thoughts about built space

I’m sitting in the Barbican, in the flat of Tim and Alan. It is Sunday morning.  We are packed and ready to go to Spain.  They’ve taken this opportunity to go to their local Anglican church, which seems to me to be older than God himself.  It’s a beautiful building that was for the most part destroyed during the last war.  The buildings in London are quite amazing; there is a real sense of preservation.  Besides the church, here in the Barbican there are old bits of roman walls.  It’s fascinating to a prairie boy, where the oldest buildings I saw growing up were barely 100 years.  Yesterday we visited a church that was built in 1132.  It’s easy to read the plaque but the comprehension of a building that is nearly 900 years old and still being used is beyond my grasp.  I have absolutely no understanding of what life was like then or even the events that might have been occurring as that building was being constructed.

Yesterday afternoon Terry and I did a little shopping near Oxford Circus.  I was completely enthralled by the amount of people out in shopping. It rained off and on but it didn’t matter.  It’s great to be in a place that is so busy and active.  We managed to find our way back to the Barbican on the bus system in time to meet Alan and Tim at the Barbican Gallery.  We went to see an exhibition on Le Cobusier’s work.  I found it all quite interesting.  He certainly was a visionary and had very provocative thinking.  His theoretically proposal to rebuild Paris with a series of skyscrapers, although interesting to see, seemed to miss the idea of how people move and interact as groups.  He seemed to really push the envelope at the time in terms of personal ergonomics.  I’m not sure that word was even in the modern lexicon then.  His individual spaces were full of light and function.  I love that they seem so ‘modern’ and minimalist; taking simple forms and blowing them up to gigantic proportions.  It’s no wonder they feel comforting and understandable.

He seemed strongly influenced by the cubist movement at the time, many of his paintings and drawings have a strong Picasso-like quality.  I however found myself being very critical them.  From this exhibition it seems like he never really learned how to draw.

I need to and want to study a little more of his thinking.  I’m specifically interested to see if he/how he considered the interactions of groups of people in a space.  He buildings although so beautiful and functional on the inside seem completely devoid of character on the outside.  I’m drawn to form that more closely ties into the landscape and represents a balance with nature, and human nature. Watching people on the streets yesterday move among one another in the business foot traffic I’ve seen in years, reminded me of how we like to be around one another.  People organized themselves in propose, creating loose structure and an organic flow to movement.  I wonder how these might be better accommodated within built structure.

So off we go to one of the older cities in the world. I’ll be watching how things were build, rearranged, recreated, destroyed, and repurposed.  Humanity over time must have a similar effect on this environment as a flowing river does over a landscape.  Structures must adapt to make way how we most intimately and casually interact with our surroundings.

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