expressionist-architecture

this essay which tries to be ecumenic about history and futurism came to my mind when I went out to the kebap shop which is run by an oriental man who is very ecumenic - one of the customers was a Hungarian immigrant who had been in Austria for 40 years. Coincidentally we started talking about music and he said that traditional Hungarian folk music uses the pentaphonic system which they had brought from China. I said, but the Irish tradtional music uses the pentaphonic system as well. And the old man said, that is why they like Irish music a lot in Hungary and I should write to the Franz Liszt akademia in Budapest to know more about the pentaphonic system. Then I went home and I wanted to finish a tape I was making linking David Lynch to Czechland (he was a pupil of Prague born painter Oskar Kokoschka) featuring also Ticha Dochoda and Buty (which I recorded from you) and there I found a track by Vladimir Vaclavek (the CD you said sounded very strange) which was a Chinese traditional song played with the keyboard in that Buty style. So I thought that this was indeed very interesting this futuristic sound and I remembered the influence Czech surrealist writer Karel Capek had on Czech culture.

Capek and his brother had an interest in architecture which might be due to the fact that Capek was interested in mathematics and calculation as well . One of the architect was called Josef Chochol who built the Neklanova House and based its shape on the way crystal is cut - as you may know Galway crystal and Bohemian crystal is cut the same way because a Bohemian from Czechy settled down in Ireland. Bohemians patented lead crystal in the times of the renaissance and researched on the field of optic (including telescope, lenses and spectacles), and crystal is a symbol of transparence and truth. Which leads again to that Bohemian Prague circle of idealistic people. In those days, talking about 1910s, many people in Prague disserted about the crystaline as an absolute form, Wilhelm Woringer wrote "Abstraktion und Einfí±¢í¼µng" and Alois Riegl saw in "the crystal and the organic a polarity of all artistic development". This sounds very much high-brow, like many things Viennese then and now. Josef Chochol was a pupil of Otto Wagner, the Viennese arte-nova architect (who designed many houses and railway stations in Vienna, plus the Majolica House cf Vienna part 3). Arte Nova, which flourished in Scotland (Rennie Macintosh), Finland, Catalonia (Barcelona), England and Austria did not take much root in Prague, because they were looking for a new style to assert their identity. In those days, there were discussions about independence from the old Habsburg Monarchy. These people were looking at Tomas Mazaryk, the scholar and friend of Rainer Maria Rilke and Oskar Kokoschka, and at Josef Capek who imagined a "building of the perfect forms and great emotions".
Jan Tabor (Essay) Otto Wagner (data Falter Verlag; Wien; book 72 pages)

website neklanova




This is why I found writing about Max Brod and his friends so interesting. There I was in that modern hospital last year in February reading a book dating 1914 about an astronomer from the renaissance. And then I understood. The scholar Brod who corresponded with Karel Capek felt inadequate with modernity. We noticed that his office in Tel Aviv looked just the same as the one he had in Prague and in his book "Beinahe ein Vorzugsschí±²íµ²" he goes on about these modern buildings in Tel Aviv which have no memories. Brod was being himself, a romantic idealist who would have wished to turn back the clock and erase all the bad things that happened in the past, however, what sets him apart is his undeterred wish to carry on in the present, discovering new things, building or rebuilding culture with an open mind. And doing so with a flame that seeks respect. A dream is often a wishful thinking for some, and others decide to make them real. Peace and peace of mind were his dreams. He achieved much.

Brod shared his inadequacy with Franz Werfel and Johannes Urzidil. On the other hand, Franz Kafka was quite interested in new inventions and his imagination had no limits what technical improvements could be made to make life easy. We read that he imagined a telephone connected to a dictaphone and all sorts of stories set against a backdrop of machinery, a machinery not always kind to humanity, mind. A machinery that can also be used as an instrument of torture. I guess this is why there is this ambiguity with modern architecture as well.
The crystal buildings that marvelled Sochor with its purity of form look absolutely frightening in a film by Robert Wiene called "The Cabinet of Dr Caligari", which was made in Germany and featured some prominent names as we had Gustav Meyrink scripting the story.

Well, I found a picture that illustrates the idea. It was taken by Sergio Campanale at the Museum of Moving Images in London after we saw the film. At the time, Robert Wiene made his film, another visionary called F.W. Murnau experimented with photography and the way to make a film atmospheric. What makes his Nosferatu particularly scary is the lack of subtility of facial expressions. Murnau explained that this was due to the fact that his actors all came from the stage where you accentuate the expression for it to be visible but if you meet such a figure in real life, you are scared because the face does not move or if it does it's an abrupt change. This makes explanations impossible. This is also what makes comic strips inhuman, you get a bubble with a whole message and the face does not move - hence a disconnection. All this is called expressionism, and if you do expressionist photography for instance, you are left with icons or that is to say that the expression is more important than the person. Personally I don't like iconic photography because of that. The essence of expressionism however remains: one must be able to express feelings, words, ideas, dreams. What do we get if we modernise expressionism:

The solution is to make things fluid, flowing. Using the idea of the crystal, you can make it multifaceted like the forty shades of blue and hence sparkle. No contradiction between Chochor and Kaplicky. So the more subtle you go with photography the more atmospheric and passionate it gets as the feelings are rendered in an instant moment but frozen in time, so a photography taken this way can never be iconic but highly intimate. And second, provided you are allow to portray (no candid pictures or no paparazzi), then you must portray the people the way they see themselves at a certain moment, at a certain time. Posed, but certainly. The Prague Circle taught me a lot about the respect of dignity so no socio-realism for me. Sean O Casey spoke about poetic realism and this is spot on. You depict reality in a poetic way - this is no escapism or ignoring reality, remember what Franz Kafka said not to forage but to tell stories in parables and metaphors

I like the idea of pictures which belong to one place only, they look like memories. Personal, individual. So the present will be the memory of the future and, we tell stories about a certain picture, or a song or a house. So the next section is just about that. What has all this to do with Karel Capek, well, he wanted a universal appeal so we got into cyberspace just for the sake of a futurist from Prague who had many dreams. And all these people from the Prague Circle, whichever way they went, they all came to the same conclusion: Something old, something new, something borrowed and something true - get the balance of poetic realism. Crystal clear!

Czech futurism found me in 1999. As I was visiting London to see some friends, there was an exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Design where Future Systems - with Czech born Jan Kaplicky introduced surreal buildings in aerodynamic forms and refered to Czech futurism as his inspiration. This picture shows how a shopping centre might look like.


279 Selfridges 1999
The ambition of this scheme is great. Selfridges require a state of the art department store. They also wish to have a building that will provide an architectural landmark for Birmingham. It is this ambition that has driven our design. Enabling the building to become a genuine catalyst for urban regeneration. The ambition for the interior is to meet the expectation of the exterior, balancing the curiosity created by the unique fa硤e. The fluidity of the form of the building is matched inside with an organically shaped atrium stretching across the floor plan. Like an urban canyon, the atrium creates shafts of natural light penetrating deep inside the space. We have re-interpreted the notion of a department store, not just in its form and appearance. We have also analysed the social function such a building now plays in our society. The form of the building is soft and curvaceous in response to the natural curve of the site, sweeping around the corner and wrapping over the top to form the roof. This building expresses what it is in a way that is aesthetically innovative but also clearly signifies its function as a department store without the need for signage.
221 Lords Media Centre 1994

There exists at Lord's a tradition of patronage of innovative structures - the objective of the design has been to respect and savour the essential nature of Lord's while bringing to it a building that will herald the coming millennium and provide the most elegant and state-of-the-art media centre in the world. The NatWest Media Centre at Lord's will be one of the most innovative buildings this century. It will be the first all aluminium semi-monococque building in the world. It represents a breakthrough, not just in the creation of a new three-dimensional aesthetic but in its method of construction; this building was built and fitted out not by the construction industry but by a boatyard, using the very latest advances in boat building technology. Raised 15m above the ground, the aerodynamic contours of the building reflect the sweep of the plan of the Ground with the enclosing skin formed by a smooth, white, seamless shell. The west facing glazing is inclined to avoid any glare or reflections while providing unobstructed views of the game for the world's media. http://www.future-systems.com/


What is that??? Will people exclaim as they see this gigantic spaceship in the middle of London. I had to include the remarks by Jan Kaplicky and his futurist architecture because back in 1999 the subjects that fascinated my friends were the eclipse and the millenium. I do not have fond memories of the autumn 1999 because my health took a nosedive only to re-emerge in May 2000 and down again in Summer 2000 to Autumn 2002 during which I met the acquaintance of modern architecture as in hospital architecture, functional, airy and the lot. Hypermodern medical treatment including Magnetresonnanztomography and another thing which has something to do with radioactive technology and machines looking as if they came out of a Kafka story, plus forms and incomprehensible speak. But this space ship gives me the excuse of putting this picture here and say that if someone tells you on the radio about a spaceship landing in your garden, you better see for yourself if it's true. :
Comments