differs from the type roman temples. The steel reinforce the entire structure. It then appears like a monolith, actually a vaulted structure and this makes it a building that does not function as it looks thus it leads to the notion of structure.


    Perrault who built the colonnade was a physician and anatomist and interested on physiology whose vision was a little different than descartes (tension not as natural in the body) versus for Perrault body is naturally tense, animal spirits relax the muscles, the idea comes naturally to use iron in tension for building reinforcing and the notion of structure emgerges at the beginning of the study of anatomy, a colonnade is a bit like a skeletal structure. The colonnade left unfinished until mid 18th and most of the great colonnades of the 18th are made of reinforced iron.


    Churches, Pantheon
    Reconstruction of St Genevieve. Inside there is two colonnades with vault and putting iron everywhere to reinforce and becomes a general type of church in the 18th: vaulted church with free standing columns.


    The Pantheon


    Analytical attitude
    In the 18th century there is this analytical attitude to understand the function of things and thinking that everything comes from senses so had to construct complex notions and that the complex should be composed of elements. Method of rationalization: compositions and analytical methods.


    Idea of transparency
    This idea emerged in the 18th and subtle analysis of what is the pleasure of a colonnade. The colonnade is linked to movement and the movement of colonnades is the idea of dynamic space (e.g. Theater).


    Refers to Greek temples with monolith above colonnades, and mutates from Greek to Gothic, from the Greek elegance (ornamental) to the Gothic slenderness (something more structural)


    Notion of structure
    1- dimension in buildings that’s separate from classical ordonnance of things
    2- idea that part of the structure must have some solidarity: the structure is not totally natural nor artificial, not interested in Greek temple because too natural, and to articial is also too far away from nature.
    3- idea of circulation: something flows almost naturally within the structure. Structure is a dynamic system where forces flow.


    The quarel of the Pantheon
    notion of performance with a dome quite exaggerated and larger than le Louvre (competition between buildings) and Piettate begins to question the structural integrity of the pillars and domes and the quarrel begins on the limits of tradition: the building becomes a symbol of ‘can we overthrow tradition’. Begin testing stone to see if it follows vitruvian tradition, so there is an abundant polemic on the Pantheon


    There is also a second polemic in 1800’s that is like bridge are thought a little bit like churches and the Pantheon was not finished because of the revolution and the structural field starts to emerge with the non vitruvian program in which doing something untraditional becomes meaningful.

    About perspective in Architecture …

    Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

    As part of ARCHITECTURE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AN INTRODUCTION, course by Antoine Picon, Harvard University.Evans R., The Projective Cast. Architecture and its Three Geometries, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1995, new edition Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Press, 2000, Chapter 6, “The Trouble with Numbers”, pp. 241-271.


    In this chapter, Evans discuss the comparison between architecture and music. In architectural theory from the 15th to the 18th century, harmonies in music served as evidence as exact ratios underlay our perceptions of beauty in all things. Ratios from the octave scale were invoked to help justify systems of architectural proportion.

    Rene Ouvrard, in his book ‘architecture harmonique’ from 1679 said that architecture should be attuned to music. The Modulor of Le Corbusier (1887–1965) is a scale of proportions, an attempt to discover mathematical proportions in the human body and then to use that knowledge to improve both the appearance and function of architecture.
    18th century writers have the feeling that their unity is lost compared than before. There is then the question to know whether it is due to the predisposition to believe that it has ‘come and gone’. So this chapter will try to understand if Renaissance proportion is unified or not. During the renaissance writers assumed a universal correspondence between architecture and music.
    In 1436 a ceremony happened at the high, octagonal-ribbed dome of the Duomo (cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore) in Florence created Brunelleschi. The motet called Nuper rosarum flores (rose blossoms) was being played for the occasion composed by Dufay. Warren has shown the correspondences between the cathedral and the motel but showing that borrowing of proportions could work both ways: from architecture to music as well as from music to architecture. Brunelleschi was the first to transfer harmonic proportion in music onto his buildings. He believes that while architecture borrowed radical harmony from music, music borrowed its proportioned structure back from architecture. He invented linear perspective, the perspective transformations of actual dimensions into projected dimensions are coherent and systematic. Equal measures of real space were transformed into a harmonic serie of measures in perspective. A clear distinction has been made between a geometry that belonged to the essential structure of the world -Euclidean geometry- and a geometry that recorded appearances -perspective geometry.

    The cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

    The opinion of the implicit or explicit character of proportion in Renaissance buildings is currently divided and uncertain. Critics such as Colin Rowe describes Palado’s use of proportion as relatively clear and uncomplicated compared to Le Corbusier. Others complain that the rational idea, very clear, cannot be perceived in 3 dimensions. In practice, Renaissance artists were not trying to show proportion in things but trying to bury it in in things in imitation to nature, where it was hard to see.
    “Arts needs to be imaginatively undressed in order to be appreciated and so does the world”Clarity can be fond under everything if our vision is sufficiently informed and penetrating. For instance, Donatello and Michelangelo trusted the eye rather than the compas, and Aristoxenus and Mei trusted the ear rather than the numerically subdivided string.

    So this chapter concludes that the practice of proportion was not unified in Renaissance, and that the history of it has been overwritten. But is is only a characteristic not a default. The most accomplished work were unified presentations, without saying that they were the product of unifed ideas. Claude Perrault’s critique of the architectural proportion did not attack proportion but ideas about it and said that since nature provided no distinct rules for architecture, we must provide them instead. He proposed that vision does not distort things, but that it relates them to one another and moved attention from invisible cause to the visible constitution of building. Finally, ‘rules recognized to be necessary, could no longer provide any guarantee of quality’.

    “The Vitruvian Man is a famous drawing with accompanying notes by Leonardo da Vinci made around the year 1490 in one of his journals. It depicts a naked male figure in two superimposed positions with his arms apart and simultaneously inscribed in a circle and square. The drawing and text are sometimes called the Canon of Proportions or, less often, Proportions of Man. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio was a roman writer, an architect and engineer, active in the 1st century BC. He was the author of De architectura, known today as The Ten Books of Architecture, a treatise in Latin on architecture and perhaps the first work about this discipline.”

    The Modulor is a scale of proportions devised by the Swiss architect Le Corbusier (1887-1965). Le Corbusier developed the Modulor in the long tradition of Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci’s Vitruvin Man, the work of Leon Battista Alberti, and other attempts to discover mathematical proportions in the human body and then to use that knowledge to improve both the appearance and function of architecture. The system is based on human measurements, the double unit, the Fibonacci numbers, and the golden section. Le Corbusier described it as a “range of harmonious measurements to suit the human scale, universally applicable to architecture and to mechanical things.”


    Architecture science and technology in the vitruvian tradition

    The Vitruvian tradition
    There was not a lot of illustrations in the beginning, not truly roman architecture (not a lot of concrete), architecture was done by slave labor so not seen as a high profession, more credit was put on pure science so instead of doing graphics they were doing fractions. To enhance the status of architecture, one had to use verbal expression. Architects have always admired the treaties of Vitruvius, but buildings are not done this way as there is no greek temples around Northern Europe. Theory can be separated from reality until the 18th century.

    They believe in proportion, not at all static. Proportion is not a static thing as there is always a slight variation, the accuracy in the modern sense is not there. The idea is that the world is order in proportion and architecture is the art of order in proportion. Ouvrard thought that music and architecture were linked (see paper). Mathematic and architecture are also linked.

    A different definition of architecture
    Architecture shared things with science: geometry, perception and how mind works e.g. the statues in buildings and keep the statue from looking like if it was falling into the void, interest in anamorphosis: there is a back and forth relation between world of art, math, physiology and perception. The structure between animal and architecture: the living function and the elements in architecture. And people can then be scientists and architects at the same time, eg. Wren, Perrault. Then why not transforming the building into a scientific experiment, this idea of the meridien link astronomy to cathedrals, buildings have then different shapes and towers coincide with different times in sun passage. The baroque period questions light and parts that would allow light to circulate. An example of baroque building: The Basilica of Saint Peter from (15th-16th century) with the dome designed by Michelangelo, and the The Trevi Fountain as the largest and most ambitious of the Baroque fountains of Rome (1762). In the 18th, this is the passage from having a scientific building to a metaphor.

    The Basilica of Saint Peter

    The Trevi Fountain

    In the 18t, the notion of architectural space does not exist, space is not thought. Architecture of a serie of walls, more 2D not thought of as a space which is a modern idea, it is more a rhythmique architecture. But it varies between countries, there are different philosophy, in France the planes are slightly disconnected from each others and in Italy deformation of a continuous plane. There are different ways to look at a building, before architecture would look at the differences, at the details, they were not interested in describing the structure because it was obvious. Architecture was primarily by imitation with principles already given so the variations then became the only interesting parts. Now, because we are confronted to different buildings we tend to look at architecture from its structure so to understand the baroque, we need to reeducate the eye.

    Architecture and technology: the key notion of solidity

    People lived in a stable world and buildings had to look reassuringly solid, and the Gothic does not look solid, was too daring; the look should regulate the construction of buildings and obey more visible rules. Blondel said that Gothic church (Notre Dame) was not solid, which is not true but it does not ‘look’solid.

    Architecture is then not about daring performance, but it is about conveying a harmonoy of proprtions, and technology does not have as much value, innovation is not a value in itself and using geometry can dispense technological knowledge. Architecture becomes the discourse of geometry theory and does not need to know how to build it. Nature itself is understood in geometry terms, the building recipes is given through proportion. The ‘new’ is not a natural condition. The theory of invention today will have to change as technology allows for mass copying and imitation.

    Why geometric discourse of architecture worked?
    It worked because the world was technologically stable from the end of the Renaissance to the 18th century. There were relatively few materials and a few evolution of building constructions, but people still view they are in a stable world. Material was tied to nature; for instance in Angers, ‘les tuiles a l’envers pour ventilation’.

    A few mysteries
    About Iron, nobody knows how to control Iron until the 18th century. At the time transportation is very expensive and this is why materials are very local. Also enormous importance in building a shell as the masonery is half the price at the time while now it is very cheap. Masonery gradually replaces wood after the renaissance in building construction. There is a big evolution / concrete. The foundation was the biggest technological problem and a major source of collapse. Wooden pile was cheap but at the time there was lots of water so problem. In Europe, wood has been replaced by concrete. Key technologies: oblique smoke pipe (fireplace does not have to project into a room).

    Conservative institutions and professions
    Social condition
    you stay in the same class as born in, do what your father had done, the master trained his son. The idea of revolution is that of circular motion come back to where it was before (circular model more natural than linear one). They were highly conservative in term of innovation, and tradition is good and innovation was dangerous and not natural.

    Measures are not unified, local measures are made by local guilds and governed by local laws. Later the buildings are made through geometric measurment and that method takes over in local buildings.

    Profession of the architect
    90% were master masons, guild masters and 10% were artistic theorists. Architecture is too close to the world of construction for innovation to happen. The renaissance marks the departure of architecture from master craftmen and innovation is not favorable for intimate connection between architecture and technology. Today theory allows for negotiation after work being done in studio. Today design and theory has a prescriptive relation to reality.

    Creativity in the Shadow of Modern Technology

    Wednesday, October 19th, 2005

    As part of ARCHITECTURE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AN INTRODUCTION, course by Antoine Picon, Harvard University.Vesely D., Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation: The Question of Creativity in the Shadow of Production, Cambridge, Massachusetts, MIT Press, 2004, Chapter 6, “Creativity in the Shadow of Modern Technology”, pp. 281-315.


    The question of differentiating architecture and technology is a relatively new phenomenon. In the 16th and 17th century, technical devices and machine used in constructing buildings were part of the mechanical arts. It changed in the 17th century when the practical nature of arts was absorbed by the theoretical project of instrumental thinking. Today traditional forms of creativity are being absorbed into one dominant way of making and thinking. While we can distinguish between invention, creativity, and pure production, it is not clear how the distinction should be established: this lack of clarity may be the cause of the current debate’s confusion and frustration.

    The subject of this debate is the merit of technical efficiency versus that of aesthetics. One obstacle to a better understanding of the nature of technology is our inability to discuss technological problems from a non instrumental point of view. Instrumental thinking tends to impose its hegemony by creating a world it can control, e.g. The conditions of the will to control is the ‘knowledge of power’. Knowledge as power represents the essence of modern science leading to the vicious circle of our ‘understanding’ of technology e.g. Martin Heidegger.

    Art originates in ‘knowledge related to making’ (techne in Greek). In mathematics we find the transformation of techne into technique and finally into modern technology. Making is based on productive knowledge, but such knowledge is never complete. It always depends on a prior understanding that has its origin in the spontaneity of making. The sciences that contributed to the formation of modern technique were astronomy, harmonics, optics, and mechanics (the middle sciences) because of their position halfway between metaphysics and physics. In the 16th century, artisan engineers were aware of the gap between mathematics and concrete reality (it required universal reality and explicit proofs). This is in the mid 16th century that the boundaries of mathematics and physics crossed, giving birth to the universal mathematics as the queen of science. This has happened by the supporting evidence of the the physical world in mathematics, particularly mechanics. Mechanics was the critical discipline to shape modern science and technology. Treating physical reality and movement as predictable was motivated by the desire to discover more tangible links between human and divine reality, which in Galileo’s time meant links tangible links between physical and mathematical reality (Galileo: the law of acceleration of falling bodies in that their time of descent is independent of their mass). Then to apply knowledge through making made mankind be ‘like God’.

    We have not progressed beyond the 17th century philosophers, as we do not understand the real nature of experimental knowledge on which modern technology is based. There is a gap between situated knowledge and productive knowledge and this gap represents “a radical discontinuity with the natural world, reduces the cognitive value of productive knowledge and makes it merely a technical tool.”

    The key problem of technology is in its dual productive and creative complex nature, with complexity being the result of an attempt to reconcile different spheres of reality. It the reconciliation is successful, the situation may be enriched, if not it remains only ‘an unfulfilled promise of richness.’ The Eiffel tower is a key example as seen as an intrusive object in the city (autonomous abstract structure) and only a few decades later it was the symbol of Paris. The distance between its abstract form and the richness of the Parisian culture was articulated in relation to the tower through films, literature, etc.. and the tower took its place in the city.

    It does now matter how we call each others from architects to engineers anymore as long as we understand that the higher we want to build the deeper the foundations must be. We need to see the intricate relationship between human perception, orientation in space, and intelligence. Results depends on the knowledge of our experience of space, the precondition of design. Society today is dominated by faith in the unlimited possibilities of technology including A.I. Which at term can lead to the impoverishment of culture.



    Architecture, science and technology from the renaissance to the modern movement

    During the Gothic tradition (medieval), science and technology and architecture had a natural connection, for instance geometry was a force and central base in the building technique. The question begins in Renaissance (late 13th beginning of the 14th) when architecture begins to define itself as an art and as port of the humanities, then the relationship to science/technology becomes more complex.Architecture is defined as medium between knowledge (humanities) and know-how reinforced by rediscovery of Greco-Roman. The 19th century begins to look like society in the roman empire: science becomes more autonomous in this period and crisis in the theoretical foundation of architecture.

    Renaissance - 18th century: Architects believed they knew the foundation of architecture (proportion, etc).


    18th: greater autonomy of technology and striking difference in building designed and built: they rediscover the Gothic and the question about what is architecture about, what are the true principle of architecture are the challenges addressed to architecture from science and technology. Crisis of the theoretical foundations of architecture.


    What is the essence of architecture?
    During the late 18th, theorists such as Viollet le Duc was trying to find something essential in architecture and trying to identify new and real relations of architecture with the connection between the anatomy of the body and architecture. Trying through science and technology to form the relation of architecture, and the modern movment has similar attitude towards technology (e.g. Gropius, le Corbusier). Was trying to purify architecture and define its true principles.


    Concert hall by Viollet le Duc


    Relation between architecture and society
    Architecture has adapted to the society (relation to more global regime). Most people had in mind the roman temples and in the late 18th they went to visit grecs, e.g. Leroy has visited Acropolis at Athenes. Indeed Grec architecture is dynamic and linked to a certain type of society (greek and roman societies are different), it may not be anything transcendental, just best architectural representation, and is linked to global representation of society. Ruskin hated modern technology (railways, …) and thought that technology is depriving us from the essence, from the authentic experience of architecture. Same idea in Perez Gomez and Rykwert.









    Acropolis, Athenes


    Towards a cultural history of architecture
    Science and technology are culturally determined not purely just progress, ex. materials.
    Before the 18th century it is not clear the difference between materials and structure, for instance the stone grows (a theory about organic material), Viollet le Duc us bones as part of the structure, use bones in junction of buildings, is bone a material?Reinforced concrete is now seen as a material, before concrete was the material and reinforcing was seen as a structure.


    The social construction of materials
    Material has properties so needs testing, for instance iron was unreliable and Sweden has mastered the properties of iron and France was importing Iron from Sweden, also for concrete in order to be qualified as hard machines have been developed.


    Why a material is successful or not?
    In France building a house in wood is inacceptable (cultural factors) but concrete is seen as solid; materials are different then for cultural values. Peter Collins seen concrete as providing new objectivity to construction. The concrete has no define shape unlike wood so needs a physical image, there is then a relationship between concrete and photography, the idea of transforming the building into a gigantic scientific instrument.


    On designing disaster relief architectural products

    Tuesday, October 18th, 2005

    My two cents …

    While the 16th of October 2005 the New York Times discusses prophecies made on the recent devastating events, my response as a designer is to conceive solutions in the form of products that would support the after-shock of such catastrophes. While preventing earthquakes or hurricanes is still scientifically difficult, designing products for emergency support could prevent the usual consequences of natural disasters.
    Indeed, the earthquake in Kashmir as killed around 40, 000 people, but also has left millions of persons homeless waiting for a threatening cold winter and accumulating rainy days that will certainly worsen the situation, and the population is then vulnerable to disease threats from the devastated public sanitation systems.
    Relief supplies are in place, but it is necessary to empower the population by relocating them in a new home. Could it be then a priority to create an emergency structure involving the design of mobile homes, health centers and toys structure to provide immediate psychological relief? What if all the survivors could have access to such immediate structure encouraged by the government? What if products were carefully designed integrating local knowledge with comfort and necessary means of existence. Could it bring them away a little from the drama? What if these components were mobile and easily transportable to allow them to be at the desired location in a minute? An instant support.
    The mission of design today is to offer concrete solutions to such gigantic social and economic disasters as did for instance Peter Brewin and William Crawford at the Royal College of Art by designing inflatable concrete and flexible long-term shelters for supporting the population after devastating events: ‘ The sacks can be easily transported to the necessary location. Water is added to the sack on site and the plastic inner can then be inflated to create a shelter.’

    By Cati in product design