Sunday, June 23, 2013

Aurora of Empire, Part 3

Part 1,  Part 2

Aurora of Empire, The Beekman by Frank Gehry
The buildings that pre-industrial civilizations constructed appeal to us today in part for an aesthetic coherence that is a consequence of technological limitation, a uniformity of form and material that is a direct result of scarcity. But more than that their appeal is for their human expressiveness, the craft, care and imagination embodied in the sculptural forms of their functional and decorative components. These appeal to us instinctively.  They tell us a story not of work, but of craftsmanship, the love of work, the impulse to make well that embeds physically in our creations when we care about them. Work we love inspires works of love.  
As industrialization harnessed fossil fuels to tasks that for thousands of years had worn the bones of man and beast, the productivity of technological ingenuity began to liberate people from the worst economic abuses of their fellows.  But the same labor saving innovations were applied to the world of craftsmanship, the labor that people loved to do and in its artistry had staked their identities. This began to dissociate people from the aesthetic making we are predisposed to love doing. The Fordist and Taylorist revolutions in manufacturing ensured that the greater parts of several generations would never satisfy their innate urge to craftsmanship except in hobbies even as population, and with it the need for material goods, exploded. 

Motovun Croatia: a hand made city
Urbanism was the last great tableau for these displacements of human craft to find expression. Because city and building sites are all unique, against epic struggles of finance to insist they're not, the specific local realities of construction have never entirely lost their footing in the arts. The uniqueness of the real and the specificity of place can never fully be eradicated from built reality: these qualities propagate out into the artifices we project for ourselves through construction never severing the final connections back to the earth, they calibrate our fantasies to the particular and never quite let them dematerialize into our dreams as we would like.