Reading or Transmitting: Reading Carpo I

2 Aug

For centuries, the alphabet was the standard code for information interchange. “

Alright, here we go:

In Mario Carpo’s “How do you imitate a building that you have never seen“,  the idea of dissemination is discussed – once an oral, verbal or written transmission of inspiration and ideas, which has since the sixteenth century become increasingly graphic. Up until this point, Carpo narrates, works of art, architecture and visual mirabilia 

“had been transmitted primarily by word of mouth, orality and memory having been occasionally superseded or complemented by alphabetical writing. Drawings did not participate in this process, and ample evidence proves that when they did, it was by accident: as everyone knew at the time, drawings could not, and should not, be relied upon. In a word, they did not matter. Visual forms were to be described by words, not by pictures.”

It seems to be almost a given that the cult of the image has now far superceded that of words, transcending cultural, geographic and linguistic restrictions to present the recipient with an immediate “picture” of the subject in question. Words have become an embellishment which elaborate the subject; since the advent of photography, the nature of truth itself has been de-authorised in a sense and priority has been awarded to the photographic simulacrum, as opposed to words which are subject to the partial voice of any author, writer or transmitter. 

This in turn has had an undoubted effect on design and art, and architecture; last year I heard Juhanii Pallasmaa coining the term “Retinal Architecture” in the context of the iconic, and I think this phrase is very telling in terms of the point of impact of design.


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