Friday, November 7, 2008

Typical Conditions

Yet more labyrinth project. Chad Smith, editor of Tropolism, recently suggested to me that reading of a narrative blog can actually be similar to the experience of a work of architecture itself...that "meaning accrues" over time. I strongly suspect I have begun to devote myself to some kind of architectural meta-project with this narration.

There are several landmarks I seem to have preemptively declared necessary for this project, such as the afore-mentioned tower and the "monument to minotaurs." But what of more generic situations? Wandering through a maze or a labyrinth, what conditions (in that italicized architectural sense) does one encounter?

...passages (possibly of more than one type, on more than one level)...
...major and minor intersections...
...dead ends (in a maze, not a classical labyrinth)...

(It seems to me that there should be professional "cant" terms for these conditions, and for their variations, similar to the butchered and misapplied French terms that English-speaking architects use to obscure their own craft . Contemplate the term parti, for instance, so often used when the word "scheme" or simply "idea" would do just as well. For that matter, what is the appropriate designation for a designer of mazes and/or labyrinths? A daedalus--a non-proper noun, to make the distinction from the antique Minoan inventor--perhaps?)

What have I not considered? And how should those conditions be demarcated, if at all? I originally began this list of conditions with an idea of understanding my progress, if any, towards some point where I might consider myself reasonably done with this project and therefore free to move on to something else. But what if there are no conditions to typically satisfy? What if every crystalline moment in the Labyrinth--whether the result of a deliberate, strategical move or a twilight-confused wandering--is a unique and previously undefined situation that shares little identity--of the sort usually indicated with the abbreviated adjective "Typ." (for typical) in architectural drawings--with any other ahead or behind. If the sort of Labyrinth I am projecting is in fact a sort of puzzle (a maze) while having a metaphysically unique path like the Labyrinth of Knossos in the myth of Theseus, would it not be a more effective situation to have no typical conditions? Would it not be more effective for conditions to only sometimes--occasionally--seem repetitive or typical, while in fact they are all truly, cryptically unique?

In this case, how will I ever know when I am done?

...or for that matter, when I actually started?

In my own house, at the top of a flight of stairs where a short corridor ends, is a sculpture I made years ago that refers to a place-marker I had noticed in a different sort of maze/labyrinth from any previously discussed. When I made it, I was originally thinking about the kind of minor shrine one finds in (or even over) small squares and intersections in that most labyrinthine of famous cities, Venice. Like this one, from the sestiere of San Polo:

It has occurred to me, very recently, that these sculptures of saints, messiahs, and their mothers are in fact a kind of non-literate way-finding: Here I am under the Madonna of This, as opposed to that calle that runs by the shrine to the Saint of That: an effective technique for deliberately converting the quotidian (an otherwise anonymous and unremarkable urban confluence) to the exceptional (Il Campo della Madonna della ThisThatOrL'otraCosa).

(As an aside, I should note that possibility of that I must design a permanently-inhabited labyrinth--i.e., a city--further immensely complicates my attempt to define the scope of this project...a whole potentially-infinite range of habitation might be required. Does a Labyrinth require homes, shops, markets, public squares, service alleys, hospitals, prisons, cemeteries? Why not parks, pastures, ruins, and wilderness too? Or even unique spaces that are less readily categorized...less typical? )


Now, I made that sculpture or relief or whatever it is out of scrap building materials and broken electronic components left at a construction site in 2000, long before I considered this Labyrinth and even before I decided, in my early middle age, to go to architecture school. I don't actually know quite how this sculpture became a replica of some begrimed corner shrine displaced from some technologically-minded medieval period. In my sketchbook it is clear that this began as simply a housing for a stylized mask originally destined for another sculpture but left unused.

Is it possible I was already working on this labyrinth project?

And no, I don't know what it is that I am drawing at the end of the passage, at the dead-end....yet.


Paulo Guerreiro said...

Ho my friend has been awhile, since I comment your blog, I've been more than busy these days.
I think that your work is brilliant Lewis, thank you for sharing those.
I'm taking it as almost post-cataclysm shrines, a technological womb, parts of it remind me of giger's work, as you combine hard matter in organic almost obscure way.
Btw what about your concrete ammonite!!!??? Wen do we see pictures of it?, details and variations??? !!

Lewis Wadsworth said...

I am planning on posting a development to this, or at the very least some more thoughts on the consequences of taking on a project with no typical conditions and a metaphorical equivalence to every circumstance in a human lifespan.

There is a picture of my remaining concrete ammonite, which is about 5' across and weighs about two hundred pounds, underneath the archive list in the right column. The other examples have disintegrated for various reasons (poor concrete mixes or experiments on my part, mainly). I'll update the photo after the first snowfall that "sticks." It should be very pretty.

Paulo Guerreiro said...

I'm really looking forward to see it.
And i must tell you that would be great to see one of those degrade, how time and elements degrade it, what colors, what textures, nature grows on him?.

It's a privilege to see one of those turn to dust, it's like 200 years concentrated in months, so....... the bad concrete is also a good way to explore this degradation. It's the same with architecture, we must try to imagine how a project is going to "evolve" and resist (or not) trough the passage of years, very cool, sometimes materials gain a magnificent patine that can only be achieved trough the passage of time or extended use.