If you haven’t heard of Victory City before, it could be described as a kind of hobbyist’s architectural and urban utopia, a life-time project by an Ohio businessman Orville Simpson II, who without formal training began drafting a concept of an ideal city and of course such effort required him to illustrate the plans. Without going into the details of the utopia or its position on the modernism axis, here’s instead a collage of some of his original sketches.
There’s this kind of discourse on art without artists (and sometimes also architecture without architects), but it’s not entirely obvious how to position these drawings. And yet, these images have a distinct aesthetics that seems somehow cool at this moment (some contemporary practices also come to my mind). And at least in the image-heavy mindset of showcasing architecture on Tumblr, they stand on their own.
Of the images I’m only including a citation-like snippet here. See an entire pictorial tour of Victory City here.
Airport vehicles. Proposal for transport systems for the United States Bicentennial World Exposition Boston 1976 by Alden Self-Transit Systems, 1969.
For more about the expo, there’s an excellent article Futures:
Expo Boston ‘76 in MAS Context #18 by Michael Kubo, Chris Grimley, and Mark Pasnik.
Scale model for Seattle Century 21 World’s Fair in 1962. In the forefront, the “sawtooth-roofed” Fine Arts Pavilion (Exhibition Hall) by Paul Hayden Kirk.
Stuccowork in Palazzo Sagredo di Santa Ternità in Venice by Pietro Roncaioli.
Photos by Thomas Scheidt and Christian Stein, 2009.
One of the most to-the-point national presentations in the 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale is Latvia’s pavilion Unwritten. The name literally refers to unwritten histories - a lack of books or research projects on modernist architecture in Latvia, as the exhibit details.
To tackle this claim in the most straightforward way, the presentation invites the audience to send examples of Latvian modernist architecture to its Facebook album “Searching for Modernism architecture in Latvia” and all submitted material will serve as a basis for the so far non-existing book. What is displayed in the Biennale, is a cloud of its pages, but as today clouds are used for storing digital information, the display also becomes itself a reflection of a very current form of publishing as means of exhibiting.
I’m partly drawing from some personal experiences here, but a usual response to considering Facebook as any kind of tool for artistic creation or research purposes often gets a certain so-it’s-not-really-serious-then reaction. Yet I think this is exactly one of the most interesting aspects of Unwritten, because despite the potential cool factor backlash, it is hard to deny the logic of using a popular social media platform for crowd-sourcing. And this becomes especially true if you don’t really have a project, website, or funding in the traditional sense. (Or if your project goes anyway against the official currents of money and research interests.)
In this context, should it matter where a call for submissions is published? How does the coolness of platforms affect the evaluation of projects? Does navigating these ecosystems of production and publication become a part of the practice? Is an officiated package sometimes more important than the content? I think in today’s increasing architectural cultural production, these are valid questions.
Regardless, Unwritten is also a powerful audiovisual display with substance in its own right. Besides, the historical canon on modernist architecture could probably use a similar hacking in many other countries as well.
The floating cloud of pages are (of course) digitally readable on Issuu.
Credits: NRJA (Uldis Lukševics, Linda Leitane – Šmidberga, Zigmars Jauja, Ivars Veinbergs, Martinš Rusinš) in collaboration with graphic designer Kirils Kirasirovs; sound artist Andris Indāns, multimedia support Rihards Vītols and full-service event agency PAREIZĀ ĶĪMIJA.
Some spiraling ceilings in this design sketch for a hall of the Deutsches Museums in Hagen, presented at the Exposition Universelle in Gent in 1913 by architect J. L. Mathieu Lauweriks.
Fancy marble. A design for luxury bathroom in the German exhibition by Paul Thiersch, 1910 Brussels Expo.
A fireplace in the press room of the German section at the 1910 Brussels Expo. Design by Peter Behrens.
One of the only two existing solar furnaces in the world completed in Uzbekistan in 1987 and showcased in Архитектура СССР (Architecture USSR), Issue 3-4, 1988. The grainy photos of the furnace in the landscape make it seem like an etching of an ancient temple, an image heightened by Helios in his chariot, seen in the section drawing.
So many things urban rolled into one in this Bagel deli menu from the Seattle Room Menu Collection.
“The Seattle Room’s Menu Collection began life as a small selection of lunch menus belonging to Seattle Public Library employees. It has grown into a collection of hundreds of menus, each reflecting the tastes (and prices) of the time period they are from.”
Some rather non-typical images of the Eiffel Tower by an unknown photographer c.1940-44.