metaphysical & metaphorical musings : art, architecture, and arithmetic

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


[strophe - a turn or division]

It finally happened.  There I was, minding my own business (well, my own beer), when I finally had an epiphany of my very own.  It was bound to happen—it’s fatality, after all.

I’ve been agonizing for days over my Prezi.  (Todd can attest—he’s seen me sulking around top floor of Rolfs like the ghost of Hamlet Sr.)  I just couldn’t make the damn thing come together, find the logic of the immanent trope.  So there I was, hunched in agony (competition with the object—who will prove more resourceful?) over my computer, when I finally found a tropic tangent.

In the later days of Pruitt-Igoe, broken glass was a conspicuous feature: cascades of shattered beer bottles filled the ground that originally promised ‘a river of trees’; more significantly, one of the buildings’ most prominent features was its busted-out windows.  Broken windows—a sign of fatality.  We’re all intimately familiar with this phenomenon.  It’s the scourge of the personal computer—the fatal error—a sign that Microsoft Windows has tripped over its own formality.  Pruitt-Igoe as a signifying accident is the very same as the blue screen of death.  This, of course, leads marvelously into Lev Manovich’s theorization of the new media screen, providing a convenient inroad into digital technology, a persistent parallel to modern architecture in my blog.

I hypothesized, early on, that the disaster was the organization of space.  The notion that suspicion and defection were emergent properties of the layout seem to corroborate this.  Pruitt-Igoe promised the American Dream of the mid-century.  The project arose as a result of flight to the suburbs, to the white picket fences of middle-class America.  Pruitt-Igoe was an urbanized version of the white picket fence neighborhood—‘vertical neighborhoods for poor people’, to quote Architectural Forum (and the scary thing is, these were words of praise).  The social disintegration seems to me a form of mass brinksmanship; if this barren, inhospitable space masquerading under a human metric was the best that the American Dream was going to offer up, the only option was to call its bluff.

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