My Architecture Manifesto: “Architecture Shall Live On” by Architect @FrankCunhaIII #Architect #Design #Theory #AvantGarde #ilmaBlog #DesignTheory #Architecture

I was honored to be asked to write a “Dear Destin” letter in the memory of my friend and teacher, Stephen Perrella (RIP).  For a son (Destin) to know and understand his father through his legacy and the remnants of what was left behind is challenging but without memories we cannot be human.  Without Architecture one cannot truly appreciate life.  Great Architecture is all around us.  It is important for us to celebrate it each and every day.  It is important for all of us to reflect and teach the young ones around us what it means to be alive.  To inhabit a great space is to love and to live.  To me, great Architecture is a gift to be cherished.

February 22, 2011

Dear Destin,

Your father Stephen Perrella is a special person who was gifted in many ways. To me he was a teacher, a friend, and a colleague. Most of all he was a theorist. He formulated, devised, calculated. He manipulated, transformed, and sculpted space. He was a weaver of space.

Before I begin I have to say that your birth changed Stephen for the better. You filled a void in his soul that no one else could. You enriched his soul and thirst for life. He lived each day for you. After you were born, Stephen was at peace with himself and transformed his pursuit from theory to the built.

Architecture design left un-built is not really Architecture, but merely a lot of ideas. You must build in order for something to be considered Architecture.

Architecture is the marriage of art and science of designing and erecting buildings and other physical structures. Architecture is a style and method of design and construction of buildings and other physical structures for human use.

Although more than a decade has past since I took his class I still hold his 4 principals of Architecture/Theory/Design close to me. Not a day goes by when I do not think about what he taught me.

Sign Structure Context Program

These four simple words are the devices that I use every time I design “space.” Although the meaning of these words evolves with the passing of time, these canons have passed the test of time.

The general (abbreviated) definitions are as follows:

Sign

In true Venturian spirit (1), our first lesson in Stephen’s studio was to examine signs along the roadway. The “image,” “face,” “aesthetic,” “look” of something created is the “Sign,” a modern day façade.

Like Filippo Brunelleschi before him, Stephen was interested in spatial theory. The Florentine Architect and Engineer Brunelleschi was the first to carry out a series of optical experiments that led to a mathematical theory of perspective.

When I design, and I think of Signage, I think of what one will see. How the Architectural object will be seen and remembered. It is important to consider this since Architecture is often considered an object someone looks at from the outside.

Structure

After that examination was complete, Stephen asked us to look at how the signage was structured.The structure itself becomes integral to the design of space and what I remember most was Stephen’s passion for the great philosophers like Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari (2). In particular I remember reading “The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque,” but Stephen got me so excited that I bought every philosophy book I could get my hands on.

Context

As important as what something look likes or how it stands is to know how it is placed in it’s surrounding. This became the third study in Stephen’s studio.

I remember looking at information and flow of information from a theoretical standpoint and my view of what context could be. In today’s world, context changes (telecommunications for example). We studied Bernard Tschumi’s “Architecture and Disjunction” and learned about how program, context, image could be interchanged so that the design would be altered. For example, take an existing cathedral and adapt it as a parking garage. To think of Architecture as an object and then transform it’s context changes how the object is perceived, which leads me to Stephen’s final principle.

Program

By the chronological placement of this final study I have to assume that your father believed in “Function FOLLOWS Form” (3) although I can be wrong. At the time of teaching this class Stephen was not only “competing” with himself but with other Architects like Reiser and Umemoto. As you may know by now Stephen coined the term, “Hypersurface,” which was an archetype or typology of architectural production.

Once you put these four parts together to develop a system a unique theoretical work of Architecture can be created.

The system that is created to produce the design changes each time and the result is always different. This is a fantastic attribute in a world that longs for uniqueness and creativity. I have not fully realized everything that I want to realize in my young career yet, but I know that armed with the education your father gave me I can use these principals to produce wonderful Architecture.

I hope this brief recap is only the beginning and we can share more ideas on Stephen’s life one day soon.

Truly Yours,

Frank Cunha III, AIA, NCARB

References:

(1) Venturi, Robert, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour. Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977

(1) Gilles Deleuze (18 January 1925 – 4 November 1995) was a French philosopher who, from the early 1960s until his death, wrote influentially on philosophy, literature, film, and fine art. His most popular works were the two volumes of Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus (1972) and A Thousand Plateaus (1980), both co- written with Félix Guattari. His metaphysical treatise Difference and Repetition (1968) is considered by scholars to be his magnum opus.

(3) “Form follows function” is a principle associated with modern Architecture and industrial design in the 20th century. The principle is that the shape of a building or object should be primarily based upon its intended function or purpose.

Some images of my third year studio project with Stephen (Spring of 1996 at NJIT SOA):

Las Vegas Hotel of the Future – Floor Plan

The shape of the movement of the Architectural form is informed by the mountains surrounding Las Vegas, NV.

Las Vegas Hotel of the Future – Information is Gathered

The human Body and the Folds were examined for this project.

Las Vegas Hotel of the Future – Information Flows

The elegance of the ballerina versus the vulgarity of the LV Strippers was analyzed.
Perhaps the Show Girl fits someplace in the middle?

Las Vegas Hotel of the Future – Information is Disseminated

If Twitter, Facebook, and Linked In existed, this project would emulate the feeling
of “plugging” into something greater than oneself.  The Architectural space produced by
“the object” is informed by moving/experiencing the city following the rhythm of its context.

Las Vegas Hotel of the Future – The Show Girls & Strippers Inform

Can Show Girls and Strippers inform great Arhcitecture and spaces? Sure why not?
Architecture can be sexy and smart.

Information Flows thru the Strip Like a Cyclone or Tornado like an Information Hurricane carving space.

I guess there was a collective consciousness arising about social awareness and a social
consciousness because the idea here was that the occupants of the city of the future would all
contribute to the overall Architectural object.  The building itself was comprised of the people who
inhabited it (kinda like those smart vechicles that plug in and chain up on the road to create
super-trains that create hierarchical domination over the less efficient vehicles on the road).

Las Vegas Hotel of the Future – The occupants and the space are one.

Does the Architecture inhabit the occupant or vice-versa?

Nomadic Space / Nomadic Occupants

The whole idea is that Architecture is NOT static.  It moves with the flow of energy/information
and engulfs the occupants within it as it speeds through the city, plugging in from one space to another.

There is an “Information Exchange” throughout City

The result of the “carving” of space is that imprints are left on the existing hotels on the Strip.
The “old” Architecture is informed by the “new” spinning object (a bit like Zaha and Libeskind).

The bright lights, neon lights, gambling games, billboard signs and the
natural landscape of the mountains surrounding the Strip all inform the Architecture of the
City and inform the shape of the Hotel of the Future.
The sculpture that is created carves space and changes the landscape of the City.
The hotel of the future exchanges information by moving throughout the Strip.The cyclone / tonado / hurricane that is “the process” of creating the design can
cease to exist and what is left over becomes the Architecture of the City.
The Architecture is informed by the form that is created.  The Architecture exposes its structure.
Occupants “plug” into the Architecture by communicating with others.  (Back then there was no
social media (Aghhh), but in a sense that is what I had in mind when I developed this project.)

Timeless Architecture – Saying Good Bye to a Teacher/Mentor is Never Easy

A Project called “Soul City” dedicated to the memory of Stephen Perrella: Click Here.

Stephen’s friends came together to write Letters to Destin, his son earlier this year.   Here is an excerpt of my submission: Click Here.

The following was published on March 19, 2008 by Daniel Pavlovits in the Architects Newspaper:

Stephen Perrella, 1956-2008

As a tireless advocate for the possibility and necessity of the radical in architecture, Stephen Perrella seized a moment at the dawn of the digital avant-garde in the 1990s to argue for a typology of architectural production that he coined HyperSurface architecture.

Born on Staten Island, Stephen Perrella first studied applied art and graphic design at Iowa State University, only to later return to his boyhood dream of becoming an architect and completing his architecture studies at the Pratt Institute School of Architecture in 1991. He later went on to informally study philosophy at the New School as a means to deepen his understanding of the relationship between culture and architecture, and to develop a theoretical voice.

During the years of his architectural studies at Pratt, he sensed the movement in debate surrounding critical architecture practice and theory, editing two volumes of the Pratt Journal of Architecture, publishing the work and ideas of theorists, artists, and architects, among them John Hejduk, Mark Wigley, and Peter Eisenman, who would later become central figures in the late-20th century architectural avant-garde.

It was through his work on these journals at Pratt that Bernard Tschumi, Dean of Columbia GSAPP, invited him to become editor of the GSAPP Office of Publications. Last week, Tschumi said, “He came along right when architectural practice was changing from hand-drawing to generating images by computer, and he was a front-row witness and promoter of that incredible time.” It was during his tenure at Columbia that he became known as a fervent advocate of the possibilities of and necessity for the radical in architecture, while editing both the GSAPP faculty newsletter Newsline as well as the faculty’s journal Columbia Documents.

Columbia in the 1990s was the seminal school of emergent avant-garde thought and practice, and Perrella became a champion of those he deemed to embody the radical in architecture; years later, many of these became established as the elite thinkers of our generation.

Perrella was not satisfied with merely publishing and advocating the radical in architecture, but went on to develop and coin a production typology he termed HyperSurface architecture. The theory of HyperSurface architecture went beyond the possibility of not only topological forms that emerged as a result of computer applications. It also argued for a practice that seized on the immateriality of capitalism, namely the media image. Perella wanted to think through the infusion of form with media and media with form to work between the two, or as he argued, from “the middle-out.” His belief was that formal and spatial possibilities in architecture cannot be understood apart from the immateriality and destiny of capitalism in the form of the image. This was the genesis of his attempts in theoretical writings and in a series of speculative projects to find an architectural language that had its origin between the two, privileging neither one or the other, but rather fusing them in one stance.

I got to know Perrella in 1999 after inviting him out to Sydney to speak at a student conference. From that series of email exchanges and subsequent week together in Sydney, a working relationship developed between us, as well as with two other colleagues from Ljubljana, Slovenia, for the dissemination of the HyperSurface project, both in lectures around Europe and the United States. Over the years and through several speculative projects, Perrella became both a teacher and mentor, as well as a close friend. His contribution to rethinking the possibility of radical architecture will perhaps one day find a new lease on life in a future generation.

DANIEL PAVLOVITS IS THE EDITOR OF HAECCEITY INC, AN ONLINE JOURNAL OF CRITICAL AND RADICAL THEORY IN ARCHITECTURE.

Daniel Pavlovits