Archiving/Architecture
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Archives and Houses It is conventional and useful for both architects and archivists to recognize that architecture exists in two distinct modes: arst, the built artifact and, second, representations of that artifact. This division is useful precisely because it allows architecture in the second sense to be collected, cataloged, and protected by archival institutions without the necessity of dealing with the messy business of built work. The Le Corbusier Foundation in Paris does not collect buildings by the French master, although it is housed in one; the Mies van der Rohe archive at the Museum of Modern Art in New York contains not a single Mies building, nor is it housed in a Mies structure. A rare and instructive counterexample is the case of a lord in London who embarked on a project to “archive” several actual buildings by Mies. The pending lawsuit by the lord’s future heirs, who charge that the patriarch has lost his mind (and their inheritance), suggests that the distinction between the artifact and the document is blurred at considerable risk. However, the distinction between built work and its representations is more than a matter of convenience. For architects and for archivists, built work evidences several fundamental deaciencies, and the process of collecting and preserving its representations is a project aimed at compensating for a lack. This lack is not subtle and singular but glaring and multifaceted. Most obvious is architecture ’s inextricable relationship with change. Architecture of the built environment ages and weathers, is subject to quotidian appropriation, is modiaed by changing needs, and is part of a dynamic that resists steady state descriptors. Built works always offer more dimensions than any notion of original conception can contain. Built work is unruly in this respect, unrestrained. Furthermore , built work is hardly ever a totalized, authored product ; built work has no privileged condition of anality or origin. Buildings are products of forces and persons rather than of unmediated individual inspiration and unmediated preconception, and buildings become more mediated as they leave the drafting room and enter the physical world. Built work is subject to radical reconstruction socially and iconographically without changing a single brick, and yet built work can conceivably be replicated ad inanitum through complete reconstruction using originally speciaed components. Almost every built work is itself a reproduction , made of reproducible and interchangeable components . In short, built work has a troubled relationship to questions of originality. The architectural archive promises to stabilize architecture ; this is the archive’s task and gift. The archive confers a Benjaminian aura of originality on artifacts that are at risk of becoming mere commodities, and it allows the conceit of authorship to gain a plausible foothold. Proximity to the creative moment operates as a value in the archive but signiacantly less so in the built artifact; a Mies drawing, but not a Mies building, is understood as an original (thus a reconstruction of a Mies building is not seen as problematic as long as the materials used are accurate replicas, while reproducing a Mies drawing is problematic regardless of the authenticity of the materials used.) As an institution that arrests temporality , the archive effectively creates a parallel discipline to built architecture, a discipline that has as its center of gravity precisely those attributes that built work can never offer. Noble and heroic, it is the archive that offers the fundamental means of reclaiming architecture’s purity . In other words, the archive is less a record of the genesis of built or projected work than it is a supplement for the qualities that the built work will inevitably lack. 54 ⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮⟮ Archiving/Architecture Kent Kleinman ⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯⟯ The architectural archive is as much the product of desire on the part of architects as it is the result of collecting practices on the part of archivists. For it is clear that many architectural records are produced precisely to compensate for the same lack that the archive agrees to value. There is a well-established tradition in the aeld of architecture of producing visual material full of excess, of qualities well beyond marketing needs and the utility of construction. Architectural images—plans, sections, photographs, sketches—are almost always conceptualized in terms of the archive, as visual arguments loaded with surplus power to resist the passage of time, the burden of gravity, and the contingencies of use. Daniel Burnham’s grand perspectives of Chicago, Le Corbusier’s sketches of white villas, Mies’s sparse collages: all were done with a degree of enthusiasm fueled by justiaed...


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