Saturday, February 12, 2011

Art Nouveau vs. a single man called Adolf Loos

Art Nouveau example: Aesthetic driven design
of the flowers
Adolf Loos is the person who oppose the concept of Art Nouveau in the early 1900s, through his writing (or would I say rambling) called “Ornamentation is a Crime”. He said that the ornamentations and excessive design should be demolished as it would be a waste of human labour and materials. Instead of doing unnecessary on ornamentations in his works, a craftman could be doing something else or just work half a day. He believes that reason should determine the way we built and a design without ornamentation is a sign of spiritual strength. 

All talk and no essence, all hype and no value. That what Adolf Loos would say what ornamentation is all about. What I can say is that he is a practical man, and he wants to keep it simple. Below are several examples that he oppose to:

Art Nouveau example: Nature inspired hinges
Art Nouveau example: Grilles by Guimard
Goldman and Salatch Building:
The house that was ridiculed in 1909
Adolf Loos has a strong design philosophy and is not afraid to share it, even though it would not be popular with the majority of people. He proceed with his work of Goldman and Salatsch building in 1909 based on his philosophy, even though Art Nouveau is still a hype back then. And later ridiculed by the people in Austria, by saying it was too simple.

While in his work, Villa Müller, a stark contrast between the exterior (rigid/boring/box like) and interior (lavish, homely, traditionally based) can be seen. The idea of Raumplan (spatial space design concept created by Loos) is clearly shown in the house. A simple design of the outside of the house does not really reflect with the grand inside of it. Rooms are interconnected with each other and height of each rooms are suited for its functions. Practicality at its best... 

IMHO, this work reflected with what his view of modern man: practical (or somewhat boring) on the outside, but inside, he is rich and full of essence. What he is trying to convey is that a modern man does not rely on his façade to be interesting, but he would rely on his character to rise interest of people about him. Another example of don’t judge a book by its cover……

Villa Muller: The Solid Exterior
Villa Muller: The more traditional interior
His approach is later followed by major designers for the whole of 20th century.  Similar design approach can be seen in the video from the links below:

nice right?heh

For me, I am from an engineering background. I don't mind myself living in those houses. Practicality comes first. Pintu sesuka hati is better than kipas terbang. heh. Nuff said. I’m with the Loos.

Mode of transport: Kipas terbang
Mode of transport: Pintu sesuka hati

But do take note that ornamentation is sloooowly rising up again…… (yep, Pn Suzy is right)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Joy of Work (Design History Assignment II)

How does the concept of “Joy of Work” relate to modern thinking?

Before the emerges of Art and Craft movement from the Industrial era, people were frustrated with the machines for their bad working condition. Social movement emerged to fulfill their needs in workplace. They seem to be working for the sake of money and without any sense of enjoyment and “spirit” in working. Thus, the need of “Joy of Work” by the people at that time. The creative side of people and designers are restricted and creativity is left to the bare for economic purposes. The need of the sense of creativity and human “spirit” in design, not the mass produced machine produce.

In context with the current modern thinking, like in the early 20th century, most people are still working for the sake of money. Work is perceived as labor, not something that people would do for fun or enjoyment. There is even a saying that if you enjoy doing your work, it would not be called work at all. Thus, there are still the need of “Joy of Work” in today modern thinking. People are trying to find something that they enjoy doing and getting money doing it. This can be seen in a lot of self help books on finding their own interest in life. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cogito ergo Sum (Design History Assignment I)

Cogito ergo sum, “I think therefore I am”, is the famous line created by Rene Descartes in his book Meditation (1941).

He started to work on the book on 1639, which aggressively doubting every human knowledge available at that time. He realized that it is necessary to demolish everything and start again from the foundations if he wanted to establish anything at all, a knowledge which is stable and likely to last. This kind of skepticism or method of doubt is so unique that is called Cartesean Doubt.

In his writing, he was convinced that all of the current knowledge might be contaminated at the source. Even though it may not be, but we cannot guarantee that it isn’t. It all can be doubted. During the findings of knowledge, our senses might be lying to us (doubting knowledge from senses), we might be dreaming (Dream Argument) or something is fooling us (invisible demon issue).

And during his rigorous doubting of everything, he suddenly realized that one thing that he can never doubt. The fact that he is doubting or thinking. And thinking cannot happen just in mid-air. His consciousness or his mind is causing this thinking. Therefore, he cannot doubt his existence which causes this thinking/doubting. Thus, cogito ergo sum is accomplished. Or more accurately: there are thoughts, so there must be a mind.

To put it in context with the 18 century design issue, with the fall of once great and powerful Roman Catholic Church, people started to have confidence toward themselves and see knowledge as the centre of their lives. They no longer rely on someone or something to exist. Thus, the artworks that was created during that time focused on thinking or vision or something that might be possible (even it is not possible during that time). This can be seen in the drawings of grand structure from Piranesi and Boulle. By these drawings, they wanted to reveal what the true capability of a person is.

However, to put it in context with the current design issue, from my humble opinion, the approach of finding cogito ergo sum could be interpreted as an approach of designing. To create a solid design, the designer has to start from the back of his/her mind and approach the problem/issue there. The designer has to make a proper research on the issue that he/she wanted to address and create something certain or good.

Notable notes:

One of the factors that may affect his thinking was the death of his only daughter at the age of 5 on 1640. His daughter, Francine died of scarlet fever when he was writing Meditations on 1639-1641.

Do take note that the popular approach of knowledge during his time are mainly Scholasticism, which says that any truth reached by reasons must therefore automatically be reconcilable with Christian doctrines; and faith would precedence over reasons, if there is any contradictions. It is mainly influenced by Roman Catholic Church.

“Knowledge” at that time was still influenced by many nonfactual factors (myths, imaginations, religious dogma etc).

Cogito ergo sum has created an agenda which till this day still cannot be solved by philosophers.

Cogito ergo sum mark the start of modern philosophy and created a branch of philosophy called Philosophy of Mind.

Descartes is also famous as a mathematician. He is the person who created the Cartesean coordinates (x,y,z).

From cogito, functionlism was created. This thinking can be seen as the basis of the movie The Matrix.

Homunculus, a person imagined by Descartes as the soul in every each of us (in dualism issue), become the name of a type of characters in an anime called Full Metal Alchemist.

After Descartes, knowledge become more systematic and the thinking that we called “systematic”. He also created the need of secular science or metaphysic.

Introducing Descartes, A Graphic Guide
By Dave Robinson & Chris Garratt