critical reflections
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critical reflections

Granary, Grimentz, Valais, Switzerland, 16th century © Thomas Deckker 2023
Was Vitruvius Right?
2024

Aurelio Galfetti: Castelgrande, Bellinzona 1986 © Thomas Deckker 1996
Two Castles in Switzerland
2023

Nouveau plan de la ville de Paris 1828 © David Rumsey Maps
The Arcades Project
2023

Derelict Building, Kings Cross photo © Thomas Deckker 1988
Henri Labrouste and the construction of mills
2023

Claude-Nicolas Ledoux: Barrière St Martin, Paris (1785-1790) from Daniel Ramée: C.N. Ledoux, l'architecture (Paris 1847)
The Barrière de la Villette: the Sublime and the Beautiful
2022

Vauban: Neuf Brisach
Neuf Brisach: The Art of War
2022

Lucio Costa: Competition sketch for the Esplanada dos Minstérios, Brasília 1956
Did Lucio Costa know the Queen Mother?
2022

Vaux-le-Vicomte, Entrance Court, engraving by Israel Sylvestre
Vaux-le-Vicomte: Architecture and Astronomy
2022

Edzell Castle, Ground Floor Plan, from MacGibbon and Ross: The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland
Edzell Castle: Architecture and Treatises in Late 16th Century Scotland
2022

Capability Brown: Plan for Petworth Park from Dorothy Stroud: Capabilty Brown
The Upperton Monument, Petworth
2022

Isamu Noguchi: maquette for Riverside Drive c. 1961
Isamu Noguchi: useless architecture
2022

Jürgen Joedicke: Architecture since 1945: sources and directions (London: Pall Mall Press 1969)
Gottfried Böhm: master of concrete
2021

Thomas Deckker Architect: temporary truck stop, M20
Lorry Drivers are human, too
2021

Marc-Antoine Laugier: Essai sur l'Architecture
John Onians: 'Architecture, Metaphor and the Mind'
2021

Sir John Vanbrugh: Seaton Delaval, Northumberland (1720–28) from Colen Campbell: Vitruvius Britannicus vol 3 (1725)
Seaton Delaval: the aesthetic castle
2021

Jules Hardouin-Mansart: Les Invalides, Paris (1676) Section showing the double dome
The Temple of Apollo at Stourhead: Architecture and Astronomy
2021

Eric de Maré: Fishermen’s huts, Hastings (1956) © Architectural Press Archive / RIBA Library Photographs Collection
Eric de Maré: The Extraordinary Aesthetics of the Ordinary
2021

Iannis Xenakis: score for Syrmos, for string orchestra (1959) © Editions Salabert E. A. S. 17516
Iannis Xenakis: Music, Architecture and War
2021

United Visual Artists: Etymologies 2017 © United Visual Artists
United Visual Artists
2020

Margaret Howell: Campaign 2020 © Margaret Howell
Margaret Howell
2020

Palaces of Darius and Xerxes, Persepolis, Iran
The Plans of Antiquity
2020

Cristobal Balenciaga: Skirt Suit, 1964 © Victoria and Albert Museum, London
Cristobal Balenciaga
2020

Mathias Goeritz: La serpiente de El Eco, 1953 © Sothebys
Mathias Goeritz: 'Emotional Architecture'
2020

Richard Serra: Weight and Measure 1992 © Richard Serra
Weight and Measure
2020

Tony Smith: Playround, 1962 © Tony Smith Estate
Tony Smith: Art and Experience
2020

Highway Construction © Caterpillar Archives
Landscape and Infrastructure
2020

Frank Gohlke: Lightning Flash, Lamesa, Texas © Frank Gohlke
Grain Elevators
2020

Mathias Goeritz: La serpiente de El Eco, 1953 © Sothebys
Mathias Goeritz: La serpiente de El Eco, 1953
© Sothebys

Mathias Goeritz: 'Emotional Architecture'

I discovered the work of Mathias Goeritz from Builders in the Sun, a book on Mexican architects by Clive Bamford Smith, as a byproduct of looking for the work of his friend and occasional collaborator Luis Barragan. Goeritz began a series of sculptures called 'Emotional Architecture' in 1953, beginning with El Eco, a small building in Mexico City. The design of El Eco was purely concerned with space and the emotions raised in space such as intimacy and discovery. It was a reaction to the functionalism then dominating modern architecture worldwide and to the socialist realism then dominating art in Mexico. The plan was very simple: it included a patio with a freestanding wall, and a triangular entrance space (Barragan used similar triangular spaces in his Convento de las Capuchinas Sacramentarias in 1955). Goeritz designed a cast iron sculpture for the patio that became known as 'La serpiente', which was produced in several variants. El Eco lasted only a few years, but was rebuilt in 2005 and is now a museum.

Goeritz was fortunate to be part of an artistic environment that included not only Barragan but the photographers Marianne Goeritz (his wife) and Armando Salas Portugal, the dancer Pilar Pellicer and the muralist Carlos Mérida. Marianne Goeritz and Salas Portugal were important interpreters and conduits for Goeritz's work.
Mathias Goeritz: Torres de Satélite, Mexico City 1957 © Clive Bamford Smith: Builders in the Sun
Mathias Goeritz: 'Torres de Satélite, Mexico City 1957
© Clive Bamford Smith: Builders in the Sun. Photo by Marianne Goeritz.
After El Eco, Goeritz continued to experiment with planes and forms of polychromed wood, which led directly to the commission, with Barragan, for the Torres de Satélite in Mexico City in 1957. The towers consist of five triangular polychromed concrete columns on the highway marking the entrance to the Satellite City, a suburb that contains Barragan's Las Arboledas.
Mathias Goeritz: Realization No. 3, Mexico City 1959 © Clive Bamford Smith: Builders in the Sun
Mathias Goeritz: Realization No. 3, Mexico City 1959
© Clive Bamford Smith: Builders in the Sun. Photo by Marianne Goeritz.
Goeritz took the forms of Emotional Architecture to an urban street in Mexico City as 'Realizations', using polychromed wood and scrap steel sheets, in 1959. I have no evidence whether this work was successful or not, and indeed success is a difficult term to measure in this context, but this was made and installed before abstract sculpture became absorbed into what Robert Hughes (in 'On Art and Money') called the commodification of the art market, so I suspect it was not regarded as an imposition as much later abstract sculpture was. This work was part of a series of Messages and Realizations that were exhibited at the Carstairs Gallery in New York City in 1960. This was just before the the exhibition 'Primary Structures: Younger American and British Sculptors' at the Jewish Museum in New York City in 1966 and the emergence of artists like Richard Serra in 1968, but I do not know whether Goeritz had any influence on the New York art scene. In any case, influence is the wrong concept: artists and architects collect and reuse their own interests and experience in their work.
Mathias Goeritz: Do it Yoursef Sculpture © Clive Bamford Smith: Builders in the Sun
Mathias Goeritz: 'Do it Yourself' Sculpture 1960
© Clive Bamford Smith: Builders in the Sun. Photo by Marianne Goeritz.
One of my favourite pieces by Goeritz, at the opposite extreme of the social spectrum to the urban street, is the 'Do it Yourself' sculpture, a series of bronzed wooden blocks, truncated cones and a hemisphere that can be arranged in any pattern by the owner. These are not 'Mexican' shapes: they have become identified as Mexican by association with Barragan and Goeritz. 'Do it Yourself' has the same hand-sized tactility of 'Prometheus' by Naum Gabo and 'Torpedo Fish' by Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, and the same way of engaging the aesthetic sensibility as the 'Group of Three Magic Stones' by Barbara Hepworth, in Kettles Yard, Cambridge. The comparison with these great artist is fully justified.
I was pleased to have been able to visit some of Luis Barragan and Mathias Goeritz's work in Mexico City:
Luis Barragan and Mathias Goeritz: Torres de Satélite, Mexico City, 1957 photo © Thomas Deckker 1997
Luis Barragan and Mathias Goeritz: Torres de Satélite, Mexico City, 1957
photo © Thomas Deckker 1997
Thomas Deckker
London 2020