Posts Tagged ‘a&a’

Bataille’s Dreams Come True

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Today’s post comes from Tala Gharagozlou, currently a graduate student of architecture at Yale.

Via Gizmodo

Via Gizmodo

i fell in love with the first cute girl that i met/
who could appreciate georges bataille/
standing at swedish festival discussing the ‘story of the eye’

–of Montreal

Bataille’s Dreams Come True

This was the subject heading of an e-mail from a friend of mine, a couple of days ago, Feb. 9th, 2009.

And of course, there were links to the photos of the CCTV’s unloved sibling immolating.

I was working in the architecture studio and the entire studio was of course abuzz within a few minutes of the event. But the pun on Bataille stuck with me for most of the day. This is after all, Yale University, and nerdy jokes take a strange life of their own.

Photos have been streaming in of this eerily “beautiful” spectacle. Jokes have been flying about what sort of fabulously bombastic manifesto Rem might make of this event, while others are about Ole Scheeren crying in Maggie Cheung’s arms.

Such a hubristic project is easy to mock, especially in the current times of economic gloom.

Yales A&A Building after the fire

Yale's A&A Building after the fire

But after all, the Yale School of Architecture is housed in one of the most emblematic buildings possible: Paul Rudolph’s A&A (I will never get used to the “Paul Rudolph Hall” name, btw. Will anyone ever call the CCTV the Rem Koolhaas Tower?? I doubt it, but Yale is a whole other type of totalitarian regime, thanks to a certain R.A.M.S…).

The burning of the A&A occurred at one of the most intense moments of social turmoil in America and on university campuses. The 1969 fire left the A&A battered, and it only survived due to a series of structural additions. Much has been made of the recent renovation project by Gwathmey/Siegel, but the fire itself remains a small source of fascination, especially because of what some students secretly felt was a justified sign to move on from a certain generation of patriarchs…

In a similar way, people have been wondering out loud if anybody even cared to “save” the CCTV? But as Bataille would put it, what would there be to save? CCTV was there to exist as the only voice. OMA’s pair of buildings has epitomized a certain architecture’s refusal to “serve” society. The CCTV is known as the building that has used the greatest amount of steel ever in history, for example. Its foundations are the size of several football fields (ask Cecil Balmond for the details here).


Architecture can be interpreted as the image society would like to see of itself. But Bataille is fascinated with the Aztec temples [see “Extinct America”]. Fearless of this relation between society and the death of the individual, Aztec architecture is purely dedicated to the immolation of individuals as well. The Aztecs “neglected to put in place the infrastructures that would have secured its future” and their architecture represented that. In many ways, CCTV’s is the symbol of China’s disregard for any idea of progressive institutions and a capacity to heedlessly build its own Capitalist guillotine.

So after all, could Beijing’s inhabitants feel slightly bad about this fire? The spectacle of architecture burning always holds the anxious sign that we can do little to go beyond death.


On a side note, thanks to Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker for making “critical theory a little easier to use on dates.”

–Tala Gharagozlou


Thursday, December 25th, 2008

This blog should have been started years ago as a repository for ideas and sketches, but for whatever many reasons, I’m just getting to it now. I recently graduated from the Yale School of Architecture, and while there, I founded and ran an Architecture and Film Society.


The idea of doing such came from my experience at the GSD’s Career Discovery, when my instructor Philipp, an M.Des with a thesis in “Architectural Atmosphere” did the same. I still remember the first movie he screened, Wong Kar-Wai’s In the Mood for Love, and the case he made for the way certain directors can control and emphasize space and time in an architectural way, with urban implications.

sketchbookfromcareerdiscoAt Yale, I screened a movie every week or so, and distributed a page of film notes to accompany each one. That exercise, as much as anything else during school, was a place where I could quickly sketch down some ideas and explore some relationships, mostly between the intersection between media and architecture. In the high-pressure, high-stress, academically strenuous environment of grad school, it was a place where I could develop some thoughts outside of the proscribed curriculum.


At the wonderful Paul Rudolph designed A&A building, now called Rudolph Hall, I simply posted the film notes in the elevators (which served as the school’s bulletin board, social condenser, and transporter all rolled into one), showed the dvds in Hastings (our large lecture hall), and called it a week. But in my third year, our school spent moved to a temporary location, a depressingly underthought-out building by Kieran Timberlake, while the A&A underwent renovations. There, it became clear that the medium for a discussion about the intersection between media and architecture was ironically underserved by the old-school method of posting up pieces of paper around the school. Instead, it should have been disseminated electronically.

So I hope you forgive me while I back-track a bit, and for my first blog posts, post my old Film Society notes from the previous three years.