The Architecture of the Limit: The Labyrinth and the Volcano
The theme is a small archaeological museum (three items to be chosen) of the Minoan civilization with living quarters for three to four people in an annex situated on the extreme limit of the Minoan caldera on the island of Santorini. Limit does not signify simply "on the edge of" but is a state that demands a comparison and resolution of two topographical and conceptual conditions, in order to find a single solution. The explosion of the volcano on Santorini (the ancient Thera) in 1600BC was in all probability responsible for the disappearance of the Minoan civilization, the center of which was Knossos on the island of Crete. The museum is therefore symbolically also the "museum of the catastrophe."
The Palace of Knossos will be the focal point for reflecting on the compositional principle of the labyrinth which in Western history is the archetype of urban complexity, of the organization of the palace and the distribution of the house. The direct parallel is that of the meander which in the Egyptian hieroglyph represents the letter H. Both the meander and the labyrinth planned by Dedalus imposed an obstruction on the path to the center, thus causing a delay: the same delay was experienced in reaching the heart of the house, in arriving before the divinity or in finding the Minotaur. Thus it may be seen that the compositional principle of the labyrinth has extraordinary architectural and symbolical implications, as is witnessed by the relevant body of literature on the subject. But we might go no further than dwelling on the extraordinary archaic nature of Minoan culture if we did not also consider the Greek idea of proportion as an instrument for the control of beauty.
The Greeks were the first to place alongside the manual nature of artistic production, or techne, an independent aesthetic theory, a typical practical application of which is the Policletian canon. The historian Moe has demonstrated in simple terms how the use of module-based rather than measurement-based proportion enabled a Doric temple to be planned down to the smallest detail, since nothing depended on measurements and everything was dependent instead on the proportional relationships between the columns, intercolumns, metopes, and triglyphs (C.J. Moe, Numerí di Vitruvio, edited by A. Nadiani, Edizioni del Milione, Milan 1945).
The visit to the Parthenon, an obligatory part of the education of every serious architect, will show how imperfection can sometimes endow an architectural work with the appearance of perfection (R. Carpenter, The architects of the Parthenon, Penguin Books, London 1970). After the labyrinth, the second element of planning to be brought to your attention will therefore be the idea of proportion, referred to by the Greeks as symmetry.
The project will be carried out on the island of Santorini. On our way there, we will visit Crete in order to see the Palace of Knossos, an expression of the labyrinth principle which, according to tradition, Dedalus had learned from the Egyptian builders of the labyrinth situated in front of the pyramid of Amenhamat III at Hawara, one of the wonders of the world according to Herodotus.
We shall also be working on plans for a device for producing wind and solar powered energy, which is to be formally integrated into the project. In addition, students will be expected to produce a 1:1 scale prototype of a chair and a door handle for the museum. The latter objects will enable us to make an evaluation of the difficult relationship that exists between representation and construction.