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September 26, 2004

The Mission



I seek rooms of mystery and inspiration. Rooms when buildings were not objects, but containers of larger, communal rooms that held people together. Before architecture had walls, columns and roofs, it was a solid mass that was sculpted and subtracted. When architecture was a small part of a larger entity, the city, which itself was a series of rooms of many different scales.


I am searching for cities where positive and negative are one in the same, and where one does not exist without the other. I am interested in studying the negative, the Room as a positive, in the manner that N. John Habraken describes the Nolli map: “…the map also shows how the white and the black are inseparable. The one defines the other. Nolli shows Rome’s monuments as rooted in the black mass of the common fabric like plants rooted in the soil.”

Heroic rooms have scale. today we make monumental buildings or objects, but not monumental rooms, Rooms for Giants. We have lost being contained by something greater, something larger than the pedestrian. Streets are now arteries rather than rooms. We have lost the idea of the collective, we are now focused on the individual. architects create objects rather then spaces.

Piranesi’s studies of ancient Rome are seductive in the way he portrays the enchantment of large-scaled rooms. This enchanted scale that I call Heroic, Renzo Vallebuona refers to as Bigness in “Louis Kahn in Wonderland:”

Large Buildings do not necessarily contribute to the discussion of bigness…Our difficulties are bound to the fact that bigness first and foremost inspires awe in us…Once a building reaches ‘critical mass’ it requires an order to become a ‘big building’, it begins to define its own compass. It is a concentration of programmatic, organizational, metaphorical rules; it begins simultaneously to formulate, bit by bit, the language of its own tectonics. It starts to define not only its dimensions but, even more so, its dimensionality, its breadth, to become above all the vehicle of its own expansionism. At this point, it ceases to be large in the usual sense and becomes a ‘big building’.

The heroic does not necessarily mean large, but can be the absence of scale, the loss of reference, or perhaps the disorientation of the self, the sense of something larger and beyond understanding the self.

I wish to study the threshold into the room and what occupies the room. Within the heroic room there should be mystery. Piranesi’s drawings reveal this in how he imagined the roman forum. Not everything is revealed at once. One wants to move through the space and look around the corner. I imagine the Roman forum being such a space filled with mystery, where the source of light and shadow are not always apparent.

Heroic rooms were intrinsic to the ancient cultures around the Mediterranean, perhaps inspired by Egyptian temples. These temples have the mystery of Piranesi’s drawings. They influenced the Greek Temples with their scale, mystery and light. Similarly, the great Byzantine Bazaars, Mosques, and Hot rooms have the thick scale in their walls and filter light into these great mysterious spaces. The medieval Streets of Cairo, Morocco, Greece, Italy, and Istanbul take on similar qualities of light and mystery in their narrow winding ways.

Is the heroic room only an experience of the past? Can the modern public room also inspire heroic awe in its scale and form? As Sarah Williams Goldhagan writes:

Not since the 1970’s, in fact, has corporate America stunning works of large scale architecture such as Eero Saarinen’s CBS Building in New York City, or I.M. Pei’s John Hancock Tower, in Boston…Finally postmodern theory’s ambivalent emphasis on the intrinsic value of the banal and the everyday casts still further doubt on the social relevance of the large-scale, the monumental, and-dare we say it?—the heroic

I Hope to discover some of the basic elements of the heroic rooms of the past, on both the building and urban scale, and use this experience to inform my civic and urban work in the future.

December-Morocco
Week 1-Tangier
Week 2-Sale, Rabat, Casablanca
Week 3-Fez
Week 4-Marrakesh
January-Tunisia
Week 5-Tunis
Week 6-Sfax
Week 7-Gabes
Week 8-Jerba Island
February-Egypt
Week 9- Abu Simbel, Aswan, Edfu
Week 10- Luxor, Qena, Karnak, Deir El-Bahari
Week 11- Cairo, Giza
Week 12- Alexandria, Tanis
March-Jordan, Syria
Week 13- Petra
Week 14- Jerash
Week 15- Damascus
Week 16- Palmyra, Crac, Aleppo
April-Turkey
Week 17- Adana, Cyprus
Week 18- Rhodes, Izmir
Week 19- Istanbul
Week 20-
May-Greece
Week 21- Sporades, Meteora
Week 22- Athens
Week 23- Delphi, Meteora
Week 24- Peloponnese, Ionian Islands, Crete
June-Albania, Croatia
Week 25- Butrint, Gjirokastra, Apollonia,
Week 26- Tirana
Week 27- Dubrovnik, Split
Week 28- Zagreb, Rijeka
July-Italy
Week 29-Naples
Week 30-Sicily
Week 31-Malta
Week 32-Sardinia

Posted by follett at 11:53 AM | Comments (100)

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"The room is the beginning of architecture. It is the place of the mind. You in the room with its dimensions, its structure, its light respond to its character, its spiritual aura, recognizing, that whatever the human proposes and makes, becomes a life."

LOUIS KAHN, Gold Medal for Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech
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