visited Unite d’habitation today. quite amazing, really. a very bold statement of the sort it must have been so seductive for other architects to copy. the trouble is, most of the copies were bad, done on the cheap and without the elements that render this concrete monolithe with that much lauded “sense of place”. in short, it was the thin end of the wedge, sadly.
the new zaha hadid building is ok, too. the fact that it is in such an industrial setting surrounded by busy flyovers makes it quite photogenic. it will be interesting to see if they regenerate that part of town. takes no great flight of fancy to picture it becoming another barcelona.
Perhaps I have been going about this all wrong.
Firstly, the question that took me to Finland was a simple one: do images make building. The subsequent question need only be, how to test that hypothesis.
Secondly, Finnish architects are proving to be an obstacle to my research. They are clearly worried about getting themselves into unfamiliar waters and can see no advantage to collaborating with a researcher.
So, thirdly, I’ve decided to change tack, at least for the moment. I’d like to test the concept of “photo-realistic” images by faking unrealised projects of great architects. I think 3 different Finns, one project from each, should be enough.
The idea is to shoot scale models based on drawings of unrealised visions and present them as built spaces. Faction, if you can still call it that, in an exhibition.
I think this is the best way to move forward and if the show is promoted and accompanied by an article and a presentation, perhaps it will bring the reluctant Finnish architects out of hibernation in the new year.
Of the first: had a nice meeting with Ville Hara today. He was very easy to talk to and let me ramble on about my project then showed me images of the chapel. He talked me through 3 different shoots, explaining his likes and dislikes along the way, perfect commentary for my thesis, so of course I didn’t have a recorder with me. Great input of the sort I’ve not had since London, where architects always gave you lots of specific written and spoken information about the project and their preferences in terms of photography.
As for TKK, I sent an email that was circulated around the arch dept saying now was the chance for students to have their models shot. Not one of them got in touch. Not one. How is that possible? Typical student laziness? A sense that their work is not yet ready to be shot? Or, contrarily, a lack of appreciation for photographic depiction versus what they could do with a digital camera? Architects need to wake up to photography!
After the meeting I took a tour of Alvar Aalto’s buildings in Helsinki with a group of architecture students. They were in ecstasy and I was in awe – of them, as they thrilled to walk through their hero’s creations, drooled over his drawings and sat in his throne. Well, I was jaw agape and filled slightly with envy as it must be so nice to worship something uncritically. And it was nice to see Aalto’s buildings and receive informative lectures about the programme of each. As is always the case, you take away appreciation as well as understanding, unless you are determined to do the opposite.
On the way home I discussed my work with two young architects, who fell on opposite sides of the aesthetics issue. One believed the public (be damned) must be instructed by the architect. The other, having acknowledged that the initiated members of the cult have a weird way of seeing, recognised that the disconnect from the public might be problematic considering their role in the shaping of public space. Both lost interest in me and my work when they learned that I was not myself an architect. It’s the same behaviour one encounters with true believers in worship of their (one and only true) god and supporters of football teams, arguably a laic substitute for the crusades.
I had a meeting yesterday with the director of ARK, the local architecture magazine, and he agreed to do an interview for my thesis and publish an article about my atmospheres research project. He also said Juhani Pallasmaa is publishing an article with them about the subject next month. He gave me Pallasmaa’s email address and I have requested an interview. Hopefully he’ll agree to one in person as we’ve been told repeatedly in Varto’s lectures on research that personal contact is what matters most and doing a written interview serves only to produce a document but is not useful as an interview as such. A document from P would certainly be better than nothing, but half a dozen meaningful interviews will be crucial to my research. The next step is to speak with Esa Laaksonen about the possibility of an exhibition at the Alvar Aalto foundation.
On a separate note –viva Denmark. I am going there for a fortnight in November and sent out a few emails a couple of days ago to try to set up meetings. 2 firms have already written back. The same happened with architects in the UK whom I wrote to mainly out of frustration from the deafening silence in response to my emails to Finnish architects. Do Finnish architects not value publicity? I am offering publication in a local magazine, promising international publication (which I am sure I can make happen), an exhibition in a prestigious institution and free images + research. Who wouldn’t jump at the chance? Well, the answer would seem to be: every architect in Finland.