The proposed amendments to the Cannabis for Private Purposes bill that seeks to further decriminalise cannabis usage and legalise South…
Form and Purpose: Is the Emperor Naked?
Moshe Safdie, edited by John Kettle
International Design Education Foundation, 1980
Paperback | 9 x 9 inches | 144 pages | English | ISBN: 9780395316641
Although they are both square in format, Form and Purpose and With Intention to Build are very different books, mainly because the latter is full of projects designed by Safdie’s office, while the former is devoid of them entirely. Nevertheless, each book conveys some of the main ideas that have driven Safdie over his long career: finding inspiration in nature and history; embracing a humanism that is cognizant of individual experience; and designing with grand ambitions that have led to big — some may say over-sized — projects. An interesting parallel between the two books is found in Safdie’s correspondences. The documentation of the Columbus Center project in With Intention to Build includes a couple of letters/editorials Safdie wrote to the New York Times in response to criticism over his design; one is mainly comprised of a passage by Bruno Zevi, while the longer one is all Safdie. His comfort in penning long opinions is echoed in the first pages of Form and Purpose, which features a letter Safdie wrote to Philip Johnson in 1978, just after the latter’s design for the AT&T Building was released to the public. Safdie’s “rather long-winded” letter, signed “with much friendship and warm wishes,” politely derides Johnson’s design. Johnson replied with his own letter, also in the book, a much shorter one that acknowledged Safdie’s points but actually considered his AT&T Building to be aligned with them.
The inclusion of the letter in the introduction to Form and Purpose can be seen as one of the many pieces in the book meant to provoke and serve “as a catalyst for the presentations and discussions” in the conference. This was 1980, after all, and debates over what form(s) buildings should take were being waged all over architectural media. If a photomontage Safdie put in his book (below) is any indication, Postmodernism was facing off against Modernism, with a model for Johnson’s AT&T Building rising over Charles Moore’s Piazza d’Italia on one page, and a glassy Portman building and a Metabolist masterpiece on the opposite page; the towers of Oscar Neimeyer’s National Congress in Brasilia are the hinge between them. If anything, the collage expresses how a city full of architectural icons would equate with chaos, noise. Background buildings, as they’re often dismissively called, are needed — to temper strong architectural statements and give city dwellers some psychic relief. Safdie’s words at the end of the book, in which he recounts correspondences he had with Iranian architect Nader Ardalan, summarize a similar take on architecture and cities: “He who seeks self-expression shall fall into the pit of arrogance / Arrogance is incompatible with nature / Through nature, the nature of the universe and the nature of man, we shall seek truth / If we seek truth, we shall find beauty.”
* Syndicated content from A Daily Dose of Architecture Books.