Flatpack 1

We can estrange any work of con­tem­po­rary archi­tec­ture by see­ing it as the sum of its nails, its dry­wall and ducts, the bags of con­crete emp­tied into it. That the archi­tect is a cura­tor (anoth­er mas­ter fig­ure hope­ful­ly approach­ing the end of their vogue), buy­ing and array­ing, putting pro­duced assets in a place and hop­ing for them to mature togeth­er. Such an archi­tec­ture is not a ready­made, because it is mul­ti­plic­i­tous and because it con­ceals its assem­bled qual­i­ty; wan­der­ing bored in one of these places, and fix­ing upon a detail of a stair, or a thresh­old, or a light fix­ture, you will be unable to quite rea­son it back to the over­all body of the build­ing. It relates as a toe­nail does to a beau­ti­ful per­son, being nei­ther quite nec­es­sary or unnec­es­sary in of itself, and cer­tain­ly not any good reflec­tion of the greater whole. We are dis­ap­point­ed if it is in poor repair. It is nei­ther on, in, nor of, but some oth­er prepo­si­tion; I sup­pose it is part-of. Partof?

Extend this to a maple grow­ing in a lawn. It does not come from the lawn; it is trucked over with a tag hang­ing off its branch. It is uncan­ny to see any nat­u­ral­is­tic land­scape being con­struct­ed, and to think it sim­i­lar to the flat­pack land­scape of bespoke fur­ni­ture on square turf. The designed land­scape is an assem­blage of mate­ri­als, most often sim­ply ordered and put into place. If the ele­ments of that land­scape are changed (poured into a mold) or expect­ed to change (as the plants will), they do so in an order­ly and con­so­nant fash­ion. They are not grown but bought.

image of roses
Entry from the 1913 Biltmore Rose Catalog.

(October 2016)