From the President’s Pen,
The month of September represents the beginning of spring which is the time of rebirth, renewal and rejuvenation.
In the painting Primavera by Botticelli of (c.1480), Flora is portrayed as the epitome of spring showing her in floral dress and flowers in her hair all within the backdrop of a flower and fruit garden. Flora is also a Renaissance “hippy” and this image has become the face of spring – a youthful vision with flowers and fruit depicting rebirth and renewal by shaking of the shackels of the past.
Colour, warmth and growth is the essence of spring which inspires us with a new energy by shaking of the depression of cold and winter. Once again, we have the opportunity to embrace rebirth which should inspire our creative work. This single image of Flora in the Primavera is well worth studying for relevance in our modern day lives.
Nonetheless what has also got me thinking after considering the Primavera and the birth of spring, is that we are often influenced, inspired or depressed by single images of important happenings ie the Hiroshima nuclear bomb and mushroom like plume of smoke, or the Twin Towers burning and smoking or the Berlin Wall being relieved by happy Berliners. The images remain in our intellectual archive reminding us of good and bad times, of alarm or opportunity, etc.
Then I read an article in the latest Vanity Fair magazine (July / August 2021) of a single photograph which explores a single vision of a house which in turn has had a pronounced influence on architecture. The image is of House Stahl (1960) by architect Pierre Koenig which shows the uber modern Stahl family in their cantilevered glass lounge overlooking L.A. at night, on a warm spring evening in May 1960.
This single image influenced the mid-century modern movement but also late modernism. One of the most prominent architects of our time Sir Norman Foster commented on this image as follows: “If I had to chose one snapshot, one architectural moment, of which I would have been the author, this is surely it…” Foster further states the very image embodies “…the whole spirit of late 20th Century architecture.”
There are many other single snapshots, sketches, paintings, tourist photographs, cover pages, adverts, etc that influence us without us really taking the time to realize the importance but spring is one such time of the year in which we should re-think, rebirth and re-compose ourselves, even if only thinking about these single moments, simple sketches or once-off visions which have influenced our lives.
We could also refer to Oscar Niemeyers’ concept sketches in the 1950’s of the Brasilia complex and especially the sketch of the Congresso Nacional, Brasilia which in its absolute simplicity is reflected in the actual power of the completed building complex and which has greatly influenced modern architecture. Niemeyer continued to effectively use these simple but powerful sketches to convey his visionary intent to all concerned.
In today’s world of expecting instant gratification with quick fixes and easy pinterest type imagery, are we finding future solutions to our present challenges which embody “the whole spirit of architecture”? Ask yourself which image has influenced your architecture and have you effectively treasured this as a guideline in your work.
The simple re-occurrence of spring with the warmth on our skin, sunlight on our faces, Botticelli’s image of rebirth and the visionary House Stahl and Congresso Nacional in Bracilia should inspire us once again to perform great works of architecture.
Primavera, Botticelli, c.1480
(Flora third from right)
House Stahl, Pierre Koenig, c.1960
Photograph by Julius Shulman
Concept Sketches, Brasilia, Oscar Niemeyer c.1958
Congresso Nacional, Brasilia, Oscar Niemeyer c.1958
Photograph by Andrew Prokos