Architecture is the world in a building.
JEF7REY HILDNER | A R T I C L E S | COLLAGE READING: BRAQUE | PICASSO

My 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 space?
 
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 [1] and Formalism: Move | Meaning [2]). My essays, paintings and buildingsall my workspring 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 Reading" and in the background, if not the foreground, of almost everything I've since written and designed, including the simple solid-void space-making collage above.
 
When 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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
 
"Collage 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 Cubismat least the Braque brand that I disect in "Collage Reading." See related essays: 7 LESSONS OF PAINTING FOR ARCHITECTURE, EMPTY/FULL and SIGNIFICANT SPACE.

Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Annual Proceedings 84, 1996, pp. 181-87 | COLLAGE READING go to page 1 of 7
Photo upper left: (D)Ante/TELESCOPE HOUSE by JEF7REY HILDNER. HOUSE ADDITION FOR DAVE ZLOWE, SILVER SPRING, MD. 1997

2011 by JEF7REY HILDNER
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