‘Perfectly comfortable to live in when the hour means idleness’
|March 5, 2013|
Mrs. Schuyler Van Rensselaer (Mariana Griswold), Augustus Saint Gaudens, 1888
From The Design Observer:
Many of Van Rensselaer’s essays focus on country houses, and can be read as offering a counter-narrative to the better-known contemporaneous essays on high-rise architecture by Louis Sullivan and Montgomery Schuyler. In his seminal “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered,” from 1896, Sullivan described the skyscraper as a peculiarly American invention that offered architects the opportunity to create a new language based on the new functional requirements of the tall building; he makes a painstakingly detailed argument that the design should result from the program. In “The Evolution of the Sky-Scraper,” from 1909, Schuyler traces the rationale for the tall office building’s evolution in size and material, from the steel frame to the safety elevator. Neither essay “solves” the problem of the skyscraper, but each anatomizes the difficulties of the type. Van Rensselaer applies an equally searching method to her discussion of the house, from the Colonial era to the 19th-century innovations of architects like R.M. Hunt and McKim, Mead & White as well as Richardson. Van Rensselaer did not avoid the public realm: her series for The Century on “Recent Architecture in America” included public and commercial as well as domestic buildings. But much of her writing on commercial buildings, including warehouses and skyscrapers, seems somewhat rushed and comparatively tentative, with little of the insight she brings to the design of residences. (It is — correctly, I think — rarely in the anthologies.) In one of her Century pieces, for instance, Van Rensselaer identifies the new importance of the hall in American domestic design, the transformation of this room from humble entryway into a new kind of living area.
In our climate and with our social ways of summer living, we absolutely require just what it can give us — a room which in its uses shall stand midway between the piazzas on the one hand and the drawing-rooms and libraries on the other; perfectly comfortable to live in when the hour means idleness, easy of access from all points outside and in, largely open to breeze and view, yet with a generous hearthstone where we might find a rallying-point in days of cold and rain.
She also devotes attention to the staircase, as an open and architectural element in these new halls. As you read, you realize that Van Rensselaer is developing a dialogue between the domestic architecture and culture of her day and the experience of Americans in their houses. She is explaining how the innovations of the home — along with those of the skyscraper — were forming the core of a new American architecture. I don’t know if this was Van Rensselaer’s style and subject by interest or necessity, but it feels to me that her analyses benefitted from attention to the small-scale as well as to the myriad choices Americans were making — and still make — in our daily domestic lives. And even now, which is a better representation of who we are: our skyscrapers or our kitchens?
Inherent Vice’s Two Directions
The jokes certainly strike one as sophomoric and the latter one as clichéd, further below Pynchon’s intelligence than one would like to think he would stoop, at least in print. Discounting them and moving on, or throwing the book across the room as Parker half implies we should do, however, would be to lose sight of “that high magic to low puns”.
Auden, Larkin and Love
I was prompted to revisit these ancient questions anew by a long footnote about a single line in the new Complete Poems edition of Philip Larkin’s poetry. The footnote refers to “An Arundel Tomb” contains a provocative remark about that the poem’s celebrated, controversial, closing line, the one about the true nature of immortality: “What will survive of us is love.”
Plato, Our Comrade?
Not surprisingly, there have already been critics of Badiou’s translation. The first is that his translation breaks the formal rules of translation to such a degree that the original meaning of the text has lost its significance. But this critique is inadequate at face value because Badiou’s hyper-translation is forthright in its intention of taking Plato’s concepts and modifying them into his own lexicon.
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Marcel Duchamp sat silent. He seemed far away, lost in reverie. Then, he spoke of the death of art, which he described as “posterity, meaning art history.” He said “history” means death and so anything which is recorded permanently as a part of history is dead.” I thought of the internet. I made a note on my sheet of possible questions: the internet kills art by turning everything into a permanent record.
Twenty-three brunettes, 10 puffs of pubic hair, nine pairs of panties, two t-shirts, two socks, one tank-top, one bra, one bottle, and one bowling ball—though I suppose it could be a basketball, a medicine ball, or a soccer ball. Twenty legs amputated by the edges of absent frames. Four pairs of legs spread wide open (one of these ass-to-us).