- Architecture is the world
in a building.
| A R T I C L E S
| COLLAGE READING: BRAQUE | PICASSO
essay "Collage Reading: Braque | Picasso" probes Synthetic Cubism, which
began in 1912 with the invention of collage. I presented
the essay at 1996 Annual Meeting of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture.
My research focused on basic questions: What is Synthetic
Cubism? What can it teach architects about design? What lessons can we mine
from the collages of Braque and Picasso, as well as Juan Gris, about form and
- For several years, I taught
a graduate seminar on Cubism. The course charted the emergence of abst5raction
in art. Starting with crucial early 19th-century events, the course connected
the dots to Cezanne to Analytical Cubism (1908-1911) to Synthetic Cubism (1912-1914)
to Post-Cubism. I emphasized Picasso's 1907 watershed painting, Les Desmoiselles
d'Avignon, which I turned into an essay, PICASSO
LESSONS: The Sixth Woman of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon.
I also emphasized the problem of Formalism (see my articles Formalism:
Move + Meaning  and Formalism:
Move | Meaning ). My essays, paintings and buildings—all my work—spring from this Cubism-centered fountainhead.
- I build on the research of others. At the top of the list:
John Golding's classic book, Cubism: A History and Analysis 1907-1914;
Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky's research into the relationship between modern
architecture and Analytical Cubist painting, which they highlighted in their seminal
essay, "Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal" (Perspecta 8,
The Yale Architectural Journal, 1964); and Colin Rowe
and Fred Koetter's examination of the solid/void dialectic (the co-dependence
of form and space) in their 1984 book, Collage City. See especially
the chapter, "Crisis of the Object: Predicament of Texture," pp. 50-85.
That chapter revealed a core principle, which my study of Synthetic Cubism helped
me to crystalize. Let me frame this principle as a question:
To what degree has an architect produced a design in
which form functions not only as space-occupier, but also as space-definer?
And that question lurks in the background of my essay, "Collage
in the background, if not the foreground, of almost everything I've since written
including the simple solid-void space-making collage above.
I reread "Collage Reading" recently,
I realized that it could be tough for readers to size up
the degree to which my essay offers original insights. So in a nutshell:
Picasso's first collage (the first collage), which
I discuss in my essay, is perhaps familiar to certain architects and architectural
scholars--it appears as the frontispiece to Rowe and Koetter's Collage City.
But Braque's first pasted-paper collage, to which I compare Picasso's first collage,
is unlikely to strike a chord of recognition in architectural spheres outside
of my seminar. This isn't surprising, since the study of the history of modern
painting, let alone specifically collage, isn't part of the normal undergraduate
and graduate architecture curriculum. I'm by no means the first to recognize the
importance of Picasso's and Braque's first collages. My awareness and appreciation
of them derives, in point of fact, from the work of scholars of the history of
Cubism, such as John Golding. But as far as I know, "Collage Reading"
is the first essay by an architect that explicitly analyzes Picasso's first collage
and Braque's first collage and probes their contrasting design principles.
My comments alluding to Le Corbusier's relationship to Cézanne are
equally original, I believe, a connection I hope to pursue in another article
at some point.
Reading: Braque | Picasso" forshadows other essays where I focus on what
I term SIGNIFICANT SPACE: the
product of a design in which FORM functions not only as SPACE-OCCUPIER, but
also as SPACE-DEFINER. I believe I'm the first to see Significant Space
operating at the very heart of Synthetic Cubism—at
least the Braque brand that I disect in "Collage Reading." See related
LESSONS OF PAINTING FOR ARCHITECTURE, EMPTY/FULL
of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Annual Proceedings
84, 1996, pp. 181-87 |
READING go to page 1 of 7
upper left: (D)Ante/TELESCOPE
HOUSE by JEF7REY
HILDNER. HOUSE ADDITION FOR DAVE ZLOWE, SILVER SPRING, MD. 1997