#FLJacobites: an object lesson

Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobites, a nice concise three weeks from 18 September, from the University of Edinburgh and National Museums Scotland, who have an exhibition on the go. See also the Jacobite Trail.

What makes our course distinctive is its focus on material culture. That is, on the objects, clothes, images and items used or seen by those living in the period that is sometimes called the Jacobite century, from 1688 to 1788.

Now I don’t want to brag, but I won a school history prize for a BPC project, including a relief map of the Jacobite advance and retreat and transcriptions of some Jacobite songs (the hand of my father in both). I’ve also been to Culloden twice and have my own object, a BPC shortbread tin now used for storing sugar.

This MOOC is not my first nostalgia trip – see #FLRobertBurns. Both are ‘not my period’, but somehow it’s rather different when it’s _your_ heritage. Interestingly, my aunt, exiled in England, was rather more into her ‘heritage’ than my mother, living in Scotland.

What is material culture?

Material culture is  a way of talking about objects – talking about them, but also their study. It brings together two otherwise quite different things – material implies something base, perhaps something earthy, whereas culture is much more abstract, lofty, intellectual, maybe. Bringing these terms together produces a sort of creative friction, enabling us to access the past in concrete, tangible ways through the objects that have survived. The past as a richly furnished landscape of objects – an objectscape.

Material culture can mean different things to different specialists, but at its heart it is about the study of objects, usually from the past. We can use these objects to access the past, even if they are behind glass – we can see is how people in the past interacted with them.

Viccy Coltman’s pictogram with the four key themes around an object:

One comment: “I have really enjoyed linking the objects to the history to bring the history alive…material culture is a great way of getting my pupils involved…anchoring the concrete to the abstract”.

For more see the Tangible Things MOOC (again). And just spotted in CPH:

According to Kathryn Hughes, objects have become the dominant way of understanding and interpreting the past. She gives A history of the world in 100 objects as an example – objects make better stories than timelines. Its sister programme, Germany: memories of a nation, Neil MacGregor’s peerless series and exhibition (ten objects), certainly worked for me.

More objects linkage: The Brontë cabinet: three lives in nine objects | People’s History Museum’s Object of the Month | teaching & object-based learning | Prime Ministers’ props | Living with the gods, Neil MacGregor’s new 30! part series

I noted my first objects exhibition at Gdansk’s Solidarity Centre, the End of War in 45 artefacts, emphatically not in any set order, an “inspiration incentive to reflect on the complexity of historic events…and the ambiguity of their outcomes”. Museums in Poland have certainly embraced the objects approach – the Museum of Warsaw’s new core exhibition is The Things of Warsaw.

But has it all gone too far? See this shot from the Warsaw Uprising Museum, a room crammed with stuff which people shuffled round without showing much interest:

Locally, 99xVSTGN similarly felt just too enthusiastically random. See Heritage Futures’ Profusion theme for more on this, and clutter generally. Instant update: just spotted, Edinburgh Alphabet, more than 300 objects grouped around a letter of the alphabet (with B for Burns).

BPC in bullets: what I learned (or had forgotten I knew)

Pre-BPC:

  • the Stuarts had ruled the Kingdom of Scotland since 1371; France, and several other countries, continued to support them as claimants to the thrones of Scotland, England and Ireland after (Catholic) James VII & II was deposed
  • James VII established a 1000-strong court in exile at a château close to Versailles; Louis XIV, James’ cousin, was determined to do all he could to secure James’ restoration
  • not all Jacobites were Catholic, in fact the majority were Episcopalian; most Jacobite courtiers were English, but the court also included Scots, Irish, French and Italians
  • in 1701 the 13 year old James Francis Edward (aka The Old Pretender) was recognised by both Louis XIV and the Pope as James VIII & III of Scotland, England and Ireland
  • James VIII eventually settled in Rome, where his sons Charles (BPC) and Henry were born, and mounted three campaigns taking advantage of political discontent in Britain, all of which fizzled out:
    • 1708: the 1707 Act of Union proved unpopular in Scotland, where it was perceived as an unhappy marriage of unequal partners
    • 1715: on the death of Queen Anne in 1714 the throne passed to the unpopular George, the Protestant Elector of Hanover; the Unionist Earl of Mar threw in his lot with the Jacobites in an attempt to return a Stuart to the throne
    • 1719: James VIII had had to leave France as a condition of the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, and with the death of Louis XIV in September 1715 he lost the support of the French; the Jacobite court in exile had no permanent home until James was offered the Palazzo del Rei in Rome by Pope Clement XI in 1719 – support for the exiled Stuarts shifted from France to Italy and Spain

BPC:

  • born in December 1720, an event commemorated in the medallic record as the great hope for the continuation of the Jacobite cause and the longed-for Stuart restoration
  • in the late 1730s and early 1740s the Jacobite court in exile became a brilliant social centre, optimistic that BPC would finally recover the thrones of his father and grandfather
  • James VIII knew that a restoration attempt would need French military assistance; with war between France and Hanoverian Britain renewed in 1743 and BPC coming of age, James named him Prince Regent, with authority to act in his name
  • BPC obtained the support of Louis XV, who supported a botched campaign in 1744
  • BPC landed on Eriskay in the Outer Hebrides on 5 July 1745; thousands of Jacobites rallied to the cause
  • BPC raised the Stuart standard at Glenfinnan, near Fort William, on 19 August; since 1815 the Glenfinnan Monument has provided a poignant reminder
  • the Jacobite army marched south unopposed and by 17 September was in control of Edinburgh; at noon James VIII was proclaimed King, with BPC confirmed as Prince Regent
  • on 21 September BPC led the Jacobites to victory in the first major battle of the campaign, the Battle of Prestonpans; Sir John Cope, leading the government forces at this time, was forced to retreat to Berwick on Tweed, as immortalised in song
  • for the next six months BPC rode or marched with his supporters from Scotland through England, taking Carlisle and Manchester, reaching as far south as Derby
  • the Jacobite forces numbered just under 6000 men and included French and Irish troops; four French ships had been despatched with weapons and supplies, although the expected support from English Jacobites and promised French reinforcements failed to materialise
  • the Duke of Cumberland, the youngest son of King George II, and like BPC just 24, was recalled from the war in Flanders to take command of the Hanoverian forces at Lichfield, just south of Derby, forming a three-way threat with General Wade approaching from the north and an army gathering on Finchley Common to defend London
  • on Friday, 6 December, a day known to Jacobites as Black Friday, BPC’s commanders advised him to retreat north
  • at the Battle of Falkirk on 17 January a Hanoverian force commanded by General Henry Hawley was subjected to the Highland charge, previously successful at the battle of Prestonpans – the last Jacobite victory
  • by 14 April the Jacobite army was camped at Culloden, outside Inverness; their numbers were depleted, in part by dispirited and hungry men returning to their homes in the Highlands
  • the moor was flat and open, good for the Duke of Cumberland’s forces with their regular cavalry and artillery and very different from Prestonpans, where the Jacobites had been able to use their swords and targes for up-close, one-to-one armed combat…it didn’t end well

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Maps above from the MOOC. See also Escape Penrith, who includes the escape from Culloden. All very handy, although a relief map in plaster of Paris can do the job too.

After BPC:

  • after Culloden BPC spent five months evading capture in the Highlands before sailing to the safety of France; enter (briefly) Flora MacDonald, a dominant part of the Jacobite legend
  • the British army pursued the Jacobites who had been scattered after Culloden with little mercy, the beginning of a campaign of reprisals intended to ensure that the Highlands would never again provide military support for the Jacobite cause
  • a series of measures was designed to attack the power structures and martial culture of the Highland clans, with the carrying of weapons and the wearing of highland dress in Scotland banned and clan chiefs stripped of their powers of justice; the Highlands was brought under the full control of the Hanoverian state
  • BPC finally returned to France in September 1746; he continued to be driven by his dynastic ambitions for a Stuart restoration but over the next three decades faced a series of setbacks and disappointments
  • France recognised the Hanoverian succession, and by the end of 1748 BPC was exiled to Avignon
  • James VIII died in 1766 in Rome; BPC ‘inherited’ the right to become Charles III, but without recognition from the Pope and Europe’s Catholic monarchs this claim had no authority
  • in 1747 BPC’s brother Henry became a cardinal and was ordained as a priest (in that order)
  • BPC died in 1788 leaving no legitimate offspring; hence Henry became Henry I and IX, changing his arms to have them surmounted with a crown representing his royal status, but not pressing his claim (although there are still some keepers of the flame)
  • as a popular Bishop of Frascati Henry rose to some of the highest positions in the Vatican, dying in 1807

Romanticising Jacobitism

Some of the most iconic images and songs associated with BPC are posthumous. He particularly flourished in the creative imaginations of 19th century authors, painters, poets and musicians, but his story continues to inspire. The 19th century romantic imagery of BPC has also been re-used countless times as a marketing tool, printed on souvenirs and absorbed into the iconography of Bonnie Scotland.

The BBC has a handy debunking post.

my shortbread tin, showing BPC aged 16

Allan Ramsay (1713-84) painted both BPC and Flora MacDonald from life; his ‘lost’ portrait, painted in late October 1745 at Holyrood Palace, was found in 2014 and saved for the nation in 2016. Which was handy, as a portrait in a suit of armour was shown to be of Henry, rather than his older brother, in 2009.

The Ramsay portrait shows BPC wearing court dress and a wig, ie as a member of the European social and political élite. Mainly though BPC adopted Highland dress during this period to demonstrate his Scottish ancestry and display his allegiance to the clans. Note to self: check the image on the aforementioned shortbread tin.

In the early 19th century, after Henry’s death ended the Jacobite claim to the throne and emotions were less raw, the romantic Jacobite legend really kicked in. Walter Scott (1771–1832; Abbotsford) wrote three novels drawing on the Jacobite campaigns; Waverley (1814), Rob Roy (1817) and Redgauntlet (1824). He also amassed a diverse and quirky collection of associated objects and organised the visit of George IV to Scotland in August 1822, the first reigning British monarch to visit Scotland in nearly two centuries. Ample tartan pageantry was included, elevating the kilt (not literally) to a key component in Scotland’s national identity.

Of the songs, both Will Ye No’ Come Back Again, attributed to Lady Nairne, Carolina Oliphant (1766-1845), and Burns’ Charlie Is My Darling date from the 1790s. The Skye Boat Song, perhaps the most popular song associated with BPC, was first published almost 150 years after the events, in 1884, with lyrics by Sir Harold Boulton. An 1892 poem by Robert Louis Stevenson, Sing me a Song of a Lad that is Gone, has been set to the same music, and was recently adapted (ahem) as the theme tune for Outlander.

The Outlander series of novels and associated television series by Diana Gabaldon (blog) is the latest reinterpretation of the period, generating huge interest; I’ll stick with DK Broster, thanks.

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#FLCulturalCities: cultural heritage and the city

Cultural heritage and the city from the Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies (@RobSchuCentre) at the European University Institute in Florence, three weeks from 4 September.

Cultural heritage is usually conceived in national or religious terms….today, however, large urban centres emerge as hubs of heritage creation and consumption. Cities brand their own cultural heritage as hubs of artistic creation through museums, galleries, markets of artistic goods, and urban-to-urban networks. They also develop their own policies and brand their cultural institutions.

We shall locate cities as a special type of actor, ‘owners’ of their own heritage, but situated in a multi-level field between international organisations and national actors, as well as practitioners.

The course will discuss how heritage can become a lever for growth, how it contributes to processes of socio-economic transformation. We also discuss the role of special events located in cities such as Olympic Games or programmes such as the European Capitals of Culture in valorising the heritage of a city.

Very wordy and content-crammed MOOC, more like a textbook than a course. There follows some lengthy notes.

Week 1: cultural heritage in an urbanising world

What is cultural heritage?

  • something that belongs to the past? something inherited? archaeological sites, historical buildings, statues, but also festivals, songs and storytelling
  • traditional view: material sites like archaeological monuments, palaces, or churches and places of worship, paintings and sculptures (tangible heritage)
  • now expanded to include:
    • artistic practices (dancing, music, rituals, traditional medicine, cooking traditions, sports)
    • festivals and carnivals
    • ideas, rituals and ways of doing things (intangible or immaterial heritage)
  • further expanded to include:
    • natural sites, specific plants or animal species – the natural heritage of a country or a place
    • intangible practices embedded in physical relationships with concrete things (objects, places, people); even ‘intangible’ heritage is tightly entwined with the material world
  • official heritage: sites, objects, and practices that have been officially catalogued and recognised by national and/or international authorities
  • unofficial heritage: practices and sites developed by groups of citizens not yet officially recognized as ‘heritage’ (the terms ‘official’ or ‘unofficial’ do not express judgements of value or quality but rather realities of labelling and recognition)
  • increasing democratisation of heritage creation, with a closer focus on what communities feel is their heritage and the need to recognise new unofficial forms of heritage

Heritage is about how the past informs the present and is actually used in the present, something communities cherish. It implies ways of categorising objects and traditions – the power of labelling and classifying. It is vulnerable as it may be lost because of destruction, loss, or decay, and more than a collection of things – heritage is about the relationship that a community, nation, city, or ethnic or religious minority constructs with its past. It is a framework within which people are socialised.

What is culture?

Culture is a type of knowledge, a system of meaning and the context within which behaviours, events, processes and institutions are situated. Culture is the set of mental categories that we learn as we grow up and which help us organise our behaviour and interpret our experiences.

Thus culture is mostly about ideas and behaviour, however it has a close link with the material world. Culture – like intangible heritage – exists and is manifested in the interaction of people with one another and in connection to their material environment.

Heritage has a stronger material connotation than culture and is oriented towards the past. However both culture, as a system of meaning, and heritage, as a system of tangible and intangible objects and practices, contribute to forging the sense of belonging to a community.

Definitions of heritage according to the cultural context

Heritage is a very elastic, and at times quite elusive, concept that carries with it a lot of baggage, and the baggage in different languages is quite different. Words shift in different historical and spatial contexts.

In British English there are various layers of meanings deriving from its use in different spheres, in policy and academia, but also in daily life (the lottery). In Italy the equivalent concept of ‘patrimonio culturale’ refers rather to an expert-driven approach, and as such a top-down discourse tends to monopolise the use of the concept. Dansk? Kulturarv.

Cultural heritage policies

Cultural heritage studies and policies emerged along with the socio-economic transformations of the second half of the 20th century. Nowadays cultural heritage policies also refer to activities and objects developed in the present.

There are several competing aims within heritage and broader cultural policy:

  • the glorification of the past, of its beauty and its achievements
  • the production and consumption of heritage goods – the participation of citizens in the creation and recreation of heritage and their enjoyment of artistic and literary creations or natural landscapes
  • a citizenship function – helps citizens feel part of their community and its history, and hence builds a sense of a common future
  • an education function – integrated in education curricula, not only in courses on the arts but also in citizenship education, history, geography, natural sciences or biology, and can have an important function today in lifelong learning programmes
  • the utilitarian turn – heritage is valorised as a factor of job creation and economic growth, with a growing emphasis on the economic impact of heritage activities and sites that can boost the local economy of a place through related hospitality as well as cultural services
  • linked to urban development and the growth of cities – heritage activities contribute to a vibrant city that is attractive to both residents and visitors

Cities and their heritage

An urbanising world poses challenges and opportunities to cultural heritage, endangering both tangible and intangible heritage:

  • works of art or historical buildings bulldozed to make space for new real housing or office projects
  • everyday rituals that rural people may abandon when moving to urban areas
  • traditions, clothing, dialects lost to adopt uniformed and standardised codes of dress or ways of speaking

Reinventing heritage in the city (or inventing a city heritage) can represent a development factor as well as an important way to build a new sense of community. Heritage can be a factor of economic growth. It can attract tourists and make a city a desirable place to live, because of the services and attractions it offers. But the challenges, opportunities, and dilemmas that open up for the protection and promotion of cultural heritage in urban centres are numerous.

Urbanisation and globalisation:

  • globalisation “refers to the widening, deepening and speeding up of global interconnectedness” and includes four socio-spatial dimensions:
    • the stretching of social, political, and economic activities across borders
    • the intensification of interconnectedness and of patterns of transnational interaction and flows (of capital, goods, services, people, media images, ideas, or pollution)
    • the speeding up of global interactions and processes
    • the intertwining of the local and global in ways that local events may affect distant lands

Over the last 50 years cities have become privileged loci of economic activity and political power, and also of cultural policy and governance – they offer the necessary socio-spatial dimension that economic and cultural globalisation requires, bringing together people, products, services, expertise, consumption, information and communication into an intense and dense network.

Cities epitomise the double potential of globalisation:

  • homogenisation – through the diffusion and prevalence of ‘Western’ lifestyles and a global culture of consumerism
  • diversity – eg exacerbating identity-related conflicts or local grievances, or through the opening up of new opportunities for cultural expression

Cities allow for manifestations of glocal-hybrid forms, styles, and patterns, bringing together local and global elements and processes.

The combined effects of globalisation and urbanisation also favour the emergence of a new type of ‘city nationalism’: city-imagined communities of people who feel they form a cultural and political community, who feel that they belong together.

Contemporary globalisation is a process of combined and uneven development:

  • draws together people, goods, and capital almost cancelling distance of time and space while ignoring existing disparities and inequalities
  • creates greater disparities and inequalities in resources, income, health, and cultural power than those that it initially brought together

Metropolitan areas are the privilege ‘theatres’ where globalisation plays out. Particularly in the cultural field, the size of cities and their being ‘nodal points’ where people, capital, and goods cross make them the new protagonists of the cultural scene, propelling them as protagonists into the governance of cultural issues, including of cultural heritage.

Cities and heritage: how different cities speak of their heritage

Some cities identify the source of their heritage in the past:

  • Rome, Shanghai, Athens – trace their heritage in ancient civilizations and empires, claiming it as a local heritage, albeit universally recognised
  • Vienna, Paris, London, Budapest, Istanbul – trace their heritage in their more recent past as capitals of empire; rich in imperial architecture, palaces and museums, urban planning with impressive boulevards, bridges or sewage systems
  • Marseilles, Barcelona – ports which trace their heritage in their economic function of the past, imprinted in their urban planning and characterising the cities to this day

Other cities reinvent their heritage by reference to their present and future:

  • western global cities like Sydney, New York, Los Angeles, or Toronto define themselves through cultural diversity, celebrating it as an important part of their heritage
  • Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi in the Persian Gulf, Hong Kong and Singapore are creating a new type of global city nationalism, forming their heritage with reference to their geographical morphology (often peninsulas) and their role as global financial and cultural centres
  • mega-cities of the global south, former colonies such as Delhi, Mumbai, Cape Town or Johannesburg, trace their heritage with reference to their colonial past, as well as to their sense of national independence and acceptance of ethnic and cultural diversity

What counts most in defining the heritage of a city is the emergence of a self-consciousness of the city as a heritage community, and the claim to govern itself with a large degree of independence from the nation.

Week 2: the governance of heritage

Heritage governance is about relationships and interactions among different types of actors, seen as a better fit to contemporary societies than government and the state. It enables actors, such as companies or civil society, who are more quick to act and have more timely information, to make up for the lacunae of state action. The term governance designates interaction and networking between public and private actors in horizontal, non-hierarchical ways.

Heritage governance was traditionally linked to the nation-state and was centralised, a task entrusted to culture ministries and their experts. It was also mainly funded by the state; there was little activity in terms of public-private partnerships as heritage was conceived as ‘national property’.

During the past 15 years heritage governance has undergone a process of transformation leading to a number of changes:

  • multi-level: both horizontal and vertical cooperation; vertical between international, national, regional, and even local authorities and actors, and horizontal between actors from different sectors
  • inter-related with other policies such as education and tourism, but also with business innovation and SMEs
  • decentralised rather than top-down and expert-dominated

Decentralisation processes:

  • outsourcing – many functions of heritage preservation, such as cataloguing and restoration, are outsourced to private (profit/not) actors, offering flexibility and efficiency
  •  devolution – regional and local actors are given power and responsibility in managing their heritage, privileging a stronger sense of ownership, cutting red tape and allowing heritage to become a lever of cultural and economic development
  • managerialisation – the role of managers (of museums, libraries, cultural foundations, associations) has become increasingly important; each cultural institution shows a high degree of autonomy as well as self-sustainability; also with much more community participation
  • privatisation – beyond outsourcing or managerialisation to the outright concession of cultural heritage places or items entirely to private operators

Heritage in urban strategies

What does a local perspective bring to the understanding of the dynamics of heritage governance? Numerous reports argue that successful heritage policies generate positive impacts for cities, by:

  • creating jobs directly at sites or museums
  • attracting tourists, thus generating indirect revenues
  • educating the urban population on their past, passing on knowledge to future generations
  • creating intercultural dialogue
  • regenerating urban areas and improving the well-being of their inhabitants

As a part of an urban strategy cultural heritage is not an end in itself but an instrument for pursuing different goals. Each city and each urban heritage policy prioritises these goals differently. For example, urban strategies prioritising cultural tourism may disregard, or even be to the detriment to, the accessibility of heritage to the urban population. Focusing on urban regeneration may lead to a concentration of cultural attractions and activities in just a few areas of the city.

Who is involved and has a say in the elaboration of a heritage policy will determine the objectives that are prioritised and, eventually, its beneficiaries.

Three conceptual frameworks showing the power dynamics of urban cultural heritage strategies:

  • levels of governance: constraint or resource? cities have various degrees of autonomy, which may affect the financial and human resources at their disposal and their capacity to regulate
  • policy sectors: who gets involved? education? transportation? tourism?
  • modes of regulation:
    • public actors set the rules and enforce them, and may also directly invest in preserving heritage or operate heritage institutions
    • private actors are market-driven and profit-oriented, and may act as key stakeholders and take part in their implementation as part of public-private partnerships
    • civil society often plays a central role in the mobilisation for the preservation of heritage and its promotion

Heritage and urban development

Economists argue that cultural heritage should not be viewed as a cost, but rather as an investment that can yield short-term and long-term economic impacts:

  • short-term: direct effects (eg employment and income generated), induced effects (eg visitor consumption, benefit to local businesses, jobs…) and indirect effects (multiplier effects)
  • long-term (more difficult to calculate):
    • increased attractiveness of a city – recognitions, such as UNESCO World Heritage list or landmark cultural projects, can raise cultural tourism, which generates higher spending and can contribute to encouraging residents and businesses to settle in the city by raising the quality of life
    • fuels urban creativity, providing knowledge and ideas, which can be reinterpreted and generate spillovers in the local economy
    • a key component in urban regeneration – in numerous former industrial neighbourhoods in crisis or central areas in decay the focus on cultural heritage has accelerated the revival of urban life

This suggests a mechanic process, whereas local development relies on how cultural heritage relates to the local social and economic system. For example heritage trails appear to be a low-scale initiative which can generate several benefits, such as attracting more visitors for longer stays and diverting flows from congested areas, but more important is the collaboration that such projects can trigger, between heritage sites and service providers, between different local governments or among nonprofit organisations, all gathered around a common objective and a common cultural identity.

Giving new life to industrial heritage

By the 1980s the use of industrial heritage as tool of urban development had spread rapidly, resulting from the context of the industrial crisis as well as from the will to promote a more inclusive approach to heritage.

Many cities like Liverpool, Marseille, Genoa and Bilbao experienced difficult times. [CPH never mentioned in this connection; too small, or because it has the benefit of being a capital?] Beyond an economic crisis these cities underwent . Derelict factories and former industrial neighbourhoods in decay appeared as deep scars in the landscape, leading to an identity crisis as well as an economic crisis.

The use of industrial heritage as a resource has been a key strategy in creating a new urban narrative, defining new functions for empty warehouses and closed factories and creating new jobs in both the tourism sector and the ‘new economy’, including knowledge-based sectors such as IT, design, or the arts.

The recognition and promotion of industrial heritage was part of a general movement towards a wider and more inclusive recognition approach, which affected vernacular and rural heritage as well as alternative cultural productions such as graffiti.

The historical and aesthetic values of industrial heritage became recognised as a testimony of the industrial revolutions which transformed the world from the 19th century, of successive technical achievements and of the memory of the working class. Projects aimed at telling a new story in order to overcome their identity crisis, and at developing new economic sectors such as entertainment and tourism

Week 3: heritage and urban change

Urban transformations: the city as an ever-evolving cultural heritage

As a city evolves some of its infrastructures and buildings lose their initial functions, are conserved and become part of its cultural heritage. In the second half of the 20th century numerous train stations became obsolete; some were heritagised (the social construction of heritage, the process that leads people to consider something as heritage).

Brian Hoyle has identified six stages in the relationship between cities and ports:

  • in ancient and medieval ports port and city are closely associated, from both a spatial and functional point of view
  • between the 19th century and early 20th century the growth in industry and trade pushes ports outside the city’s confines
  • in the mid-20th century, with the rise of industrial activities like oil refining and the introduction of containers, the port starts being separated from the city
  • 1960s t0 1980s: new maritime technology causes the establishment of separate port industrial development areas; the retreat from the waterfront
  • 1970s to the 1990s: redevelopment of the waterfront, with a process of urban renewal beginning within the original port areas
  • 1980s onwards: a new stage of reconnection between the port and the city, with redevelopment projects enhancing the importance of port and city integration

This transformation in the organic relationship between the port and the city has affected urban neighbourhoods where the workers employed in port activities once lived. Hafen City in Hamburg “aims to recover the port warehouses, restore the historic district and reinforce Hamburg’s identity as a maritime city”. But having former ports and industrial areas recognised as places of heritage value has been a tortuous process; such areas are seen as problematic because of poverty, abandonment, crime and poor services. Their inclusion in heritage programmes is still a contested issue in many cities.

Cultural heritage vs urban development

Does urban development appear as an asset or as a threat to the preservation of heritage?

Three key tensions:

  • archaeology vs urban development: research in the urban environment can take place under the pressures of urban developers unwilling to avoid delays in their projects
  • preserving the historical landscape vs adjusting to urban change
  • authenticity vs instrumentalisation of heritage: tourism-oriented urban regeneration strategies can be to the detriment of the preservation of local intangible heritage and vernacular social practices; the existence of measures to safeguard built heritage does not necessarily guarantee the preservation of the city’s social character; who is heritage for?

The consequences of heritagisation for local populations:

  • lower class populations living in the historic centre of Naples have been viewed by the urban elites as an obstacle to promoting the area as cultural heritage, as they were associated with a bad reputation, namely crime and poverty; this led the administration to redefine the right behaviour in the city and make reproaches to local inhabitants for their “lack of heritage consciousness”

The issue of gentrification:

  • the term gentrification has been used to describe the settlement of upper and middle class households in working class neighbourhoods, often associated with the transition in housing tenure from renting to ownership
  • the rehabilitation of cities’ built heritage is often accused of contributing to the process of gentrification
  • the intangible heritage that lies in the customs, habits, and everyday life of these neighbourhoods’ inhabitants may be at risk while built heritage is conserved
  • evolution of the definition of gentrification:
    • 1980s: mostly related to a process of rehabilitation of 18th and 19th century inner neighbourhoods as well as the conversion of former factories and warehouses into lofts and apartments
    • 21st century: expanded to include redevelopment projects in central areas and extended to the analysis of the changes in modes of consumption in inner neighbourhoods
  • a distinction is generally made between two types of dynamics:
    • top-down logics of redevelopment of central areas that lead to (and sometimes aim at) the eviction of local populations
    • an organic process involving local communities and businesses that enables conservation of the character of the area
  • not necessarily a planned process, but this does not mean that policies cannot play an indirect role; the construction of a new train station or a new cultural centre, the improvement of urban services, the creation of touristic trails, can all contribute to gentrification
  • Kate Shaw: “preservation of heritage can be used as a deliberate gentrification strategy, with the ‘cultural sensibilities’ of the middle class pointedly distinguishing between past and future users”

Gentrification represents a key tension in heritage policy. Different visions of what heritage should be for compete:

  • some argue that heritage should be preserved to accelerate urban regeneration and attract tourists
  • others defend the position that cultural heritage should mostly carry social and educational objectives
  • also a subject of tension between the advocates of the rehabilitation of built heritage and those also devoted to safeguarding intangible heritage

Some policies have been trying to challenge this issue:

  • the establishment of social housing within gentrifying neighbourhood, either in new or rehabilitated buildings
  • the regulation of rents in order to prevent lower income households from being evicted because of the rise of real estate values

Events and city identity

Different kinds of events have been integrated into the strategies of cities to promote heritage.

Mega-events: national pride or city branding?

  • the football world cup, the Olympic Games and world expositions are highly mediatised and reach a global audience; they have become major tools for cities to display their singularity and to compete on the global stage
  • emerged in the 19th century, in the context of the industrial revolution. and are associated with the rise of modernity
    • the first world exposition was the Great Exhibition of London in 1851
    • the first modern Olympic Games took place in Athens in 1896
  • aim at celebrating universal values such as excellence, respect, and friendship (Olympic)s or progress and innovation (expositions)
  • the nations that organise them wish to demonstrate their economic and political power:
    • materialised through innovative buildings, which remain important monuments (the Eiffel Tower)
    • to display imperialism (the 1931 colonial exhibition in Paris left a contested heritage – its main building was turned into the National Museum of the History of Immigration in 2012)
  • until the second half of the 20th century the city is rather a showcase of modernity than an actor in mega-events strategies
  • later on cities started to compete to organise such events in order to increase their attractiveness:
    • their first motivation is economic impacts – mega-events are argued to yield high returns on investments by attracting tourists and enhancing cities’ images
    • their second motivation is to accelerate urban transformations – the year of a mega-event often constitutes the deadline for a number of major redevelopment projects, new infrastructure, new cultural and sport facilities
  • the use of mega-events as an instrument of national pride has not disappeared; emerging countries combine urban branding and nation branding aimed at asserting the rising soft power of these nations, as in China’s stadium by Herzog and De Meuron for the 2008 Olympics; Gulf countries also offer a good example, with the World Exposition in 2020 in Dubai and the 2022 Football World Cup in Doha

Festivals as instruments to enhance local heritage:

  • mega-events have a global scale but are highly standardised, while smaller scale events such as festivals, carnivals, or biennials can be more rooted in the city’s identity
  • cities use festivals to create a lively and attractive urban environment, but also view them as a way to differentiate and promote a specific identity, often carrying old traditions that made them famous worldwide
  • festivals can be a great asset to the city, especially if they are not imported for commercial or for self-realisation reasons but are rooted in the community, with the concept connected to the city and the citizens themselves involved

European Capital of Culture

  • evolved from a traditional arts festival to a complex programme tied to economic and social objectives
  • during the first years the event took place in the recognised European cultural centres such as Athens, Florence, or Paris, lasting only a few months and involving mainly the cultural sector to achieve mostly cultural goals
  • in 1990 Glasgow played a pioneering role in using the event as a tool to transform the city’s image by extending it to a year long programme and taking it as an opportunity to regenerate a city tarnished by the industrial crisis
  • Lille came up with a number of innovations that expanded the scope and objectives of the initiative, involving 193 towns in the area, emphasising the social impact, establishing cultural sectors and events in peripheral neighbourhoods to reach out to diverse populations and boosting citizens’ participation through a volunteering programme involving almost 18,000 citizens
  • a narrow focus on urban growth that may not benefit the whole city’s population is now avoided, with the scope and objectives expanded to include, for example, inter-city cooperation as well as social impacts
  • ECC projects are often criticised for being too elitist and not rooted enough in their city; Marseille’s cultural scene rose up to the reduction of culture to an urban marketing tool and created a parallel event to the European Capital of Culture, named, the “Off”; three artists aimed “to put the Marseillais artist at the heart of the European Capital of Culture, by organising off the wall and impertinent shows, based on paradoxes of the city”; see also OFF-Biennale Budapest
  • smaller cities often take a more innovative approach and are able to capture more significant benefits

Aarhus 2017: the ECC Olympics? Of rather more interest would be Milton Keynes 2023:

The city is culture…Rather than looking at the culture that takes place in the city…the real task is to understand the city itself as culture. Milton Keynes was meant to be different: it is, as the Capital of Culture bid proposes, “different by design”.

#FLemi: English as a medium of instruction

English as a medium of instruction for academics, FutureLearn MOOC, four weeks from 26 June, from Soton’s Academic Centre for International Students and the Centre for Global Englishes (@cge_soton):

There has been, in the past, a sense that non-native speakers of English are somehow second best, that native speakers of English have ownership of the language in its best or most correct form. That attitude has changed in recent years, thanks to research into English as it is used in the world today by its millions of users, of whom only around 20%are native speakers. English is the world’s language. It’s a lingua franca.

There is no single standard model of EMI:

  • a university may choose to operate totally in English, including its support services, or take a bilingual/trilingual approach, or teach a certain number of programmes in English
  • an academic may use English in class because the texts the students need to work with are only available in English
  • international experience requires a shared mode of communication; for the most part this turns out to be English
  • in distance learning

In EMI English is the vehicle for instruction through which academic content is conveyed to students – we are not teachers of English, but teachers in English. This is the difference between EMI and CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning), which has two functions – to teach both content and a language at the same time. (But it’s a continuum – you can decide where you are on it : P)

Points around the study of English as a lingua franca (ELF) or an international language (EIL):

  • the use of English as a lingua franca around the world has shaped the development of English
  • English users in an EMI context frequently adjust the way they speak (accommodate), according to who they’re speaking to or what they’re speaking about, rather than just trying to be ‘correct’
  • they focus on what they feel more comfortable with, but also what is going to be intelligible for the people they’re talking to
  • the aim is to use English effectively in intercultural communication contexts – what is going to be most communicative for each other, not what is going to be most like the way a native English speaker speaks
  • translanguaging – the majority of ELF users are multilingual, hence when a group of people are together speaking in English, if they have other languages in common, they move in and out of those other languages
  • people are often much more comfortable using English in different ways
  • English as a lingua franca takes the pressure off – people no longer feel they have to mimic native English speakers, but can engage in intercultural communication in whatever way is going to be most effective, in that setting, at that time

Links:

What kind of English do you expect to hear and use in the classroom – native level? accurate? non-standard? should the standard of language be assessed? what about genre style? does the medium (speaking or writing) make a difference to whether variation in English is acceptable or not?

How important is language accuracy in EMI teaching?

  • correction of language does not often help learning unless it is supported and space is given to reflect and consolidate feedback
  • emphasising correct/incorrect language might reduce communicative effectiveness at moments where genuine communication is key
  • exposure to varieties of expressions, whether ‘standard English’ or not, will help students to prepare for the diverse worlds they will meet outside education
  • students will always have an active role in forming their linguistic identities and choices, so discussing their language development and communicative choices can be a positive way of working together

The labels ‘accurate’ and ‘mistake’ are rarely used in communication research. These ideas are more connected with social judgements of language and speakers than actual language use. In fact, research reveals that communication is a complex and always negotiated process, and that language varies according to context because of how humans communicate.

EMI settings are intercultural settings where English tends to be used flexibly, with speakers drawing on behaviours and resources that go beyond a culturally specific or rule-based ‘English’ taught in some language schools. If we think of language as part of communication rather than as a restricted code to learn, the only model we need to consider is a model of behaviour rather than words and language patterns only.

Facilitating students’ movement towards an academic field requires more than isolated vocabulary and grammar; it requires facilitating effective communication and appropriate treatment of content. Emphasising shortcomings in language and rewarding ‘accurate’ English is likely to alienate and discourage students for whom EMI is a struggle, as would showing off a superior knowledge of the English language compared to them.

If we take this idea of the EMI practitioner not being limited to modelling ‘target language’, we can prioritise effective communication alongside the display and encouragement of positive attitudes to flexible communication.

(This is all very well, but what about the potential for misunderstandings, inaccuracies etc?? and *whispers* what when native speakers can’t understand what’s meant?)

Assessing when accuracy is important (or less so). Is it sometimes more important to be accurate in language use than at other times? How do we decide when it is important?  The issue of how important accuracy in language use is in teaching can be controversial and everyone has their own opinion on how far teachers should use accurate English. Many aspects of language that were previously considered to be errors, whether in grammar or vocabulary, are now acceptable for very many speakers (hmm…).

English used in EMI is a tool for communication, a way of communicating ideas that does not necessarily have a fixed or standard form. English forms can be very varied in EMI settings, as the users and uses of the language, within very different cultural spaces, are very different. Passion and enthusiasm trumps accuracy!

The native speaker issue:

  • can sometimes be less aware of the difficulties that international students face in a multilingual context, and sometimes they make fewer concessions to the difficulties international students may be experiencing
  • are often criticised for being difficult to understand in international settings (article)
  • the effect of a native speaker altering their language to be more intelligible and how others perceived his actions – Joey Barton became famous for changing the way he spoke when he was taking part in a press conference in France, while playing in Marseilles (he mimics French English)
  • communication in EMI settings has its own norms and parameters, which are quite different from the rules of speaking that we might associate with standard English (eg can and can’t sound the same if mumbled…)

English speakers with no other language often have a lack of awareness of how to speak English internationally.

The international university involves an understanding that international university English is not the language of [native English speakers], but a lingua franca in a multilingual setting, and therefore not only is it not native English, but not English only either. But while internationalisation guidelines tend to look favourably on multilingualism and diversity, using English systematically is often seen as important for students’ development and progression. An open language policy allows relatively free and multilingual expression of ideas, with English the core language of assessment, administration and most whole-group interactions.

Intercultural awareness and competence:

  • our messages are loaded with various potential meanings, cultural ways of seeing the world and particular ways of positioning ourselves in relation to others
  • consider whether our interpretations of others’ meanings are what they intended us to understand, and be prepared for the possibility that our meanings have not been received in the ways you meant them to be
  • consider that ways of communicating that you think are ‘intelligent’ or ‘high-status’ could be seen as ‘cold’ or ‘foreign’
  • be aware of othering and stereotyping, often located in people’s thinking (assuming difference, avoiding discomfort and lacking knowledge of others to fill perceived gaps in understanding) and feelings (lack of empathy and emotional engagement)

More:

  • self-awareness – be aware of your own background and preferences, and understand why certain behaviours make sense to us more than others; reflect on how we see ourselves in multiple and flexible ways in order to understand the same agency in others; awareness of the cultural preferences and expectations that we carry with us
  • awareness of others – be prepared for differences in expectations and ways of expressing meaning; empathy and respect for the ways of thinking and behaving that others may have
  • ways of thinking and communicating can enable us to show respect and empathy to those with (what appears to be) different values, behaviours and expectations
  • how can you balance preparing students to communicate within your field (eg genre conventions and ways of thinking) and respecting their communicative choices and identities?

Summing up…aimed at non-speakers, the native speaker of English could almost feel under threat. See too this vid on native vs non-native teachers.

The architectural imagination (3): representation and context

Third post (first | second) on the edX MOOC (course | communityFacebook | Twitter: #gsd1x) from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design.

What with VideoNot.es  (alternatives: TurboNote | MoocNote) having fallen over and other events I’ve fallen way behind, and will set things on pause for a while – the content is available until the end of February 2018, so I will try to return to the three final modules over the summer. Definitely hard work, but worthwhile.

Update: David Rudlin, new chair of the Academy of Urbanism, on the urbanist and the architect.

Some linkage:

Here’s a summary of the final modules.

Module 8: Drawing utopia: visionary architecture of the 18th century

In the final three modules we deal more directly with architecture’s relationship to its various social and historical contexts. You will learn about what we call architecture’s power of representation and see how architecture has a particular capacity to produce collective meaning and memories.

As a professional practice deeply embedded in society architecture has social obligations and the aesthetic power to negotiate social change, carry collective memories and even express society’s utopian ideals. We’ve already seen this power at work – the first set of modules developed two fundamental prerequisites for representation: form and history. But representation can mean other things as well.

Architecture can perform like a linguistic metaphor or point to its mnemonic function, ie its power to carry memories that are historical, contextual, and collective. Architecture’s power of representation means that it performs like a cognitive map of society, giving us a diagram of society’s deep, complex structures, giving shape to an epoch’s particular character and nature, or linking the memory of different pasts to possible futures.

In this module we look at the work of the French ‘visionary architects’ of the 18th century and their use of architecture as a way of communicating meaning, what they called l’architecture parlante (speaking architecture).

Update, 27 May: had another look at this, and think not for me.

Seems like debates about France’s National Library are nothing new…

Module 9: The Pompidou Centre

In this module you will examine closely one particular example of architecture’s engagement with the culture industry: the Centre Georges Pompidou by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano.

This module puts to the fore not only architecture’s reflection of mass culture, but also architecture’s ability to engage deeply with politics, how a building can be not just an inert object but an active mediator between its historical context and our understanding of that context.

Module 10: Presenting the unrepresentable

In module 10 you will be challenged to conceptualize a work so minimal that some might not think of it as architecture at all; and yet, the project is tasked with the demand to carry the memory of perhaps the most profound of all human traumas.

The Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe designed by architect Peter Eisenman is a project that uses the very abstraction and materiality that is inherent to the medium of architecture. This becomes the device with which to raise questions of architecture’s power of representation rather than answer them.

The architectural imagination (2): enter technology

Second post (first) on the edX MOOC from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, where Walter Gropius chaired the architecture department from 1937-52. GSD offered a course on the legacy of the Bauhaus in 2015 and delivers an annual WG lecture. Its digital Bauhaus archive (story | tour) looks fabulous.

According to edX 25K people engaged with the course in week 1, 80% from outside the US (23% from Brazil), with over 100K enrolled. An earlier blog post stresses the intention of encouraging students to “consider architecture as a form of cultural expression as well as a technical achievement…architecture is one of the most complexly negotiated cultural practices there is…helps articulate history itself”, although the course starts by introducing “models, theories, and systems about how to think about architecture systems that transcend historical context and apply to architecture generally” before going on to “look at specific examples about how architecture produces these theories through buildings and projects in particular times and places”.

The lectures are filmed in the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the only building in North America designed by Le Corbusier. So there.

Notes from weeks 5-7 below, although much more in VideoNot.es to be reused IDC. All quotes edited.

This part of the course addresses technology as a component of architecture’s realization and understanding. Architecture is embedded in contexts where technologies and materials of construction – glass and steel, reinforced concrete – are crucial agents of change. But a society’s technology does not determine its architectural forms.

You will discover ways that innovative technology can enable and promote new aesthetic experiences, or disrupt age-old traditions. You will witness architecture’s ways of converting brute technical means into meaningful perceptions and textures of daily life. The interactions of architecture and modern technologies changed not only what could be built, but also what kinds of constructions could even be thought of as architecture.

In our first set of modules we discussed some of the primary examples of what we might think of as the techniques of the architectural imagination. We discussed typology, which allows for comparison of the formal properties of architectural projects. We talked about the system of perspective understood as a formal construction that links subject to object. And we saw how these formal constructs can be used, both by the historian as analytical tools and by the designer as ways of rationalising architectural decisions.

We then discussed how these formal constructs must always be understood as arising in history, as both enabled and constrained by history. But they’re not exhausted by those historical constraints. Architecture is deeply historical, but it also exceeds its formative origins. It produces memories, but it also produces possible futures.

In the next three modules we’ll be shifting our focus, somewhat, to how architecture has a fundamental relationship to materiality. We’ll look at how modern architecture used technical advances in materials – mainly iron, steel, and glass, but also reinforced concrete – and we’ll look at the modern development of industrial building components. But we don’t leave form behind. We will see how architecture uses these new materials, and new construction techniques, to advance its own expressive possibilities. We’ll discuss how technology gets mediated by the compositional and typological intentions and operations
of the architectural imagination.

Module 5: The Crystal Palace: infrastructure and detail

In module 5 you will begin to explore the core question of part 2: architecture’s fundamental relation to materiality. We first turn to a pivotal moment in the history of glass and steel construction techniques. As Professor Picon states, “Few buildings have marked as important a moment in the history of architecture as the Crystal Palace. Not only was the building emblematic of a new way to build, using iron at a scale unprecedented, it was also a major turning point in terms of its use, since it hosted the first world fair and introduced a whole new spatial experience“.

From the reading, Space, time and architecture (1941; 47 pages? sorry): Sigfried Giedion makes the argument that a “gap…opened in the course of the 19th century between science and its techniques on the one hand and the arts on the other, and hence between architecture and construction”).

Evidence for this idea of a schism between science and art can be found in eg the separate existence of the École des Beaux-Arts and the École Polytechnique, and for the modernist solution to the schism in eg:

  • unpretentious 19th century buildings for public markets, whose designers are not ‘great’ architects
  • the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris (1868)
  • quotation by Lothar Bucher (1851): “in contemplating the first great building which was not of solid masonry construction spectators were not slow to realise that here the standards by which architecture had hitherto been judged no longer held good”
  • quotation in L’Esprit nouveau (1924): “The century of the machine awakened the architect. New tasks and new possibilities produced him. He is at work now everywhere.”

While Giedion understands the development of certain industrial construction techniques and materials as necessary technological precursors to modern architecture, he does not consider them ‘proper architecture’ as such…in contrast, Professor Picon suggests that certain properly architectural effects do indeed derive from constructional innovations and new materials.

All very exciting, and rather more accessible for non-architecture students. I even watched the videos, taking notes using the estimable VideoNot.es. Maybe I’ll revisit Kant and Hegel IDC.

Module 6: The dialectics of glass and steel

Giedion emphasised the difficulties in coming to terms with the architectural potentialities of the new materials and construction technologies of the 19th and early 20th centuries, out of which the Crystal Palace produced unprecedented architectural experiences and almost unintentional architectural effects. Next, we’ll pursue examples of the refinement of the aesthetic intention and the very willful expression of the representational power of the new architecture of metal and glass.

We will study examples of architects who, with more explicit intention, sought to expand architecture’s expressive capacity. The perceptual effects of the new materials of metal and glass – including thinness and tautness of wall planes, and the transparency and reflectivity of enclosing wrappers – had to be gauged, and their potentials developed. New spatial freedoms were found in the ability of metal to span large spaces. Load-bearing walls could be eliminated in favour of column grids. At the same time, fundamental questions of the relation of column to wall remained, and architects sought for certainties in theoretical models of spatial organisations.

From stone to steel…architecture, from its very beginning, has been made of stone, and when it hasn’t been made of stone, it’s been made to look like it has. Windows may have glass in them, but windows in a stone wall are simply openings. The glass itself is not important.

The development of technologies that allowed the production of large sheets of glass and materials with tensile strength, like steel, had the power to enormously change the way buildings are made. But how would that necessarily affect architecture? How would that change architecture’s representational function? How would that change architecture as the art of building?

The advances in modern technology and the invention of new materials were not an inevitable helpful contributor to the goals of architecture culture. How can one apply an already existing symbolic architectural language developed over thousands of years as an expression of the heavy compressive forces in masonry, to lightweight and thin structures of metal and glass? How does one achieve the requisite monumentality and profundity with such flimsy materials? This was the primary problem for the architects of the 20th century.

In the lecture you will learn how four architects interpreted Gottfried Semper’s model of the primitive hut and appropriated it as an example of a ‘universal’ organising type to one of their buildings (I have notes):

The four fundamental architectural elements of the hut:

  • hearth and fire, associated with the industrial crafts of ceramics and metal (fire is the beginning of society itself, and it needs the help of architecture to lift it off the earth)
  • base, associated with masonry (the base elevates the hearth, and the material associated with this is masonry, with its inherent attachment to the earth)
  • roof and support (tectonic frame), associated with carpentry (deviating from the classical understanding of a trabeated system, Semper theorised a kind of tectonic assembly that would rise from the masonry base, where the walls and the roof together formed a tectonic system)
  • enclosure, associated with weaving (Semper didn’t imagine the enclosing membrane would be the same as the stereotomic system of masonry; rather, he imagined that the enclosing membrane was a cloth or a tapestry or some sort of woven material)

Example of transposing Semper’s architectural elements to Behrens’s factory, describing the constructional technique or material associated with the element:

The AEG base is concrete, so it is a slight transformation from Semper’s brick base. But, in contrast to brick, which is laid or stacked, concrete is poured and cast, involving formwork and processing.

Your starter for 10…

You have now become familiar with the dominant forms of architectural representation and have learned how to read plans, sections, elevations, and perspective drawings. Now synthesise your knowledge and produce a reading of a building as a whole in an expository essay of 750 words (or about 5 paragraphs).

In an expository essay, the writer explains an idea, theme, or issue using personal opinion and specific evidence in the form of examples, definitions, comparison, and contrast. As with other forms of representation that we’ve explored, writing contains a point of view. Make an argument for how Mies’s use of materials operates to suture what Sigfried Giedion called the ‘schism’ between architecture and technology.

Module 7: Technology tamed: Le Corbusier’s machines for living

In the last module we focused on examples of how modern architects brought the new materials of metal and glass, and the new programmatic demands of industrial and commercial building, into the corpus of the great architecture of the past, while at the same time producing unprecedented expressive effects.

Now we will learn of another modern architect’s extraordinarily inventive of use of new materials and construction systems. For Le Corbusier the inherent properties of reinforced concrete were crucial for the development of his architectural ideas, most notably as expressed in his domestic buildings.

When you consider Corb’s ‘machines for living’ don’t think just of how machines look (the so-called ‘machine aesthetic’). Instead, think of a machine as an organized assemblage of parts that connect and perform in different ways. You may also be prompted to recall Alberti’s use of geometry and proportional systems to organize diverse building parts, or Palladio’s logic of the villa type. Corb brings similar compositional techniques into his habitation-machines.

You will explore in detail three of Corb’s villas and learn how his Five points formed a theoretical model for the possibilities of reinforced concrete – a material which provided an opportunity to break free from the constraints of load-bearing masonry walls.

Both Behrens and Mies, in different ways, maintain deep connections to the ongoing classical tradition in their new architecture of steel and glass. They use classicism to tame technology in order to give representation to the new corporations that arose from technical and economic advances.

But there are other ways of exercising aesthetic control over standardisation and mass production and of producing architectural effects with new technical means. We next look at a powerful example of how new techniques of concrete construction supported the pictorial and spatial elaborations of what Le Corbusier, called his ‘machines for living’.

The Dom-ino house is an open floor plan structure designed by Corb in 1914. A combination of the Latin word domus and innovation, the house is more of diagram than a building, a ‘chassis’ onto which any number of variations of houses can be outfitted. A kind of primitive hut of the modern, it was a prototype of potential of the new technology of reinforced concrete, glass and steel, an objet-type, an example of the materialisation of pure form, refined over time to become more perfect (see the 1922 Ozenfant House).

The three villas (I have notes): Villa La Roche (1925), Villa Garches (1927), Villa Savoye (1931).

Corb developed his five points of a new architecture (1921) as a result of putting the Dom-ino system into practice:

  • the pilotis – a grid of columns that lifts the floor slab above the earth; a reversal of the classical podium, which anchors the building to the earth, and a rejection of the traditional domestic basement, which Corb regarded as dank and unhealthy, leaving ground level open for recreation, circulation, transportation etc
  • the roof garden/terrace – for exercise or leisure; replaces the pitched roof and the attic with an open air room recalling pre-industrial life lived more outside, a regenerative inspiring and hygienic force
  • the free plan – created by freeing the columnar structure from interior partitions; allows a much more open arrangement allowing an interpenetration of spaces one into the other, often including ramps and stairs that guide the body through a spatial ‘narrative’
  • the ribbon window – a corollary of the free facade, a window that can be cut into a wall as the wall is not load-bearing; negates the idea of a framing window which is about one individual positioning himself in a vertical rectangle; instead one long horizontal window producing a panorama, a cinematic rather than a painterly version of a window
  • the free facade – a thinner wrapper that encloses the building and emphasises its volumetric qualities over static compression; establishes the compositional pictorial availability of the wall, allowing the window to be extended without interruption and other kinds of opening, more varied and composed geometrically and visually rather than determined constructionally or structurally

How did reinforced concrete determine each of the five points?

All this came together in an architectural promenade (Quora | THES & Flora Samuel)  as demonstrated in the Villa Savoye, the synthesis of the genre begun with the Dom-ino diagram.

On concrete (Stanislaus Von Moos):

Concrete, it might seem, is less likely to determine architectural form than any other building material. Its early use in 19th century building had little impact upon style; it merely supplied architects and the building industry with a universally applicable means of crystalising and multiplying existing formal vocabularies. Being malleable, it provided carte blanche for any sort of eclecticism.

Yet, parallel to the use of concrete as tectonically neutral ‘plastic’ mass, the 19th century discovered other possibilities inherent in the new material. Once applied under the conditions of strict economy, reinforced concrete proved capable of producing better structural results with less material bulk than any previously known material with the exception of the steel frame. Only in combination with economy, that is, the principle of achieving maximum results with a minimum of work, could concrete become the starting point for an architectural renewal. This is what happened in the works of the French pioneers of concrete building, and it was from here that Le Corbusier and some of his contemporaries proceeded in their attempts at translating the possibilities of concrete construction into a new architectural vocabulary.

The task this week was to design your own villa in the manner of Le Corbusier, well beyond me, but we have a couple of tweets:

And a vid from the GSD team (there’s no sound, folks):

The control of movement and view in the work of Le Corbusier produces an almost cinematic concept of representation. It is this dynamic spatiality that in some way supersedes the perspectival mathematical stability of Brunelleschi and Alberti. The account of Le Corbusier, then, recapitulates some of the early principles of the course and is a good transition to the final set of modules.

The architectural imagination (1): form and history

EdX MOOC from Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (based in The Trays), started 28 February, runs for 10 weeks. All quotes edited.

The study of architecture allows us to see culture representing its own values to itself and affords us access to a kind of knowledge about culture and history that would not otherwise be available.

Architecture is not just about the need for shelter or the need for a functional building. In some ways, it’s just what exceeds necessity that is architecture. And it’s the opening onto that excess that makes architecture fundamentally a human endeavour.

Architecture is a technical answer to a question that’s not technical at all, but rather is historical and social. The study of architecture is the study of human thought and human history. This is about the architectural imagination. It’s how to think about architecture, but it’s also about architecture as a mode of thought.

Architecture is one of the most complexly negotiated and globally recognised cultural practices, both as an academic subject and a professional career. Its production involves all of the technical, aesthetic, political, and economic issues at play within a given society. And indeed, in some ways, architecture, as we’ll see, helps articulate history itself.

These are all big claims. And we’ll need big ideas to address these claims. And we’ll also need very specific, concrete examples of architectural projects and events from history.

Goals of the course

Architecture engages a culture’s deepest social values and expresses them in material, aesthetic form. In this course you will learn how to ‘read’ architecture as a cultural expression as well as a technical achievement. Over the course of ten modules we’ll examine some of history’s most important examples that show how architecture engages, mediates, and expresses a culture’s complex aspirations.

In this course you will learn:

  • how to read, analyse and understand different forms of architectural representation
  • social and historical contexts behind major works of architecture
  • basic principles to produce your own architectural drawings and models

The first part of the course introduces the idea of the architectural imagination as a faculty that mediates sensuous experience and conceptual understanding.

Two examples of the architectural imagination – perspective drawing and architectural typology – are explored through video presentations and hands-on exercises.

You will be introduced to some of the challenges involved in writing architectural history, revealing that architecture does not always have a straightforward relationship to its own history.

Module 1: The architectural imagination: an introduction

In our first module we borrow the framework of the imagination from the 18th century German philosopher Immanuel Kant, whose work has been very influential on the study of architecture. For Kant imagination is the necessary mediation between the senses with which we experience the world and the cognitive processes through which we understand it.

A preliminary model of the architectural imagination: the mental process of constructing a schema that organizes our perceptions of an architectural project or set of projects.

Very theoretical…luckily we have sketchnotes:

More practical was the optional vid on perspective:

The basic distinguishing feature of perspective – a way of seeing the world – is as a drawing in which parallel lines converge at infinity, way off in the distance. The place where these lines converge, which we can think of as being infinity, or far, far, far away, is called a vanishing point, placed on what we call the horizon.

This means that things that are closer to you will seem larger and things that are farther away will seem much smaller, even if these two objects are actually the same size.

There are three major kinds of perspective drawings –  one point, two point, and three point, differentiated by the number of vanishing points used. In a three point drawing there are two points on the horizon, where the parallel lines converge to the left and right, and one on a vertical line, where parallel vertical lines converge to a vanishing point far above us. This is especially useful for tall buildings.

And on orthographic (perpendicular) drawings:

  • the plan – a horizontal cut (usually 1.2m above the floor) through the building that lets us see how the different rooms and spaces are arranged
  • the section – cutting vertically through the building, generally on the most important axis of the building
  • the elevation – cut well in front of the building; in particular for showing the composition of the facade

Draw a floor plan

Choose a space that you are intimately familiar with – your home, your workplace or a favorite public space – that has at least three discrete and adjacent rooms.

By hand, draw a floor plan of your space. Carefully chose the height of your cut line so that the plan includes all the information you find important. Make sure to indicate locations of doors, windows, and walls.

You may choose to include secondary information you find important, such as furniture or decorative elements. Do not use a ruler to measure; however, make sure to pay close attention to relative dimensions. Choose a method of measurement that is appropriate for the space — for example, you could measure a length of a wall by counting your paces alongside it. Be sure to include an indication of your units of measurement on your drawing.

Write one to two paragraphs reflecting on the experience. How did the method of measurement you chose influence the way you drew the space? How did you decide on where you would cut the plan? In observing your space and drawing it, did you see anything new or surprising you had not noticed before?

Must break my drawing phobia…meanwhile, some examples from the class:

Module 2: Reading architecture: column and wall

We examine another historical example of the use of the architectural imagination to interpret an architectural project. Rudolph Wittkower analyzes Leon Battista Alberti’s designs for four different church facades as a single pursuit of an ideal façade type, beginning with Alberti’s assertion that the principal element of architectural ornament is the column. He then moves on to associate the column with proportion and measure – the “classical idea of maintaining a uniform system of proportion throughout all parts of a building”.

This abstract approach is an important first step in demonstrating that architecture is a mode of knowledge. When we normally consider architecture, we include its function, materials, techniques of construction and its physical and social context, as well as its formal property or aesthetics…to really focus on architecture as exceeding mere building we have to detach a portion of that common-sense world and establish some aesthetic distance from ordinary concerns…for just a time we free architecture from its function, but we also free ourselves from our own interests, and prejudices and expectations.

This part of our model borrows from Kant’s theory of aesthetics. It’s highly intellectual. It’s self-reflexive and recursive. And it’s very abstract – a philosophical exercise, not an historical analysis.

Note that Wittkower’s Architectural principles in the age of humanism (1949) strongly influenced modernism, due to its revolutionary approach to the understanding of geometry, modular pattern and the ways in which diagrams can be used.

Module 3: Hegel and architectural history

The first two modules of this course sought to open up a vision of architecture as a project of imaginative formal speculation. Wittkower’s interpretation of the work of Alberti gave us an example of a Kant-inspired historian attributing to architecture the status of an ongoing formal project – a project of speculation and conjecture that takes place in the architectural imagination.

We now want to put the idea of a formal project into dialectical play with the movement of architecture through history. In Module 3, we will complement Wittkower’s interpretive project by insisting on the historical dimension of architecture, indeed the historical determination of architecture’s formal project. Architecture changes through time because society and culture change through time, and architecture is inextricably tied to the social.

To return to history is to return this internal world constructed by architecture, this world of aesthetic perfection, to the more robust world in which we all reside.

How do cultures represent themselves to themselves through their art? In this module you will explore a model for a philosophy of art history as expressed by the German idealist philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. The very idea of art as having a history, a progression, comes from Hegel, and you will learn more about his attempt to “gather up all the cultures and all the epochs of art into a single, coherent, unified system…a system wherein art discloses truths about the world by giving those truths appearance”.

Beauty is, for Hegel, the perfect harmony of form and function. His division of symbolic, classical, and romantic is then partially generated by the fact that beauty can be either achieved (classical architecture) or not achieved (symbolic and romantic art), and that this failure to achieve beauty can be either the result of the inability to conceive of beauty’s form/function harmony (symbolic architecture), or the result of the conscious acknowledgement that beauty is impossible given architecture’s opaque and insistent materiality (romantic architecture).

John Sallis makes the point that Kant’s system of the imagination allows him to distinguish between beauty or art, on the one hand, and knowledge or truth, on the other. Hegel, by contrast, develops a concept of art in which art is not only a matter of sense and feeling but also of truth.

Sketchnotes please…

Module 4: Aldo Rossi and typology

In the first three modules, we’ve built up our idea of the architectural imagination with two fundamental components: the understanding of form and the experience of history. In this final module for Part I, we give one more example of the architectural imagination at work.

The modern Italian architect Aldo Rossi, perhaps, shares Hegel’s understanding that architecture is one of the fundamental human postulates of our existence in the world. For Rossi, too, architecture is a central medium of human thought and human memory. But in Rossi’s work, we find the suggestion that architecture’s origin is not simply behind us, as Hegel insisted, but that architecture is constantly finding its origin again and again, and that this beginning must constantly be reimagined. The imagination uses historical precedents to create new architectural projects.

Adolf Loos: “If we find a mound six feet long and three feet wide in the forests, formed into a pyramid, shaped by a shovel, we become serious and something says, ‘someone lies buried here.’ That is architecture.”

From the quiz…the idea of architecture as something with a history comes to us from Hegel, and Rossi explores this in his own unique way. For Rossi, an understanding of type is not merely visual or perceptual, rather his architecture engages the full sensorium of its experience. It is a structural and formal urban fact and complex experience.

Rossi understood architectural tradition as an extrapolation of the formal world of antiquity. FALSE:  Rossi’s concept of type allows him to sample from a far greater range of objects and periods of history. For example, in the Monument to the Italian Partisans at Cuneo, Rossi uses the concept of type to construct a monument that links to earlier commemorative monuments, perhaps to ancient examples as well as to modern ones, but not to any specific one monument from a particular historical style.

The architectural type is a primary means of communicating meaning through architecture. Architectural types, specifically those in the urban context, persisted despite changes in the functions and uses of the buildings. Rossi’s classic example of the persistence of type is the coliseum in Lucca, where the formal element remains legible despite functional change from coliseum to marketplace to housing.

Typology is intended to link new architectural projects to collective memories. Rossi’s work used the concept of typology to link architectural projects to collective memories. In Giovanni Antonio Canal’s (Canaletto) Capriccio con Edifici Palladiani, Rossi provokes us to examine the fantasy view of Venice as a means to describe the power of architecture to access an idea of the total city, albeit virtually. For Rossi, architecture is producing knowledge of the world beyond itself. To finish, here’s an article about Rossi’s San Cataldo Cemetery in Modena.

Otherwise, sketchnotes, please!

Two exercises follow, which the class did fabulous things with.

Build a model 

In previous exercises, you have explored conventions of the predominant drawing types of the architectural profession: the plan, the section, the elevation, and the perspective. In this prompt, you will become familiar with another major form of architectural representation: the physical model.

Just as perspective and orthographic drawings were used historically for the purpose of representation and construction, architects made scale models to represent their ideas. These models were useful not only for the architects and builders themselves, but also as a means to demonstrate architectural ideas to the public.

Aldo Rossi’s project for the Monument to the Resistance in Cuneo is based on a cube of 12 meters. It is represented by simple but precisely drawn plans, sections, and elevations. Spare as they are, the drawings contain all the information needed to construct a three-dimensional model of the project.

Your assignment is to construct a physical model of the Cuneo project at a scale of 1:100 (drawings provided; idiot’s guide).

Transform a type

Prompt B asks you to draw and compare diagrams that display transformations of architectural types. You will apply the concept of architectural type, first, to analyze an architectural project, and then, to transform that project to produce variants of the type deduced from a preceding formal organization, ie begin with simple typological elements and then transform and combine them into new organizations.

Find the constituent elements of the project: column, extruded triangle, extruded rectangle, and stair. After you’ve identified these elements, diagram two new possible variations for the project, changing the relationships among the elements to create your variations. You may use two of any one of the elements. For example, you may use two columns or two stairs but not two columns and stairs. Or you may double the length of the wall, but not of the wall and the extruded triangle. (Example diagrams provided.)

#FLRobert Burns: the Robert Burns MOOC

Quick look at Robert Burns: poems, songs and legacy (#FLRobertBurns) from the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow kicked off on 25 Jan, obv, for three weeks.

Who was Robert Burns? What made Robert Burns a poetic genius? And what made Robert Burns a global icon?

You’ll examine archive material, original publications and manuscripts by Burns himself, recordings of Burns songs and examples of objects used to commemorate the poet. You’ll also look at and learn to interpret a selection of Robert Burns’ works in the context of Scottish history and culture.

Setting things in a wider context, you’ll also develop your understanding of Robert Burns’s reputation – from the rise of Burns Clubs and Burns Suppers following his death, to the continuing celebration of the poet today through Burns Night, Hogmanay (New Year) and beyond.

A counterpoint to #FLfairytales and #FLwordsworth, then.

Who was – and is – Robert Burns?

Rabbie wordcloudKicking off by debunking Rabbie related mythology, the first week proper had 21 steps, the sort of thing which makes me groan. Anyway, step 1 invited a one word response on something called AnswerGarden to the question: who was Robert Burns? I went with ‘Scot’. There’s quite a nice wordcloud emerging (see right).

How are we to understand the man and his reputation? What transformed him from the ‘heaven-taught ploughman’ first discovered in the 18th century into the instantly recognised celebrity he is today? Burns occupies different roles throughout his life – poet, farmer, exciseman – and has indeed meant different things to different people at different times.

For some he is a ‘national bard’ and Scottish patriot; for others he is a major British poet; while others still might argue that Burns is a citizen of the world. Burns has also been regarded a somewhat contentious figure. His many romantic liasons, for example, have raised controversy, yet they have also provided inspiration for some of the most memorable love poetry ever written. For some Burns is more a radical figure, one who speaks on behalf of the common man (and woman).

Three things from the intro I didn’t know:

  • he brought Scots poetry back into vogue
  • he was an avid collector and editor of Scots songs, as well as writing many new ones himself
  • by the time of his death at the age of 37 he had made at least five women pregnant on at least 13 occasions and sired at least 12 children

Edwin Muir (1887–1959): Burns is ‘to the respectable, a decent man; to the Rabelaisian, bawdy; to the sentimentalist, sentimental; to the socialist, a revolutionary; to the nationalist, a patriot; to the religious, pious’.

Hugh MacDiarmid (1892–1978) ‘Mair nonsense has been uttered in his name / Than in ony’s barrin’ liberty and Christ’!

Born in 1759, in April 1783 Burns began a first Commonplace Book (a type of scrapbook or notebook), marking the beginning of his sustained endeavours as a writer. In 1786 that he published his first volume of poetry: Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, printed by John Wilson in Kilmarnock. The success of the Kilmarnock edition put an end to his supposed plans to emigrate to the West Indies. Instead he travelled to Edinburgh to promote his poetry and prepare for the publication of a 2nd edition, the ‘Edinburgh Edition’, in April 1787.

In the years that followed Burns produced several of his most famous works, however in the latter part of his life he moved away from poetry, investing much of his time and creative energy collecting and composing songs.

Burns was a freemason and wrote numerous poems inspired by and for his Masonic brethren. The Freemasons played an important part in the posthumous commemoration of the national bard, securing the tradition of the Burns supper and commissioning and/or contributing to numerous statues and memorials.

Lots of poetry reading and textual analysis!

Poet or songwriter?

We take a closer look at Burns as poet and songwriter…We also take a trip to visit our friends at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway to look at some of the publications and manuscripts held in their extensive collection, and you’ll even try your hand at transcribing a manuscript in Burns’s own handwriting. Together, we’ll examine some of the influences on Burns and his career collecting and reworking traditional songs.

Robert Burns wrote or collected two songs for every poem he produced, and was clearly both a success as a poet and as a songwriter. It is probably true to say, however, that his song-writing is thought of as a subset of his work as ‘a poet’.

  1. It is probably Burns’s love of ‘rhyme’ that led him into an increasing interest in song from poetry.
  2. However it might also be noted that his first creative production was the song, ‘O Once I Lov’d A Bonnie Lass’ (1774), and that among his earliest work is a number of other songs.
  3. Burns selected and adapted tunes for his songs, but he did not write original tunes.
  4. Many of his works such as ‘Auld Lang Syne’ or ‘A Red Rose’ were often published without music in editions of his work as though these were poems.
  5. Burns refers to himself as ‘poet Burns’ and as a ‘rhymester’ rather than as a songwriter.

Among Burns’s most celebrated songs are his Jacobite pieces, such as ‘Charlie He’s My Darling’ (from the mid-1790s), his love songs, ‘Ae Fond Kiss’ (1791) and ‘A Red Rose’ (1794), and also ‘Auld Lang Syne’ (1788). As with ‘Charlie He’s My Darling’, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ existed in a number of versions going back to the 16th century, but it is Burns who really popularises the title-phrase, ‘Auld Lang Syne’, reworking its emphasis and the material within the song. Burns made the song into something appropriate to a new age of emigration, a more universal sentiment where friends and families are rendered asunder.

What made Burns an international icon?

Hundreds of biographies, edited collections and critical studies of Burns’s life and works have been published since the bard’s death in 1796, and there are over 3000 translations of Burns’s works into foreign languages, but Burns’s literary works are just one aspect of his legacy.

Since the 19th century Burns has been celebrated at Burns Suppers, in Burns related statuary and memorabilia and at grand centenary celebrations such as those held across the globe in 1859 and 1896. Innumerable composers, artists and performers have been inspired by Burns.

Statues and public memorials to Robert Burns were being erected across the globe as early as the mid-19th century. By 1909 over 40 had been commissioned in the UK, and a minimum of five in Australia, three in Canada, one in New Zealand, and nine in the USA.

Some trivia related to Burns’s reputation:

  • Burns coined the popular phrase ‘Man’s inhumanity to man’ in his poem ‘Man Was Made to Mourn’
  • like Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men, the title of JD Salinger’s famous novel Catcher in the Rye comes from one of Burns’s poems – ‘Comin’ Thro’ the Rye’
  • US President Abraham Lincoln was a real fan of Burns and could recite pieces of Burns’s poetry by heart

For dedicated fans only! It may be my heritage but I had no idea yer man was quite that huge, and it’s definitely not my period. Having said that, listening to the songs easily brings a tear to the eye.

Rabbie linkage: