02/01/2010 - 03/01/2010

by Thomas More

1518 Map of Utopia by Ambrosius Holbein

What is the difference between classicism and neoclassicism, between great architecture and abortive attempts to return to it? Why am I interested in figuring out the difference between classicism and neoclassicism? The contrast sheds light on those tenets of traditional architecture which are most ambiguous to me, and which are perhaps, most essential. I am not interested so much in demonstrating the benefits of a classical architecture as I am in understanding how it can be successfully invoked once again. It appears to me from a survey of contemporary traditional buildings that one of the greatest pitfalls for the architect attempting to reestablish a connection with classical architecture is the error of revivalism. It will be my goal to describe how revivalism is in fact directly antithetical to the concept of tradition, and more significantly, how the essential conflict lies in our understanding of how man progresses through history. Perhaps this too is only symptomatic of a deeper contrast; regardless I will determine that as I continue the debate.

Is revivalism really the greatest pitfall for the classical architect today? There are a number of ways of approaching the question of what differentiates the continual awareness of the past, characteristic of classical architecture, from neoclassicism, a term used to describe movements such as revivalism, or eclecticism which seek to make a specific historical period, or period motif, the basis for all modern building and which have successfully been shown to be the progenitors of modernism. That modern architecture’s nature is akin to that of neoclassicism is symptomatic of the difference between classicism and revivalism. Several thoughtful expositions of the kinship between the ideals of neoclassicism and modernism exist, but these are merely similarities in the degree to which there has been a departure from a rational understanding of how we are capable of living.

The beginning of the question lies in the difference between classicism and neoclassicism just as I have phrased it, but it will be helpful to understand how neoclassicism and modernism are similar in order to distinguish the more essential contrast. More basic than the terms classicism and neoclassicism is an understanding of how the advent of historicism, or a shift in the way we have viewed progress has changed the process of imitation, the means by which we participate in tradition. Latent in the theory driving revivalism is the concept that contemporary architecture is in a different category from that of the past. This understanding of “the modern” is derived from the supposition that humanity is progressing toward a state of perfection on earth.

To begin to understand these ideas it will be necessary to understand how both Vitruvius and Alberti regarded history and the history of historicism. I propose to continue this exploration in the coming months.

Pretty beautiful stuff, and I like his enunciation of the spontaneity of classical typography, although I'm not sure about his "only responsible for my watch" comment.

Firefly Press

Posted on

Saturday, February 20, 2010

CAUTION! This post is completely inane. ~*~*~*~*~*~*~!!!
As I believe I have already mentioned, I am continually blown away by this website. Especially the new page on their artist in residence. I keep asking myself if this is some amazingly peculiar joke, or a bid for the worst website of all time, but I think it's really serious... I imagine Yvette's to be some kind of magnetic spot where really, really strange people congregate and devise even more nauseating website backgrounds while helping unsuspecting bride-to-be's into apricot-coloured gowns and plotting the return of classical art using household pigments like ketchup red and banana yellow.

And I quote from the artist's bio:
"I have often been asked whether I attended school for my art
education......perhaps the College of Visual Arts, Theater and
Dance @ Florida State University in Tallahassee, the capital of
Florida, or maybe the Maryland Institute College of Art in the
vicinity of the capital of the United States ~*
.........the honest truth is that I have not had the benefit of any
formal education in the Visual Arts at a contemporary art
institute, college or school ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
if the answer was yes, I know I would have gained a great deal
of advantage from such experience ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
my entrance into the wonderful world of Fine Arts, particularly
Drawing & Painting Portraits, came about in a rather unusual
manner, it seems ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
about six years ago I experienced an amazing Triad of
repeating dream patterns !! ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
for three consecutive nights I was enraptured in the spell of
the most illuminating pageantry of beautiful dreams ~*~*~*~*
regal delightful dreams of rainbows and butterflies and
fireflies and lightening flashes and yellow canaries and
swallow song and sea waves and puffy pink flamingos and
soft white clouds passing aimlessly across a cerulean sky and
stars and spinning spiral galaxies and sunsets and sunrises
on worlds that seemed a world away and to and fro on this
nightly magic carpet ride ~*~* these brilliant, mystical dreams
always ended in the same way........the sound of a heart
pulsing in the midst of random patterns of colors swirling all
around me ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
on the morning after the third night of these enigmatic esoteric
journeys, I was sitting comfortably out back in my tile floored
Florida Room with the ceiling fan on a low setting when a
feeling of inspiration began to overwhelm me........something
like an instantaneous desperation hit me out of the proverbial
blue and I experienced a great compassion to do
something.........."do what?", I thought to myself.........this
uncertainty and confusion lasted for what now seems like 5 or
10 minutes.........I wanted to do something...........I strongly
desired to engage in some sort of activity but I had no idea
what said activity could possibly be ?? ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*
then, in a flash, it was clear to me..........I saw myself sitting
before an easel ( at that time I didn't even know what an easel
was nor did I know anything about paint or painting ) with a
palette in one hand and artist's brushes in the other slinging
every color imaginable upon a huge canvas !! ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

..........all the tropical fishes in all the tropical seas of the world and
the majestic polar ices with their arctic casts of shining
auroras abound from here to all eternia and beyond in the
lively parade of promenade adorned in natural royal regalia
gifting us with essential elements of earthen delight !! ~*~*~*~*
~*~*~*~*~*~* sharing happiness with others is a temporal and
~*~*~*~* ethereal pleasure, the wellspring of prosperity ~*
/~~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~* Unquote...

The Finn Family Moomintroll
by Tove Jensen

Moomin Valley showing a plan of Moominhouse.

The Wizard of Earthsea
by Ursula K. Le Guin


I have a fairy by my side
Which says I must not sleep,
When once in pain I loudly cried
It said "You must not weep."

If, full of mirth, I smile and grin,
It says "You must not laugh;"
When once I wished to drink some gin
It said "You must not quaff."

When once a meal I wished to taste
It said "You must not bite;"
When to the wars I went in haste
It said "You must not fight."

"What may I do?" at length I cried,
Tired of the painful task.
The fairy quietly replied,
And said "You must not ask."

-Lewis Carroll

My Fairy

Posted on

Friday, February 19, 2010

"See feinting from his plot of paint
 The trench of light on boards, the much-mended dry

Courtyard wall of brick
And sun submerged in beer, and streaming in glasses,
The weave of a sleeve, the careful and undulant tile."

Your anti-illustrious host is now published, sort of. I am credited for "revisione" on the first page; a rather generous display of thanks on the part of the author, I must say.


You can order the book here or here.

Meridians are a net
Which catches nothing; that sea-scampering bird
The gull, though shores lapse every side from sight, can yet
Sense him to land, but Hanno had not heard

Hesperidean song,
Had he not gone by watchful periploi:
Chalk rocks, and isles like beasts, and mountain stains along
The water-hem, calmed him at last near-by

The clear high hidden chant
Blown from the spellbound coast, where under drifts
Of sunlight, under plated leaves, they guard the plant
By praising it. Among the wedding gifts

Of Herë, were a set
Of golden McIntoshes, from the Greek
Imagination. Guard and gild what’s common, and forget
Uses and prices and names; have objects speak.

There’s classic and there’s quaint,
And then there is that devout intransitive eye
Of Pieter de Hooch: see feinting from his plot of paint
The trench of light on boards, the much-mended dry

Courtyard wall of brick
And sun submerged in beer, and streaming in glasses,
The weave of a sleeve, the careful and undulant tile. A quick
Change of the eye and all this calmly passes

Into a day, into magic.
Is there any end to true textures, to true
Integuments; do they ever desist from tacit, tragic
Fading away? Oh maculate, cracked, askew,

Gay-pocked and potsherd world
I voyage, where in every tangible tree
I see afloat among the leaves, all calm and curled,
The Cheshire smile which sets me fearfully free.