The Secret Lives of Buildings by Edward Hollis.
Pub. Portobello Books ltd. 2009 Chapter 1. The Parthenon Athens : In Which a Virgin is Ruined.
This extract tells the story of the numerous times the Parthenon (the perfect building) was ruined over the centuries. It revisits pivotal moments in history where this embodiment of perfection was ruined (and re-ruined).
It begins at circa 460 with the initial corruption of the purity of this sanctuary. It tells a tale of the Christians from Constantinople and how they took possession of the temple of wisdom. They moved the entrance to where the initial statue of Athena originally stood. All who visited this church now removed there sandals on the very stone that the goddess once stood. The goddess Athena was such cast from the temple of wisdom, tarnishing the perfection and ruining the Parthenon for the first time.
We then move forward to 1687 when the Holy League of Christians descended upon Athens. They laid siege on the Parthenon with a heavy rain of cannonballs. The harem of the Ottoman garrison sought refuge in the mosque of the acropolis. They told tales of survival to their children. Reassurance came in the fact that the gates of troy, that had never been preach but by treachery, now stood at the entrance to the acropolis. The siege held out. On the third day an Ottoman deserter told the Christian League of a gun powder store hidden in the mosque. The explosion of the Acropolis shook the ground of Athens and marble shards rained down. All that sought refuge diminished. For the second time the Parthenon was brought to ruins.
In 1816 The Earl of Eglin travelled to Athens to collect and preserve the marbles of the acropolis. The trip devastated Earl Eglin. He caught infection in Constantinople, was taken prisoner in France for 3 years on his return journey and now was the embodiment of the fragmented marble that he collected. The only way for him to restore his fortunes was to sell his marbles. He had wished to recreate the Parthenon in Edinburgh. To reinstate it’s perfection in a new city. Yet now stood Eglin over a sold collection of shattered marble and a half baked ruin of a replica. For the third time the virgin temple had been disgraced and ruined.
In 1834 the ruler of Greece Otto Van Woittlesbasch sought about rebuilding the Parthenon. Architects came to recreate the building using iron clamps to hold the fragmented marble together. What these architects did not realise was that the Parthenon is pure and perfect. Every stone is different, every cut individual and every placement of such unique. The Parthenon was rebuilt and looked like the original Parthenon. Each stone was not in its rightful home, therefore it was not perfect, therefore it was not the Parthenon. Once again it was ruined.
In 1975, discussion began over the future of the Parthenon. It was finally decided after ten years of debate that the Parthenon would be temporarily ruined. That each individual piece would be mapped and placed in its’ individual home. The marble would be held with titanium a metal that would not face the affects of weathering that the original iron camps were subjected to.
Each time the Parthenon is ruined it takes a little longer to rebuild and it gets a little harder. In time all that will stand of the Parthenon is those fragments preserved in museums that scatter the earth. The Parthenon will cease to exist in being. It will become an ideal notion and theory, liberated by the corruption of time and history. The Parthenon will finally be perfect.
Partially Buried Woodshed. Essay by Dorothy Shinn
This is an essay on a sculpture by Robert Smithson called Partially Buried Woodshed. It gives an account of the creation of the shed, the ideologies behind the piece and how it became an epitome of Smithson’s work.
In 1970 Robert Smithson and a group of Art students from the Kent State University school of art began work on this sculpture. They used an old shed at on the Kent State University campus. They pilled 20 cartloads of dirt onto the shed until the centre piece crack. This cracking of the centre piece was the key moment in the process of this piece.
The sculpture was then given a value and handed over to the University. The building was set into decay by Smithson and was envisaged to stay that way until it ‘returned to the earth’. The woodshed had a life of turmoil. In 1970 the woodshed became the embodiment of the life of the university. On May 4th 1970 4 students were killed and 9 injured by Ohio National Guardsmen in a student protest. This was a culmination of political unrest at the time. A student then graffitied ‘May 4 Kent 70’ on the cracked centre beam of the woodshed. The cracking of the beam reflecting the cracking of the university and the marking of a moment in history that created a platform for a new beginning. Just as the centre beam had initially cracked to create the life of the woodshed.
In later years , the woodshed was disregarded by faculty members. Students had set alight the shed. Yet the centre beam and mound of dirt still remain. The shed was becoming a danger and an eyesore. In a debate over demolishing the shed, preservation of the significance process of the shed was retained. It was passed that any debris fallen from the shed would be removed by the grounds man, but the shed itself would not be touched. As a resort to hide the shed and the graffiti ‘ May 4 Kent 70’ that cast a dim light on the university, a landscape plan to heavily plant the area with coniferous trees was implemented. Nobody knows the exact date of the total dissolution of the shed but it was noted in 1984 to be completely gone.
Smithson had a strong belief in accumulation of history and how a piece of work would accumulate meaning as it decreased in physical stature. This project was the measure of time and history not by calendars or clocks but by aging and decay. This is the process of entropy ; the gradual decay and dissolution on organic matter. Smithson believed that this process of entropy was in fact life. That the measure of decay is the measure of time. That nothing is alive until it starts to rot.
The Birth of Modern London : The Development and Design of The City 1660-1720 by Elizabeth McKellar. Pub. Manchester University Ores in 1999.
Chapter 8. Housing The City : Tradition and Innovation in the Urban Terrace
This chapter gives an account of the development of housing in London in the 17th Century. Taking the fire of London as a starting point. It discusses how housing was developing from Palladium and Neo-classical forms. It depicts the 17th century London house as a transitioning building. They were a combination of the classical inspired forms and that of more traditional influence. Four main typologies of housing are the result of this process of transition.
The first was an evolutionary brick design. It sought to move from the timber housing units that dominated London at the time of the Great Fire of London. However, although this building was envisaged to be of more monumental construction, it still heavily relied on the previous timber structure to hold the loads of the building.
The second, mainly focused around the west end, was known as Barbon-style. This typology was driven by its construction. It was designed in standardised parts. This allowed the buildings to become regular and repeatable in both form and detailing. Good examples of this was the creation of Bloomsbury square (the majority if which was redeveloped in the 18th century).
The third house was the City House. These buildings often varied in typologies and did not stick to a rigorous scheme. They explored there design by taking delight in the individual ornamentation of the building both internally and externally.
The fourth was that of housing found around the outskirts of the London, most notably around Hoxton square. This was the hybrid house. These houses took on a boarder plan which was a direct result of cheaper land prices around these semi-rural areas of the city. These areas were seen as the feeding ground for the city, where market gardens and nurseries were located. These housing schemes were often realised in small numbers opposed to the creation of entire city squares, which was common with the higher end, inner city developments.
All four typologies of housing sought to improve on the mindless construction of Palladian and Neo-classical buildings. These 17th Century houses were the transition to yet stand apart from the 18th Century Georgian town house.