Building to house a single rare book
Le Pavillion d'Un
|Building to house
a single rare book. Harvard Career Discovery Program in Architecture, July 1981
||Thomas, Daniel says, was now to ravage Georgia, but Sherman, from all accounts,
has done that work once for all. There will be no aftermath. They say no living thing is
found in Sherman's track, only chimneys, like telegraph poles, to carry the news of Sherman's army backward."|
|(--Mary Chestnut, 26 Feb 1865. A Diary From Dixie: Electronic Edition.
Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut, 1823-1886, Academic Affairs Library, UNC-CH
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1997)
assignment was to design a building to house a single
rare book. This project was titled: Le Pavillion d'Un. The reason for this name
was that the building was to have only one instance of each design
element. If the design included stairs, there should be only one staircase. If the
design included columns, there should be only one column. Etc. Obviously, taken
literally, such a requirement is impossible to satisfy, but, equally clearly, a design
can more or less closely fulfill some interpretation of the spirit of the requirement.
The particular rare book
which the building was to house was the subject of an Edgar
Allen Poe story. The book was reputed to be impossible to read. The teacher explained
this meant that the book was very difficult to understand. I did some library research
and found out that the truth was rather that the book was so execrably printed that the
difficulty was in making out what the letters in the words were. When I pointed this out to the
teacher, he was not pleased, and, of course, his dismissal of my having corrected
him made me displeased with him.
We had about a week to do the project,
and I spent more than half the allotted time
getting nowhere. I was close to panicking that I would end up with nothing. Then
I somehow managed to "sublimate" my frustration by imagining that Curtis LeMay
bombed the building (this fantasy "killed two birds
with one stone": both my frustration with my failure to come
up with a design, and my frustration with the teacher, as described above).
a couple false starts, this idea soon led to
a solution which thoroughly delighted me. I thought of Sherman's march through
Georgia, in the American Civil War, and also Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West.
The project would have one foundation: the
burnt out rubble that remained
from a plantation house, after General Sherman's troops had razed it, and also forever destroyed the
form of life which had inhabited it.
My building would have one window,
facing west: looking out on a "garden" of rubble and a single
naked chimney rising at the other end of it (an allusion to the serene reflecting
pools with faux Greek temple facades at their
far end, often seen in neo-classical villas...).... Thru this window the reader of the
book could watch the sun physically
go down, and meditate on the metaphorical sun (the light of the mind which is
the light of the world) setting on Western civilization
Der Untergang des Abendlands....
[I did not at the time know Cyril
Connolly's: "It is closing time in the gardens of the West...."]
ach student had to make an oral presentation concerning what they
had done. When I gave my presentation, including situating the building in its
cultural context, as described above, I felt embarrassed to be saying such
things to persons who probably would have no idea what I was talking about -- and,
sure enough, when I was finished my presentation, nobody had anything to ask or say, and the
class immediately went on to the next student. (The reader may
wish to refer to my WEB page on a demolition contractor's
grave site to think about in relation to this
project, even though the juxtaposition is entirely coincidental, for I did not
know of the grave site when I did this project.)
psychotherapist's office design (1992).
Brad trying to get into Yale architecture school.
|| [real] garden I designed, inspired by "Wedded rocks" at Ise (Japan).|
Learn why a city can deserve to exist (Louis Kahn).
|| to demolition engineer, Albert Volk's, grave site (reminiscent of
French Enlightenment visionary architecture).
|| Edmund Husserl's lecture: Philosophy and the Crisis of European Humanity (1935).
Dec 2003: German auto makers build factories that go
|| famous postmodern house whose famous postmodern architects
were "heartbroken" when the client cancelled construction.
Our Century: "The century of barbed wire".
"Shipwreck with Spectator" (Life as a journey...).
|| about The Decline of The West: Is the adventure over?
|| about the prideful a-mentia of The West in our time.|
|| (believers' response to sacrilegious cartoons...).|
Return to H.F. Broch de Rothermann page.
Play with signifiers.
Go to The End of the Internet.
Copyright © 1998-2006 Brad McCormick, Ed.D.
23 April 2006CE (2006-04-23) ISO 8601)