Archive for the ‘Pantheon’ Category

03/24/2007

Saarinen and Bose?
Architecture and music?!

I was asked to describe the journey into Eero Saarinen’s chapel at MIT.

One thing that amazes me about it is how in such a small volume it moves so much air and space.

Which got me thinking about something else associated with MIT that moves a lot of air inside a small volume….

The Bose Wave
How it works.

Only because the two tunnels fold back and forth can enough air be moved in the right way to create a rich, full sound. This is hard to achieve in such a small enclosure.


Inventor Amar Bose is a famous MIT alum.

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But the journey in. First of all, the chapel tells you before you even get in, of its Roman ancestry and its connection to its Italian cousin, the Roman Pantheon. This chapel is built of brick (also the typical Boston building material), with arches, and even an “excavated” area around it as if it were antique

To enter the Pantheon, you pass through a portico.


Here too.

The little tunnel is an important part of the journey. The contemplative space inside could not be directly connected to the rest of the world; there must be a passage to it, and in modernist spirit Saarinen also has us make a 90 degree turn just after entering the portico/tunnel. This helps to leave daily life behind. Some people say it also means the bad spirits can’t follow you.

And then once inside,

Manna-ist Architecture. The finest example of “manna-ism” in the world? It is, I suppose, rivaled for effect by another work in Rome


But back to the Modern. And its connections to the past. In Saarinen’s chapel the steps and base of the altar are Roman travertine. The altar is marble.
Too bad the eye at the top of this is not open to the sky, but that wasn’t exactly the thinking in 1955 when this went up.


The shapes connect as in classical buildings which often put patterns on the floors that reprise the ceiling and thus create a cosmos.

I wonder when we’ll see chapels, like sports stadia, with retractable domes?

And only a Modernist would make a dome with a flat roof. But here, the eye creates the dome, and the sculpture atop the building creates a top point for you.

Did you know that Aaron Copland’s “Canticle of Freedom” was commissioned by MIT for the opening of the chapel and Eero Saarinen’s nearby Kresge Auditorium?

So back to music. The Pantheon has niches in the walls, Saarinen’s walls undulate to make the space seem larger than it is and to form modern, more secular niches. The space flows gracefully around these and seems to pick up speed. It swirls around like a vortex. Does the air turn into sound waves?


That horizontal movement excites the vertical movement above the altar.

Finally, Mr. Saarinen knew his little chapel would be right across Massachusetts Avenue from


another Pantheon-like Great Dome at MIT.

-E


(Bottom photo grabbed from the web. Congrats guys, whoever you are! Going to work for Bose?)

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05/05/2006

Kapoor, Einstein, Michelangelo and Mies

I said, the other day that Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park bends light and space, a la Einstein. And it does. But it also bends time. When you walk up to it, you’re looking for yourself (isn’t that what art is all about?) and there’s a moment when you can’t find yourself, and you’re lost, and then as you get a little closer, you regain your Self; but in that momentary lapse, when You were gone, time stopped. That’s my Theory of How we Relate to Our Selves.


See them pointing? They found themselves, (their Selves?) happily.

And the second thing I want to relate, is…

Michelangelo said, to sculpt, take a block of marble, and take away what doesn’t need to be there. Mies, in his buildings, took away what didn’t need to be there. No pitched roof, no window frames, etc. Michelangelo learned from the Greeks. Early Greeks sculpted by first carving in from the front, then carving in from the side, until the two met. Look at 860 – 880 Lake Shore Drive, by Mies.

Wish I had a better picture, but – see how one is frontal and one is a side view? Then, you put them together in your mind.

So much of Mies is about – how buildings are made. I’ve seen how when moving around his buildings an open becomes a solid. Or approaching a work of his, first (sequentially) you are given a floor, then columns, then walls, then a roof; in the way buildings are made. And I’ve stood in front of his buildings and my subconscious mind (in a Seurat kind of way) has filled in the pitched roof, the window frames, the door, the chimney, that are burned into our minds from before we were kids and drew houses like that.*

I’ve certainly stood at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive and wondered at how the two boxes relate to each other and play off of each other so magically.

But I’d never realized that they’re two views of one object, one frontal, and one side view, that the architect will resolve, but never does. And so it remains endlessly fascinating.

* A scientist once said that the Pantheon in Rome knocks us out in its simplicity because it’s just that – it’s the way we draw houses as kids – with three basic shapes – a circle, a square and a triangle.


That’s a very, very, very fine house,
-Edvard.

05/05/2006

Kapoor, Einstein, Michelangelo and Mies

I said, the other day that Anish Kapoor’s “Cloud Gate” in Millennium Park bends light and space, a la Einstein. And it does. But it also bends time. When you walk up to it, you’re looking for yourself (isn’t that what art is all about?) and there’s a moment when you can’t find yourself, and you’re lost, and then as you get a little closer, you regain your Self; but in that momentary lapse, when You were gone, time stopped. That’s my Theory of How we Relate to Our Selves.


See them pointing? They found themselves, (their Selves?) happily.

And the second thing I want to relate, is…

Michelangelo said, to sculpt, take a block of marble, and take away what doesn’t need to be there. Mies, in his buildings, took away what didn’t need to be there. No pitched roof, no window frames, etc. Michelangelo learned from the Greeks. Early Greeks sculpted by first carving in from the front, then carving in from the side, until the two met. Look at 860 – 880 Lake Shore Drive, by Mies.

Wish I had a better picture, but – see how one is frontal and one is a side view? Then, you put them together in your mind.

So much of Mies is about – how buildings are made. I’ve seen how when moving around his buildings an open becomes a solid. Or approaching a work of his, first (sequentially) you are given a floor, then columns, then walls, then a roof; in the way buildings are made. And I’ve stood in front of his buildings and my subconscious mind (in a Seurat kind of way) has filled in the pitched roof, the window frames, the door, the chimney, that are burned into our minds from before we were kids and drew houses like that.*

I’ve certainly stood at 860-880 Lake Shore Drive and wondered at how the two boxes relate to each other and play off of each other so magically.

But I’d never realized that they’re two views of one object, one frontal, and one side view, that the architect will resolve, but never does. And so it remains endlessly fascinating.

* A scientist once said that the Pantheon in Rome knocks us out in its simplicity because it’s just that – it’s the way we draw houses as kids – with three basic shapes – a circle, a square and a triangle.


That’s a very, very, very fine house,
-Edvard.

02/15/2006

The most urban Skyspace by James Turrell, ever.



The skyspace by James Turrell at the very busy intersection of Roosevelt Road and Halsted Street in Chicago, near the University of Illinois at Chicago, where the College of Architecture and the Arts commissioned this. This is what you see looking up through it.

Here’s another view.

Just kidding, that’s the ceiling of a wine shop on Wells St.

The skyspace is supposed to heighten your perception of the sky, its colors and its meaning. Turrell is a fine artist, see this and this .

Ours, here in Chicago, on the campus of the University of Illinois at Chicago is not finished, so one can’t judge, but the first mistake to me, seems to be that our skyspace is not a peaceful place. Since it’s open to the busy streets around it


you hear all the noise. It has “that Pantheon thing” going for it — rounded, open at the top, a nice spot of light moves with the sun, but at the Pantheon you enter a world, a universe, since it’s self-contained. And the only way out is up – to where live the gods. I guess we’re more democratic than that so here you can also look out straight ahead, at life around you; and we have security concerns, so we couldn’t really close off all the walls. Oh well.

The structure itself – not pretty. The benches look (almost vintage UIC!)like this:

And, like the Pantheon in Roma, the skyspace at Roosevelt and Halsted (just doesn’t sound the same, does it? as, “the Pantheon in Roma”) our skyspace casts a moving spot of light, which looks like this

at one particular moment in time. Never again. That’s part of it. Since the opening is oval-shaped, unlike at the Pantheon where it’s a perfect circle, here the sun takes on a nice Jean Arp-like amorphous shape.

The structure, as you see above, does have that Italian thing going for it. As does a restaurant not far away, on Taylor Street!

Back to the Skyspace. It’s done in a Burnt Siena color. Actually it reminds me of

a little-known structure by Brunelleschi (who of course also designed the famous and stirring dome of Florence Cathedral) – the only picture of which I have, includes me in it! Sorry. See the Brunelleschi in the background?

And why is their piazza (and pizza) so much better than ours?
Because they’re Italian!
But tomorrow’s post will be about — Piazza DiMaggio
at least that’s what I call it – here in Chicago on Taylor Street.

‘Til then, “Cin, Cin!”
-Eduardissimo