Thursday, February 27, 2020

'Dream a little before you think'

No one but an architect—an imaginative one, that is—could manifest Toni Morrison's maxim "Dream a little before you think" most fully physically. This doesn't mean the boxy, regimented, cubical blah spitting out of draughtsmen's AutoCAD and SketchUp screens by the gazillion to resolve an urgent housing crisis, meet a client's deadline, or throw the blasted thing up ASAP. 

It's the architecture that swoops, swirls, swishes, glides the eye through space, wakes us to wonder, challenges our conception of being in a space by allowing us to truly experience it, celebrate it, revel in it, and wish we didn't have to return to the housebox we make our bed in.

Ray and Maria Stata Center at MIT (2004, Frank Gehry). Photo by Laura Choate, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Stata Center main hallway. Photo by Alan Levine, courtesy of Flickr.
That would include Frank Gehry's Ray and Maria Stata Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Dedicated in 2004, it's an extravaganza of excess in architectural agility. 

Walls bounce and rebound like Wham-O Superballs. Ceilings soar and sink like Soaring Sam gliders. Windows shoot out like spitballs. Bays bulge like obese bellies.

And all of this is the product of a dreamer who could translate his reveries to computer algorithms as the bridge to the thinking phase of his visions, so he could walk, chew gum, and blow bubbles all in one fell swoop of a Superball. 

And ballsy it is, compared to the geometric rigidity of virtually all the M.I.T. architecture that preceded it.

Stata Center sprinkler explosion, March 6, 2007. Photo by Yoyo Zhou, courtesy of Flickr.
But it turned out Gehry may have dreamed a little too much and didn't think enough about the technical snafus such a box-bursting design would inevitably cause, such as the sprinkler burst shown here—ironically, amid fish and circle sculptures with "messages on them that extol the virtues of water conservation," said the photographer, Yoyo Zhou.
Long room, Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin. Photo by Diliff, courtesy of Wikimedia.
Another architectural dreamboat—albeit on the classical side—is the Long Room of the Old Library at Trinity College Library in Dublin. Built between 1712 and 1732 and roof-raised in 1860 for an upper gallery of books, it is the most bookish architecture imaginable, making a good 200,000 of the library's oldest volumes into wallcoverings of wonderment.

Jonathan Swift bust by Louis François Roubiliac at Old Library, Trinity College, Dublin.
It certainly realizes a dream of using architecture to stimulate the intellect by booking all walls solid with old tomes reaching back years and yores, whetting our intellectual curiosities about the sheer store of knowledge within those lines and lines of leather spines, with cerebral sparks from busts of great writers like Jonathan Swift (left).

Thank you for visiting. I welcome your comments!

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