For media-circulated new-millennia projects the role of the diagram is twofold. First, it is prescriptive, proffering a sort of DNA/hieroglyph, which purports to have already solved all contingent issues. In its second role, the same diagram is offered to the observer/critic as a yardstick against which to measure the finished building, a 'fast-track-packaging' of architecture, a reduction to the 'one-liner' to the 'headline'.
At this point I must confess, I am not very good at it. Diagrams do appear from time-to-time, but my logical facilities are for better or for worse not focused enough to decide the rules of the game in advance. Designing for me is a process of trial and error. I am not ruthless enough to throw overboard all those compromising loose ends with which one toys while coaxing recalcitrant form from the soup of experience and circumstance. Teaching is a good antidote; an explanatory diagram is worth a thousand words in keeping a confused student on the straight and narrow.
Luckily Italo Calvino has mapped out a resolution to the diagram dilemma. Two of his 'Milennia' essays are titled Exactitude and Multiplicity. Diagrammatic thinking, and designing certainly, belong to the Exactitude methodology, a continual reduction and paring down to essences. But at a certain point such refinements reach their limit, become self-reflective; a no longer useful closed circuit. At this point Calvino, describing his own writing process, switches to Multiplicity, an ever-expanding game of connections, associations and parallel lines of thought. The product (text or building) charts a complex course, engaging with what has gone before and juggling with a multiplicity of ideas, spaces and scales. At a certain point this process topples into the encyclopaedic, and it's time to jump tracks again, back to the reductive, to exactitude, to the diagrammatic. Calvino's star sign, like Le Corbusier (and both partners of Bolles+Wilson) was Libra.
The Bolles+Wilson design for the New Luxor Theatre in Rotterdam has a spiral plan, a continuous wall that first encloses and then spirals once more within the volume to divide the auditorium from the foyer. The spiral plan form is the generative diagram, re-enacted nightly by the passage through the foyer of the 1500 strong audience. The diagrammatic spiral is the subsumed vertebrae which give the animal its characteristic form, but the story does not end with this unifying gesture. The spiral is also the carrier and the organiser of a multiple of subplots, relationships from within to the surrounding panorama, localised spatial sequences and incidents on the scale of the individual user. Such buildings do not reveal their spatial, material or phenomenological qualities through the diagram or even through the eye of the camera. They are better measured at a scale 1:1, by being there, than against the reductive discipline of the diagram. PETER WILSON, BOLLES+WILSON
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|Publication:||The Architectural Review|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2006|
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