form of knowledge…

Architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1960

Oscar Niemeyer in 1960.

Oscar Niemeyer is known as a dreamer who created utopia.

Lesson / Koan : A long life should not be wasted.

More than 50 years ago, the architect Oscar Niemeyer was already famous, having helped build the United Nations. He then took on a project of epic proportions: designing the monumental buildings of a new city, Brasilia, the capital of Brazil.


Tschumi & Cook @ Storefront for Art & Architecture-11.12.10

Last night two old student/teachers & teacher/students had a conversation at the Storefront for Art & Architecture in NYC.  The discussion was about the exact same types of dreaming that Oscar Niemeyer has spent a lifetime promoting.  The two dreamers in conversation were Peter Cook & Bernard Tschumi…for the release of Event Cities 4.  Both Cook & Tshumi have also suddenly spent more than fifty years drawing dreams.  As part of the British new wave of the 1960’s, Cook’s group Archigram proposed & invented city types which were unthinkable and therefore called unbuildable.

The drawings of Archigram, like so many other utopian visions for architecture had their buildable impact seen generations later when technology caught up to the dreamers.  Bernard Tschumi on the other hand came from an architectural legacy built by his father Jean.  After Bernard’s father was killed in a train accident at the height of his career, the son decided to move on to the UK for additional studies at the Architectural Association(AA).  At the AA is where the student Tschumi meets the teacher Cook, but what is the greatest lesson shared between them?  Also, what is the greatest lesson shared with their more than 25,000 students over the decades? (The 25,000 is an estimate made by Peter Cook last night.)  The answer is not about drawing, building, construction, materials or technology, but one of how to commit crimes in public.  ( architectural / design crimes )  Both Cook & Tschumi proudly confessed that in either built architecture or book architecture the desire was to get away with as much as possible.  A critical quote from the discussion reveals the meaning of a disguise both wear in teaching & practice. “The knowledge of form and the form of knowledge is critical to telling the stories again and again, but in new ways.“- B. Tschumi   The flip in language is a way of turning the tables to one’s favor, but is it a way to teach how to take advantage as well?  Near the end of the conversation, Tschumi mentions, ” to the Niemeyer’s of the world,”

Bernerd Tschumi @ Storefront for Art & Architecture-11.12.10

which for so many maybe wasn’t even heard, but was the greatest compliment of the conversation.  The reason being, is that Niemeyer can still, at almost 103, do the one thing Cook & Tschumi still desire to do.  Niemeyer is honest, which has nothing to do with the truth.  Niemeyer has been honest to his Brazil, both Cook & Tschumi are still and will always be architectural refugees searching to return home.  The lesson for today’s students is one of honestly knowing who they build for and why building for them is a way of returning home.  So many students travel the world for education outside their countries, but how many return home as a gift to share the knowledge?  The “form of knowledge” is the second half of Tschumi’s quote, learned from his teacher Cook, will either of them ever have their entire native country as a life-long client?  This is the lesson for design students world-wide: always remember who your only client is, and will always be.


Below is a short video from last night’s Peter Cook & Bernard Tschumi’s conversation at Storefront for Art & Architecture. ( Be sure to pass on the comment made by Tschumi about Peter Zumthor. )

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