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Modern transparencies and unwanted-exposures Essay

Human beings have been constructing shelters to serve different purposes since the beginnings of civilization. How a building was constructed depended on three qualities set out by Vitruvius, the Roman architect in his treatise De Architectura – • Durability • Utility • Beauty Across the ages, one of these three criteria has been more important than the other. The precept of modern architecture is ‘form follows function’. The function of the building determines its structure.

But built into this precept are many other modern and post-modern conceptions of notions such as privacy, publicity, sexuality, art, etc. Some of the key components of design are space, volume, mass, texture, shadow, light, materials, structure, etc. Each of these components has been given varied importance in the different times. Modernist architecture has been influenced heavily by the Austrian architect Adolf Loos who believed that ‘ornament is crime. ’ He said, “The evolution of culture marches with the elimination of ornament from useful objects.

” He believed that the influence of culture on ornamentation would change with changing culture and therefore ornamentation itself would become obsolete. Adolf Loos said, “Does it follow that the house has nothing in common with art and is architecture not to be included in the arts? Only a very small part of architecture belongs to art: the tomb and the monument. Everything else that fulfils a function is to be excluded from the domain of art. ” Ornamentation is tantamount to art, which Loos completely discredits by saying, “The house has to please everyone, contrary to the work of art which does not.

The work is a private matter for the artist. The house is not. ” He differentiates designing a house and depicting art in these words, “The work of art is brought into the world without there being a need for it. The house satisfies a requirement. The work of art is responsible to none; the house is responsible to everyone. The work of art wants to draw people out of their state of comfort. ” Loos echoes the philosophy of Deleuze when he says, “The work of art shows people new directions and thinks of the future.

The house thinks of the present. ” According to Deleuze, art is supposed to provide signs reading which a person is supposed come out of the rote of daily quotidian life and move towards creativity. Entailed in this function of art is deep discomfort which is why a house is not supposed to perform the function of art. Entailed in the notion of a house is a feeling of comfort in the present. “The house has to please everyone, contrary to the work of art which does not. The work is a private matter for the artist. The house is not.

” “The house has to serve comfort. The work of art is revolutionary; the house is conservative. ” Adolf Loos strived to strip culture of ‘art’ and ‘ornament’ and bring to it pragmatism, functionality and rationalism. Each of these qualities is attributed to the male. They are in stark contrast to the Jugendstil artists from the Wagner school. According to Susan Henderson, “Loos maintained that strict gender distinctions were basic to the ordered logic of modern society, and he decried the ambiguous gender roles that had invaded art and culture.

Jugendstil decadence lay in its unrealistic attitude towards the capitalist economy, its regressive fascination for a dying aristocratic tradition, and a benighted love of ornament that sapped the productive energies from Viennese culture. His call for cultural reclamation through a reinvigorated rhetoric set the stage for embedding a new masculinism in the language of early modernism and the reassertion of middle-class values after a generation of retreat from the productive enterprise.

” There exists an in-built contradiction between notion of perfect space that the architect harbours and the real mess of daily life. In both cases the woman is positioned as hidden and within and is always object subject to the male gaze. The domestic space of the Josephine Baker is converted into an erotic space. Josephine is present ‘in absentia’. The architecture is incorporated into the body of Josephine Baker and the body is entrenched in the architecture. “This is a wide-ranging and multifaceted notion of circulation, which includes passages, traversals, transitions, transitory states – erotic circulations.

” (Bruno, 1992) Given this understanding of Loos’ psychology it is a little complicated to learn the aesthetics of the Josephine Baker villa in Paris. This villa stands in contrast to many other designs of Loos. Feres el-DahDah says, “It is an epistolary attempt to detail her image in ‘various points’ through a kind of writing that stretches a third skin between the body of the architect and that of the dancer. The house is an apparatus…through which one can somehow rub against, or trap, a dancer’s exoticized body.

It is a building designed as a tactical enterprise, as the imaginary ‘prose’ of an amorous conquest in between whose lines (in between the stripes of its facades and the distribution of its rooms) one is to decode a longing to signify desire. In other words, this house corroborates someone’s yearning to touch the absent body of Josephine. ” This ‘present absence’ of Josephine Baker is called by Adolf Loos, ‘modern distinction’. The intense longing for the absent object brings to life that objects giving it a surreal physical manifestation. The elevations of the Baker house support this Freudian argument.

The empty spaces represent Loos’ phallocentric desired for the absent object. If the Josephine Baker house is a modern depiction of sexuality that uses large unwanted space as a representation of desire for the body of Josephine Baker, large space is also used to represent violence and inspire fear through the designs of panopticons. Panopticon is a prison designed by Jeremy Bentham, the eighteenth century English Philosopher. The function of a panoticon is to watch the prisons without the prisoners themselves being aware either of the observer or of the process of observation.

Jeremy Bentham called it ‘sentiment of an invisible omniscience. ’ “the more constantly the persons to be inspected are under the eyes of the persons who should inspect them, the more perfectly will the purpose … of the establishment have been attained. Ideal perfection, if that were the object, would require that each person should actually be in that predicament, during every instant of time. This being impossible, the next thing to be wished for is, that, at every instant, seeing reason to believe as much, and not being able to satisfy himself to the contrary, he should conceive himself to be so.

This point, you will immediately see, is most completely secured by my brother’s plan; and, I think, it will appear equally manifest, that it cannot be compassed by any other, or to speak more properly, that if it be compassed by any other, it can only be in proportion as such other may approach to this. ” The fundamental structure of a panopticon consists of a circular building. The rooms of the prisoners are present in the circumference of the building. Iron grating is present on the inner circumference.

But this grating is virtually invisible to the prisoner. Such a grating traps the prisoner between the feelings of freedom and imprisonment. The prisoner knows that there is a grating but he cannot see it. It places him a limbo between privacy and publicity. Violation of private space is violence nonetheless. The room of the inspector is at the centre of the building. The windows of the prisoners’ room ‘radiate’ through the centre of the inspector’s room such that the inspector has a direct view into the rooms of all the prisoners.

The windows would be covered by blinds till the eye level of the prisoners. This function of a window is opposed to that perceived by Adolf Loos, “to let the light in; not to let the gaze pass through”. Of course, the context of the windows in both cases is very different. In a panopticon, light is allowed to pass through only to the extent that allows the inspector to see the inside of the cell. In a house, light must be let in to brighten the house and make it comfortable to the inhabitants.


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