Quickness And Festina Lente4

'Quickness' pertains to a concept examined by Italo Calvino in his book Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Calvino, 1988). A term difficult to define simply, it involves economy of expression, time as relative, swift reasoning and consciousness. The issues of quickness resemble play in many

4 Festina lente 'make haste slowly' first appeared in the big Aldine edition of 1508. Erasmus writes '.no other proverb is as worthy as this one ' , and cites an expression from Aristophana, ' .make haste hastily ' , which was altered later. Octavius Caesar is known to have used the phrase repeatedly. Emperor Titus had a coin stamped bearing a dolphin and an anchor, which could illustrate this dichotomy. Erasmus offers three overlapping interpretations of this royal adage: first, 'it would be better to wait a little before tackling a matter; when a decision has been reached, then swift action can be taken'; second, 'the passions of the mind should be reined in by reason'; third, 'precipitate action should be avoided in everything' . Lyons, J.D., and Nichols, S.G. (eds) (1982), pp. 132-148.

ways. The concentration which allows the ability to lose oneself in play is seen in the ' relationship between physical speed and speed of the mind ' (Calvino, 1988: 41). Quickness also compares to play in the manipulation of continuity and discontinuity of time, through which it also can enhance learning through activity (Calvino, 1988: 37). Quickness in terms of relative time describes a quality appropriate to sketches, as they are momentary ideas, fast explorations, and immediate imagery. Quickness involves the speed of the sketch, but also the fast mental connections which give meaning to the play of sketching. These sketches are 'quick' in the sense of meaning 'intelligent and witty'.

Calvino starts his chapter on quickness with a story of Charlemagne and a magic ring that commands love or passion.

Late in life the Emperor Charlemagne fell in love with a German girl. The barons at his court were extremely worried when they saw that the sovereign, wholly taken up with his amorous passion and unmindful of his regal dignity, was neglecting the affairs of state. When the girl suddenly died, the courtiers were greatly relieved — but not for long, because Charlemagne's love did not die with her. The emperor had the embalmed body carried to his bed chamber, where he refused to be parted from it. The Archbishop Turpin, alarmed by this macabre passion, suspected an enchantment and insisted on examining the corpse. Hidden under the girl's dead tongue he found a ring with a precious stone set in it. As soon as the ring was in Turpin's hands, Charlemagne fell passionately in love with the archbishop and hurriedly had the girl buried. In order to escape the embarrassing situation, Turpin flung the ring into Lake Constance. Charlemagne thereupon fell in love with the lake and would not leave its shores. (Calvino, 1988: 31)

Calvino highlights in this story an example of the narrative link of folk tales and fairy tales. The rhythm of the story forms a repetitious framework that changes only slightly as it reappears. Each episode of the play instigates a change i nto the familiar, to stretch the boundaries of the framework. He finds continuity between the different forms of attraction, a theme which bounds the orientation for the play and may be analogous to the framework of an architect 's sketch.

The narration of a story avoids unnecessary details but stresses repetition (Calvino, 1988: 35). This repetition marks time, but narrative time is relative; similarly, in the play of a sketch time may pass more quickly or more slowly than actual time, depending upon the concentration. The sketch constitutes a physical remnant of the activity, but it is impossible to exactly comprehend a piece of time. The architect 's quality of lines can provide clues to the speed of the drawing, and the nodes of repetitive narration indicate a sequential time.

The activity of quickness indicates life. The quickly drawn, expressive sketch has life; consequently, this movement is reminiscent of a quickening. Marco Frascari discusses a quickening that, traditionally, expresses the first kick of a developing baby inside its mother; subsequently, like the architectural sketch, it represents the movement that indicates life.5

On a sketch by Jun Itami (Figure 2.5) it is written how drawing exposes life in the architect 's hand. The Japanese architect and artist, Jun Itami, has had a strong foundation in Modernism. He has built such projects as the Hermitage of Inkil in Tokyo, and the Duson Museum and the Stone Museum both in Jeju-do, Korea. Highly celebrated, Itami has been honored with the Asian Award for Culture and Landscape of Settlements, International Designing Competition in Asian City Housing and Environment in 2006, and the Award of the Korea Institute of Architects in 2001.

The book, Drawings by Japanese Contemporary Architects (Akahira, K. [ed.], 1982), displays a unique group of architectural drawings. In some cases the drawings are sketches, but these images are unusual in that they have been accompanied by words from the respective architects. What is written consists of a statement specifically about the project or the inspiration for the drawing. Either intention or the thoughts of the architect during sketching can be viewed in this unprecedented collection.

5 From a seminar by Dr. Marco Frascari at Georgia Tech, 1989.

FIGURE 2.5 Jun Itami; Stone House 1982.

Pertaining to his sketches Jun Itami writes: 'I want to treasure the characteristic peculiarity of my finger motions, and insist on its value. Its points and continuity, and the discontinuous interceptions transmit the architectural details to the hands. These are all a means of life, like the heartbeat'. Itami sees the life-giving aspect of drawing coming through his hands (his body) and writes, ' drawings are the traces of hands that endeavor to regain humane architecture' (Akahira, 1982: 32—33).

The page of sketches appears relatively quick in terms of time and efficiency. The building has been outlined and presented with very few lines. In the upper right-hand corner of the sketch, the profile has been completed with one continuous line. This precision reflects tremendous control by the architect and also suggests that it was drawn from a strong image in his mind 's eye. Part of the intelligence seen in this sketch emerges from the rendering of a form both complete and descriptive of its materiality. In a sketch with so few lines, it is remarkable to view the masonry heaviness that immediately comes to mind.

The sketch also evokes a certain wit in the references to Le Corbusier. It is possible that once the building emerged on the page, Itami may have realized the similarity in form and added the eye/hand symbol that repeats through Le Corbusier's drawings. The reference to another architect' s work shows humor, wit and the intelligence of memory. The section is equally revealing since the profile and ground plane are deftly described using only a few lines. The life of the drawing is indicated by quick expressive lines that are memories of the hands (body) involved.

Although the simple sketch expresses life with precise but active lines, this sketch is not necessarily less informative than others. The sketch does not need to be ponderously stated or depicted to be definite. Sketches are both economic and precise; a quick sketch uses minimal lines to express a truth. Economy refers to using the minimum of anything that can accomplish the purpose, and Calvino reinforces this by writing that folk tales are distinguished by structure, 'economy, rhythm


FIGURE 2.6 Floris Alkemade; Zeche Zollverein Masterplan, 2008.

and hard logic' (Calvino, 1988: 35). A few examples demonstrate how quick lines can designate precise meaning.

This sketch from The Office for Metropolitan Architecture in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, (Figure 2.6) discloses the economy of lines used to describe a whole figure. This architectural practice was founded in 1980 by Rem Koolhaas, Elia Zenghelis, Zoe Zenghelis and Madelon Vriesendorp in London, and they have completed innovative works of architecture around the world. Koolhaas was awarded the Pritzker Prize for architecture in 2000 and the 2004 RIBA Gold Medal. They have completed a variety of projects such as the Seoul National University Museum of Art, the Seattle Central Library, the McCormick Tribune Campus Center, Chicago, and the Royal Dutch Embassy in Berlin.

With barely three continuous lines, this sketch is able to describe the parameters of a walled city, showing the profile relationship of inside to outside. These slow confident lines describe the poché of the interstitial space between the outline of the outer surfaces and the lines of the inner profile. Interestingly, they question the volume of the enclosed space through the way they vary in distance from each other. The space left between the lines even suggests the materials of construction, both masonry and rectilinear. These precise, observing, and telling lines convey much about the conception of the structure and also allow the architect to envision the edifice.

The next sketch by Robert Venturi (Figure 2.7) for a house in Northern Delaware employs very few lines to create a façade composition in its entirety. Venturi and his wife Denise Scott Brown have been practicing in Philadelphia. He began with the Venturi 's Vanna Venturi House in 1962 and since that time their practice, Venturi Scott Brown Architects, has completed a wide range of architectural and urban planning projects. A few examples include Tsinghua University Campus Planning; the Anlyan Center for Medical Research and Education at Yale University; and the Baker/Berry Library and Carson Hall at Dartmouth College. Recipients of numerous awards for their work, they are also educators having written the seminal book Learning from Las Vegas (Venturi et al, 1977).

With beautifully controlled lines, slow and precise, the proportions and details reveal Venturi 's intention. The lines appear to be drawn freehand but the evenness of the medium provides each element of the sketch with equal emphasis. This intelligent sketch speaks of historical reference, materials, and the layering of volume with remarkably few marks. It is possible to speculate that the column centered under the window was drawn first. The other two columns received bumps to represent bases. It appears that after the sketch was complete it needed these 'bumps' added to

FIGURE 2.7 Robert Venturi; House in Northern Delaware.

FIGURE 2.8 Lorcan O'Herlihy; Idea sketch for Landmark Tower/U2 studio in

Dublin, Ireland.

FIGURE 2.8 Lorcan O'Herlihy; Idea sketch for Landmark Tower/U2 studio in

Dublin, Ireland.

be unified with the later ones. Whatever the actual sequence, this sketch presents the desire for a classical column using a minimal number of lines. The economy of lines and truthful reference causes this sketch to resemble a caricature.

An austere but revealing sketch exemplifies the quick precise lines which so elegantly find the essence of a building. This second sketch from Lorcan O'Herlihy (Figure 2.8) describes an idea for the Landmark Tower/U2 studio in Dublin, Ireland. The economy of lines discloses a quickness that is fast, yet still intelligent and witty. Here the 'relationship between physical speed and speed of the mind' helps O'Herlihy lose himself in the play. The profile of the tower has been defined by just two lines, one of which starts on the left and with bold marks wraps up the side of the tower, across the top, down the other side, and across the bottom. This continuous line changed direction without interruption and surprisingly without emphasizing the corners. A few horizontal marks define the surface articulation of this building. The wavy S 's could represent the river flowing through Dublin and, if so, these three lines convey the buildings context. Substantially brief, this image describes the information necessary to visualize the project and thus the quickness.

Calvino, writing about Galileo and his respect for quickness, reiterates this thought. 'For [Galileo], good thinking means quickness, agility in reasoning, economy in argument, but also the use of imaginative examples ' (Calvino, 1988: 43). As a comparison, caricature leaves out unnecessary details yet still finds conclusions not clearly depicted and follows every concept to its end (Calvino, 1988). Here, a visual representation can tell more 'truth' than a realistic depiction.

Another concept that helps illuminate the meaning of quickness is festina lente. Calvino takes festina lente as his personal motto, which translated literally means ' hurry slowly' . ' Hurry slowly' , an apparent contradiction, may assist in understanding quickness, since the opposite or mirror reflection can induce a greater understanding. A chiasm has the power to provide a new view; for

FIGURE 2.9 Yoshio Taniguchi; Seishun Shirakaba Art Museum (Esquisse of the Ken

Domon Memorial Hall of Photography).

FIGURE 2.9 Yoshio Taniguchi; Seishun Shirakaba Art Museum (Esquisse of the Ken

Domon Memorial Hall of Photography).

example, 'the drawing of building and the building of drawing' . In a similar way this reversal can be both precise and imprecise at the same time, depending on how it is viewed.

The above sketches by Venturi and O'Herlihy may appear imprecise, but these sparse lines precisely exhibit a meaning. A Pointillist painting is another example; viewed closely the dots of primary colors are confusing abstractions, but when viewed from a distance the dots become recognizable patterns. The dichotomous terms offestina lente make new connections in a way similar to the activity of play, a way that could be described as ' .tracing the lightning flashes of the mental circuits that capture and link points distant from each other in space and time' (Calvino, 1988: 48).

This discussion evokes an example, by a Japanese architect, that may illustrate Calvino 's conjecture linking distant points. A sketch from the aforementioned book about Japanese contemporary drawings offers insight into an architect 's approach to sketching. Figure 2.9, a sketch by Yoshio Taniguchi, is described by the caption ' [m]y sketches consist of two kinds, aims and methods of which are contrary to each other.Each of them seems to perform its function of input and output to my architectural design' . An accomplished architect, Taniguchi is best known for his most recent commission to redesign the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Having worked with Kenzo Tange when younger, a few of his other distinguished projects include the Nagano Prefectural Museum and the Toyota Municipal Museum of Art.

Here Taniguchi seems to be trying to link contrary thoughts in order to give the total meaning. The caption implies play in that the mention of input and output is reminiscent of a scientific accounting, but it also implies a give and take of the two opposite modes. Play exposes this sketch, as the architect gets so lost in the play that the ' .sketches can be understood by nobody except me' (Akahira, 1982: 92). Taniguchi appears to resolve issues from contradictory positions to find meaning in his designs.

The contrasting and complementary qualities of festina lente are emphasized by Calvino as the characteristics of two Greek gods. 'Vulcan's concentration and craftsmanship are needed to record Mercury's adventures and metamorphoses. Mercury 's swiftness and mobility are needed to make Vulcan's endless labors become bearers of meaning ' (Calvino, 1988, 54). These apparent opposites complement each other, and provide a greater result than they each would separately. With this in mind, Calvino relates another story that is especially important to festina lente in the study of sketches:

Among Chuang-tzu's many skills, he was an expert draftsman. The king asked him to draw a crab. Chuang-tzu replied that he needed five years, a country house, and twelve servants. Five years later the drawing was still not begun. 'I need another five years', said Chuang-tzu. The king granted them. At the end of these ten years, Chuang-tzu took up his brush and, in an instant, with a single stroke, he drew a crab, the most perfect crab ever seen. (Calvino, 1988: 54)

'Hurry slowly' has meaning for the preparation of the artist/architect. The skills learned and perfected require time because the knowledge to draw something as simple as a crab takes years of cultivation. To make a sketch as brief and thoughtful as the sketches in Figures 2.7 and 2.8 necessitates years of observation and an immense control of the drawing medium. The beauty and truth of simplicity come from experience.

Reminiscent of those who use these skills to impress a client, architects will listen to all comments and often sketch a solution in the presence of that client. This serves several purposes: first, to convince the client that his or her comments are being considered; and secondly, to astonish the client with the architect 's skill. Even if the design was carefully worked out in the office weeks before the meeting, the participation with the immediate image completed quickly, and appearing spontaneous, elaborates the dialogue. Here the sketch provides purpose quite different than that of a design sketch. Although not an altogether predictable process, prior study of the subject influences the final connections. Distinctly for show and communication, these sketches reveal the skills of quickness in a precise way.

In a related way, the Japanese artist Hokusai writes about the experience that comes from time and age. His words capture an interesting aspect of quickness in a discussion of time as relative:

From the age of six I had a mania for drawing the shapes of things. When I was fifty I had published a universe of designs. But all I have done before the age of seventy is not worth bothering with. At seventy-five I have learned something of the pattern of nature, of animals, of plants, of trees, birds, fish and insects. When I am eighty you will see real progress. At ninety I shall have cut my way deeply into the mystery of life itself. At a hundred I shall be a marvelous artist. At a hundred and ten everything I create, a dot, a line, will jump to life as never before. To all of you who are going to live as long as I do, I promise to keep my word. I am writing this in my old age. I used to call myself Hokusai, but today I sign myself 'The-Old-Man-Mad-About-Drawing'. (Longstreet, 1969: introduction)

It is interesting that Hokusai said that when he reaches one hundred and ten, the things he draws will jump to life. The goal of drawing for Hokusai was to make that which is inanimate breath — to be inspired with life.

Quickness consists of mental speed and festina lente, as it contains the dichotomy of fast and slow, and reveals an intelligence of quickness. ' A swift piece of reasoning is not necessarily better than a long-pondered one. Far from it. But it communicates something special that is derived simply from its very swiftness' (Calvino, 1988: 45).

Architectural sketches contain within them elements of play. Play is not the object but the activity. Since sketches are an activity most often disposed of after the action and knowledge was obtained, they become the mode for thinking, learning and visual manipulation. Quickness adds to play the connotation of speed to connect 'Vulcan's concentration and craftsmanship with Mercury 's adventures and metamorphoses ' . All of these qualities require the architect 's hand on the pencil, playing with the drawing surface.

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