Form and Function examines the legacy of these principles through work at a range of scales - literally spanning from letterform to city-planning. The smallest is Anne Burdick’s book design for the Austrian Academy of Sciences’ Fackel Dictionary: Idioms, based on the writings of Viennese social critic Karl Kraus. The 1,056 page volume is the first of three derived from Kraus’ long-running (1899 – 1936) magazine of social commentary, called Die Fackel. The next largest is the GRAFT design-collective’s remote-controlled inflatable GRAFTballoons. Close in size to the human body, thus akin in scale to a piece of furniture, the function of the project is play. Bryant Yeh and Leigh Jerrard’s Folding Structure is explicitly about indeterminacy of scale. Its formal logic can be carried out at any size and create a multitude of shapes. Durfee Regn Sandhaus’ exhibition designs, such as The World from Here combine graphic and digital information with architecture and use the metaphor of natural landscape to create panoramic, open, visual relationships. These in turn are overlayed with paths of movement operating at the scale of garden design. The large end of the spectrum is occupied by The Most Expensive Space in North America by AUDC with Steve Rowell. This work interprets the phenomenon of downtown office buildings retrofitted to serve as telecommunications hubs, or Telco Hotels. The implications of these kinds of buildings are profound on an architectural and urban level, not just here in Los Angeles but in any city across the globe.
To Divide Correctly
In Paris, pre-war avant-garde artists such as Braque and Duchamp redefined ready-made objects by stripping them of their functional value, while in Vienna, the architect Adolf Loos, along with his affiliates Ludwig Wittgenstein and Karl Kraus (the social critic on whose magazine the Fackel Dictionary: Idioms is based), theorized the relationship of form to function in their built work and writings. A colleague praised their efforts by crediting them with the insight to “divide correctly”1. For example, Loos divided art, which he defined as inherently useless, from the article of use by distinguishing the tomb or monument from the rest of architecture. Kraus elaborated on the distinction in these terms: “All that Adolf Loos and I have ever meant to say is that there is a difference between an urn and a chamberpot. But the people of today can be divided into those who use the chamberpot as an urn and an urn as a chamberpot”2. Kraus not only separates use from form: he reunites them through the notion of appropriateness, meaning judgement applied in a social context. Use and form must coexist and, like language, must be perceived within the social realities of their place and time. Their close associate Wittgenstein examined the nature of use as freed from form and found that, just as words have multiple meanings dependent on context, possibilities for use were always shifting. As an example, he asks us to consider all the different things for which you
1 Colin St. John Wilson “The Play of Use and the Use of Play: an Interpretation of Wittgenstein’s Comments on Architecture”, Architectural Review 180.1073 (July 1986). p.16