Tuesday, April 15, 2014

64 Acropolis

When I was in Athens in the summer of 1991 I had another poster moment...
I'd spent a fortnight lazing on beaches and hopping around the Islands off the mainland. My sun tan was the best I'd ever had and the two weeks off working in razor blades had worked their magic. Completely rested, but with that "oh, back to work in x days" knowledge.
The early morning ferry had docked bang on time and I had Athens for a day before flying back home to Marlow and the Great West Road. First stop had to be The Acropolis.
I hiked there and with no one else up to the base of the hill waited for the gates to open. Bang. In through the Propylaea, the ancient welcoming gateway, and I got the framed view of the Parthenon, ahead and to the right.
I was in a picture on my middle school stairwell again. I was the photographer of the Greece poster that featured in 1970s travel agents windows. Child emotions kicked in. The whoa ho whoa stuff of  the "I am here, yes I am here, I'm in the book, I'm in the picture" pinch myself and yup it is really happening moment. Over on the top of the hill, to the left, the Erectheion looking pretty small in comparison to the Parthenon.
From emotion I bounced forward a decade to thought and the history of architecture Ancient and Classical lectures in Nottingham. It's easy to understand why lecturers lecture on certain things when those things are seen in the real. In a classroom with no frame of reference their students and kids can't truly get a grip on context and importance. Take the youngsters out into the field and present the reality and it all slots into place. Another airline poster moment.
Think about seeing the Parthenon - in a photo on the wall behind a six o'clock studio newsreader talking about a problem in Greece - without knowing what the stones are about; that would be listening to The Jam in your bedroom on an 1970s Argos catalogue cassette radio with an acceptable speaker. You can hear just about hear the lyrics and get the tune. Walk in front of the Parthenon and that's like watching The Jam play live at the Hammersmith Odeon. Stand in front of the Parthenon loaded up with architectural history lectures and The Jam at Hammersmith becomes the The Jam at Hammersmith with a healthy shot of amphetamine. 
I just did a quick search for the prospectus and I notice they are still running similar programs to the arts students in Nottingham today 

"BArch Bachelor of Architecture. Architectural Humanities 1: History of Architecture.
This module offers you an introduction to the history of architecture from ancient times to the present day. A two-hour weekly lecture aims to familiarise you with major architectural typologies and the social and technological changes that brought them into being."

I opted for going deep into Greece and the Greeks putting my hopes they'd crop up in the end of year exam. Plus, the Romans; they seemed to attract a weird bunch; pseudie republican Americans for a start looking for their identity, and an excuse for power crazed senators and big armed forces. Rome seemed to be about being a bloke and having a TV mini series, having parliamentarians stabbed and copping off with horses around the indoor swimming pool. Leather breastplates and short skirts, whacking breasts and giving Nazi salutes. Not my cup of tea The Greeks however. Well. The Greeks seemed far more cool. Togas for all. Wandering around. Thinking and chatting about stuff. Making up plays and setting them in nice odeons and theatres.

When it came to Greek architecture they had it up on the Romans there as well. The Greeks got in first and set the way ahead. The Three Orders, the Five Orders. Bannister Fletcher was the bibke text that formed the backbone reading to get us through that.  I’ve since bought the 1975 edition from a second hand shop.No pencil underlining and no notes in the margins… 48 lines per page 12 words per line Monotype Plantin

1975 edition, ex library, clean, no lines on the page,

Writing the lecture notes with a marroon Rotring pen, held bolt up right to be cool. Blackest of black ink on the paper, cool for essays and sketches, but flippinh hard to write quickly enough for an exam.

Pevsner was the text that got us all through the Gothic. We had a third slab on Modern Architecture. The last I found the most interesting but the most confusing. mingled up. De Dtijl with this and that with the Bauhaus and then the Ard Deco and the Art Nouveau and Gaudi going berserk and Le Corbusier coming in and being clean and all sorts. The modern term was what got me going, all the white stuff… the Schindler’s Factories in the Schindler’s List movies. Square, sharp and clean. I was doing it in the days before they added Charles Jencks and Norman Foster and inside out buildings and post modernism. My history stopped in the 1950s and it began in 400BC.

And here I was.  In 400BC. Link with the poster on middle school in 1973 and in the Architectural Tower in 1983

 Parthenon, Propylaea, Temple of Athena Nike, Erechtheum

Eleusinion, Brauroneion, Chalkotheke, Pandroseion, Arrephorion,
Sir Banister Fletcher's A History of Architecture has been the standard one volume architectural history and continues to give a concise and factual account of world architecture from the earliest times.

This unique reference book places buildings in their social, cultural and historical settings to describe the main patterns of architectural development, from Prehistoric to the International Style. In the words of Sir Banister Fletcher, this book shows that 'Architecture ... provides a key to the habits, thoughts and aspirations of the people, and without a knowledge of this art the history of any period lacks that human interest with which it should be invested.' 





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