Thursday, June 21, 2007

Starting with an Image

From left to right: Stewart Walker, Leonard Schultze, Ely Jacques Kahn, William Van Alen, Ralph Walker, D. Everett Waid, and Joseph Freedlander.

In the book Image of the Architect I found a wonderful image to work with. It is from the Beaux-Arts Ball fron 1931, here you have architects dressed up as their buildings. Like the Renaissance proverb "Ogni dipintore dipinge se'" (every painter paints himself), here the literal illustration is such that when applied to architecture - every architect builds himself. Or as another blog put it, "You are what you build."

In this case the individual architect is of course highlighted as master of his work - sole creative inventor and source of any interpretation of the final product.
In such a psychoanalytical perspective, it is easy to think of the individual ethos presenting so much authority over his creative manifestations. Though many feminists and other groups have found this to be a clear distinction of a larger (more collective?) patriarchal domination. To add to that, many feminist urbanists (Jane Jacobs, Dolores Hayden, Rosalyn Deutsche ) might argue that the this patriarchal overdrive is visibly manifested in the downtown skylines of most major cities.
Despite all of the complications that need to be fleshed out in a more thorough analysis of the photograph, it is a clear starting point toward a counterposed argument about the collective and the architectural process. Yipee!

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