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Geometrical Fundamentalism

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  • Doug Salzmann
    Hi, everyone. Last night, the film of Rand s The Fountainhead was shown on a local PBS station. This morning, my in-box contained a note from Joel, with a
    Message 1 of 4 , Dec 30 3:46 PM
      Hi, everyone.

      Last night, the film of Rand's "The Fountainhead" was shown on a local PBS
      station. This morning, my in-box contained a note from Joel, with a link
      to a recommended article and the following provocative quote from said article:

      "Abstraction creates a dangerous dehumanization. This point was previously
      made by Eric Darton in his prescient book on the World Trade Center [5].
      Darton raised the frightening prospect that the creation of giant tower
      buildings is related to the mindset of those who would wish to destroy them
      [5]. His reasoning is as follows. It is impossible to contemplate killing
      thousands of people in a single building unless those people are viewed
      simply as an abstract class. They must not be considered as having any
      separate existence apart from the building's geometry, which is itself
      defined abstractly. The geometry of huge, monumental, monofunctional office
      towers makes it difficult to imagine that they are full of people, hence it
      becomes possible and even rational to contemplate their destruction."

      The article, featured at the moment on Plan Net, is a piece by Michael
      Mehaffy and Nikos Salingaros entitled "Geometrical Fundamentalism." The
      work is one of the most incisive and penetrating analyses of modernism I've
      ever read. As Joel suggested in his note alerting us to this paper, the
      implications of the analysis (if it is correct) are likely to reverberate
      far beyond the disciplines of architecture and planning. From the authors'
      Introduction:

      "Many authors have pointed out the inadequacies of modernist design; yet,
      it is only by identifying the mathematical core of its beliefs that it is
      possible to understand the full extent of the damage done, and lay the
      groundwork for a richer architecture of the future.

      "We argue that the order and beauty attached to geometrical
      oversimplification is of an artificial and isolating nature, and generates
      a form of environmental alienation for our communities. Ordinary people
      intuitively perceive contemporary architecture and urbanism to be
      disconnected from and opposed to values that they hold sacred. In the
      Industrialized World, the reaction to despoiling the urban fabric leads to
      introversion, asocial lifestyles, and a retreat to the suburbs. In the
      Third World, however, it leads to a seething resentment against the
      countries that are seen as champions of this destructive process. Many
      perceive it as a war by the industrialized nations against traditional
      cultures."

      This is bold stuff and my first thought was that the authors were as guilty
      of overreaching as, say, Corbusier or Roark. Their arguments, however, are
      thorough, meticulous and largely convincing. At a minimum, I think this
      work deserves focused attention and serious discussion.

      I've downloaded the Word document version and can send it to anyone who has
      trouble with the online version or with downloading. Here's the URL:

      <http://plannet.com/features/geometricalfundamentalism.html>

      I'm up to my ears in other civic responsibilities at the moment, but I'll
      be very interested to see what you all have to say about this. I'll be
      lurking.

      Take care.

      -Doug

      ---
      "He looked at the granite. To be cut, he thought, and made into walls. He
      looked at a tree. To be split and made into rafters. He looked at a streak
      of rust on the stone and thought of iron ore under the ground. To be melted
      and to emerge as girders against the sky.

      "These rocks, he thought, are here for me; waiting for the drill, the
      dynamite and my voice; waiting to be split, ripped, pounded, reborn;
      waiting for the shape my hands will give them."

      -Ayn Rand, The Fountainhead


      "We don't need no stinking hero architects."

      -Humanity
    • Simon Baddeley
      Hasn t a reproachful rebuttal article already been posted under the ironic title The Building Made Me Do It? I will read this Doug and thanks all the same
      Message 2 of 4 , Jan 2, 2002
        Hasn't a reproachful rebuttal article already been posted under the ironic
        title "The Building Made Me Do It?"

        I will read this Doug and thanks all the same for posting it.

        Best wishes for 2002.

        Simon


        ----- Original Message -----
        From: "Doug Salzmann" <doug@...>
        To: <carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com>
        Sent: Sunday, December 30, 2001 11:46 PM
        Subject: [carfree_cities] Geometrical Fundamentalism

        "Abstraction creates a dangerous dehumanization. This point was previously
        made by Eric Darton in his prescient book on the World Trade Center [5].
        Darton raised the frightening prospect that the creation of giant tower
        buildings is related to the mindset of those who would wish to destroy them
        [5].
      • bjornobel
        ... ironic ... Very good, Simon. I hope the rebuttal will be as artful as its prospective title. Perhaps we can commission Pei to write it. If he s not
        Message 3 of 4 , Jan 2, 2002
          --- In carfree_cities@y..., "Simon Baddeley" <s.j.baddeley@b...>
          wrote:
          > Hasn't a reproachful rebuttal article already been posted under the
          ironic
          > title "The Building Made Me Do It?"

          Very good, Simon. I hope the rebuttal will be as artful as its
          prospective title. Perhaps we can commission Pei to write it. If
          he's not available, almost any other Pritzker winner would do.

          Please do read the article. It's quite remarkable and I know in
          advance that I'll enjoy your comments, whatever they may be.

          Happy New Year!

          -Doug
        • enjax
          There s an article on Slate today that provides a similar theory, though it ties Yamasaki s Islamic influences with the design of the WTC towers as being a
          Message 4 of 4 , Jan 3, 2002
            There's an article on Slate today that provides a similar theory,
            though it ties Yamasaki's Islamic influences with the design of the
            WTC towers as being a possible motive.

            The Mosque to Commerce
            Bin Laden's special complaint with the World Trade Center.

            http://slate.msn.com/?id=2060207

            --- In carfree_cities@y..., "bjornobel" <doug@t...> wrote:
            > --- In carfree_cities@y..., "Simon Baddeley" <s.j.baddeley@b...>
            > wrote:
            > > Hasn't a reproachful rebuttal article already been posted under
            the
            > ironic
            > > title "The Building Made Me Do It?"
            >
            > Very good, Simon. I hope the rebuttal will be as artful as its
            > prospective title. Perhaps we can commission Pei to write it. If
            > he's not available, almost any other Pritzker winner would do.
            >
            > Please do read the article. It's quite remarkable and I know in
            > advance that I'll enjoy your comments, whatever they may be.
            >
            > Happy New Year!
            >
            > -Doug
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