Less is a bore…


  Spent last week in the Architectural Archives of the University of Pennsylvania working on a research project.  Found that the investigation of a particular archive is fortunately facilitated by a document called a ‘Finding Aid’ which presents its contents in outline form.  Personal papers, professional papers, drawings, photographs, models, etc.

  The archive of my interest consists of thirty-one cubic feet of boxed files and I estimate that I examined about a third of the material contained therein and look forward to returning to complete this phase of the my endeavor.  It is unbelievably fascinating because of the punctuation of the expected provided by the un-.

  My concentration never waned from open to close due to the nature of the subject (details down the road) as well as that of the professional staff and others with whom I met.  Nonetheless, I did take a break from time to time and often visited other spaces in the Fisher Fine Arts Library.  You see the main reading room above.  Isn’t the fall of the early morning light on the wall wonderful? 

  The brick and terra-cotta building was designed by the acclaimed Philadelphia architect Frank Furness and opened in 1891. Programmatic evolution and misguided modifications took a toll.  However, a six year sixteen million dollar renovation (1986-1991) led by Venturi Scott Brown and Associates gave way to renaissance and rave reviews.

  Indeed, with its singular amalgam of scale, styles, and materials, this building is  Venturi’s seminal Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture made manifest.  “I like complexity and contradiction in architecture… [an] architecture based on the richness and ambiguity of modern experience… I am for messy vitality over obvious unity…More is not less…Less is a bore.”

  Interestingly, in a footnote sort of way, VSB added a bit of complexity and contradiction to the building through the FF&E (fixtures, furnishings, and equipment) budget.  Look at the non period overstuffed chairs at the bottom of the photo above and close up below.  Footnote on footnote, the chairs remind me of the columns in their Sainsbury Wing of the National Gallery in London…

*Check out www.airbnb.com.  Brother recommended I employ the site to find an apartment for the week.  Worked out well.  Great location, fine accommodations and arrangements.  Facility instructions prohibited tobacco, but marijuana would be ok.  Nice touch.  Informal conversations in the archives with folks of several different nationalities attested to the widespread use of airbnb.  Especially amongst those half my age and younger.

One Response to “Less is a bore…”

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