A Daily History of Holes, Dots, Lines, Science, History, Math, the Unintentional Absurd & Nothing |1.6 million words, 7500 images, 4 million hits| Press & appearances in The Times, Le Figaro, MENSA, The Economist, The Guardian, Discovery News, Slate, Le Monde, Sci American Blogs, Le Point, and many other places... 4,200+ total posts
[Source: Scientific American Supplement #842, February 22, 1892]
Browsing through the Columbian year of 1892 in the Scientific American Supplement I came across this interesting social-architectural cross section and story of poor relief (for men) in Paris. It was seen as a great of comfort for men who had none, and model for how men of no means could be accommodated and assisted. The poor refuge at Quai Valmy would be the nighttime home of 200 men for three consecutive nights every two months. They were provided with a bed, clean bedclothing while their own clothing was disinfected and washed, dinner, and a breakfast, and then sent again on their way.
The description of the experience follows (the bold numbers refer to the numbers in the cutaway view):
I was doing a little reading on Mr. Milton's version of "Chaos" in Paradise Lost, the great something-in-the-non-nothingness and source of creation, and bumped into this interesting factoid on one of his residences. John Milton lived in a house in Westminster, in the 1650's, a house that would later become #19 York Street. Later on this same address property would be occupied by Jeremy Bentham, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, and William Hazlitt. And for some reason the property was demolished in 1877, taking away its memories and legacies. No disrespect to the 19 York Streets elsewhere (for example in Sulon Maine; Florence S.C., Gettysburg P.A., Watheroo, W.A., Oatlands N.S.W.) but I rather think that it would have been nice for this #19 to have survived.
This great pamphlet surfaced today from my mound of surfacing pamphlets--it is a prospectus/advertising/technical publication vehicle for Wayss & Freytag A.G., published in April 1930. I wanted to share a couple of interesting photos that appear in the publication, which, (as the title states) centers on concrete reinforced smokestacks and breweries, which I guess in its way says a lot about the origin of the country of the company (Ruhr/beer). Mainly though it is the one photograph (following) that sparked my interest in sharing this pamphlet, though the cross sections of the smokestacks harvest their own interest. The images of the breweries are also entertaining, in a International Style kind of way, with the structures seeming far more interesting than the product they produced. (It is amazing in many ways that the Wrigley factory with all of its specialized equipment and beautiful plant and for all of the great effort that goes into their construction and maintenance that the end product of the massive engagement is chewing gum.) The third picture below reveals a semi-Bauhausian project for a beer maker--in its concreteness it isn't the hyperbolic paraboloids of Xenakis for the Phillips Pavillion of Expo '58, or the Guggenheim, or (parts of) the Le Crobusier's Ronchamp, but it is interesting, and was pretty unexpected.
(That is one long, very skinny ladder there in the middle...I'd prefer to use a ladder that was at least more than half the width of me--this one wouldn't come close.)
The public baths of Caracalla served Romans for about 400 years--the complex was complex, and massive. I've long liked this architectural plan of the place--it is necessarily neat and orderly, and fits a lot of data and detail on a 11x8" sheet of paper while at the same time still having a lot of white breathable space on the page. Here's a sample of the detail, which in real life is less than one square inch:
And the full engraved sheet (printed in 1820 for Rees' Dictionary):
The following quote is from the great work by Rodolfo Lanciani, Ancient Rome in the Light of Recent Discoveries, Boston/New York, Houghton, Miflin & Company, 1898, pp 91-2, on the Caracalla baths (http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/_Texts/Lanciani/LANARD/4*.html):
"Next to forums I must speak of the baths as places of public resort. At the end of the third century after Christ, Rome numbered 11 large public thermae, and 926 smaller ones conducted under private enterprise. The baths of Caracalla alone could accommodate, at one time, 1,600 people; the baths of Diocletian, 3,600. Taking 1,500 as the average accommodation of each of the public thermae, and 50 as that of each of the private baths, we learn that in ancient Rome, at any minute, 62,800 citizens could restore their strength in baths of every nature and description; and this, without bringing into the calculation the Tiber, the Anio, the Lake of Agrippa, and the bathing accommodations with which every Roman house was abundantly furnished..."
There's a LOT of artistic license in this title, but I like the idea of these acoustical plans as containers of what things sounded like in the halls and auditoriums that no longer exist. This is a big leap of faith given that the work that went into these images was conducted before the first truly scientific/mathematically rigorous architectural acoustics existed. But I like tot think of them as reconstructions of sound in a particular environment. The drawings are also beautiful, inn their way.
Image source: Theodore Lachez, Acoustique et Optique des Salles de Reunions, printed in Paris in 1879. This is the second edition, with 116 text illustrations in the 518pp--these are almost entirely images of plans or elevations of music halls (for the study of seating and the room's acoustics, etc.). This edition also contains sections on the acoustics of "sales de debats parlementaires" and an examination of the "singular and curious" acoustics of the new Paris opera house.
The book is for sale on the blog's bookstore; and/or you can have a look at it in full text online, here, at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=MjoIAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA315&source=gbs_selected_pages&cad=3#v=onepage&q&f=false
Imaginary New York City Landscapes from CON-ED, 1938
JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
These lovely images are found in a long, shining and slightly darkroom-scented The City of Light, which was a pamphlet made for the Consolidated Edison exhibition at the New York City World's Fair of 1939. Con Ed I think just wanted to get the point across that they saw into the future and were getting ready for it, NYC being stuffed to the gills with buildings and each window stuffed and outlined in Con Ed-supplied electric light. The vision is vaguely threatening to me, though, the buildings are drawn in a very odd perspective giving the city a stadium-seating arrangement that is unsettling, like they're part of our robot-overlord future--someone or something must be living in those room filled with Con Ed light, though...
This cross section illustration ("Rue Future"/Future Street) is from Eugene Alfred Henard's1 (1849-1923) article, "The Cities of the Future", from American City, Volume 4, January, 1911. In this article Henard (architect of the city of Paris and from 1880 a life-long employee and advocate of public works in that city) looks into the future and sees the movement towards underground (or enclosed) vehicular traffic, "smart" buildings, pneumatic tubing for vacuum cleaners ("almost sure to come into general use"), an improvement in the system for water delivery and removal, replacing coal with natural gas, and more. He lays out a plan to implement his idea that, if implemented in the city of Paris, would cost $420,000,000 (or approximately $15 billion in 2006 money) over 100 years. [This part seems a little off given that the area for public roads alone in Paris at this time was 3,700 acres--nevertheless this was an interesting appearing plan, a significant portion of which has found its way into building and community planning albeit on a far smaller scale].
Henard was also acutely interested in the future traffic problems of Paris and other major cities, proposing revolutionary radial traffic patterns for moving cars around major metropolitan areas--which was really quite visionary as the mass production of automobiles had not yet really taken place--certainly automobiles were far more common by 1911 than 1905, but their numbers would be vaulted higher int he next decade with the first true approach to assembly line production of automobiles, making them affordable to the millions. His plan for a ring-lime system around the city of Paris was influential to some of the ideas in the early American planning reports for San Francisco and Chicago by the great Daniel Burnham.
What is particularly interesting for me in the Henerad plan is the room that he left for his future's future--he attempted to make his plan adaptable for the time when the future he was writing about was becoming the past. And so he was leaving room in his underground plans (in particular) to accommodate some of what the future might hold in store for his city, leaving unused spaces and tunnels, so that the city planners in the future would not have to go through the enormous expense of putting these things in for themselves. Now that is future-forward thinking.
1. Henard studied at the Ecole des Beaux-arts, graduating from there in 1880. For a decent short bio of the man see the Wiki entry, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eug%C3%A8ne_H%C3%A9nard
I find this a very moving image of the bridge, encompassing the small bit of uneven workmens' construction material in the bottom/foreground of the image, which for me was it center, and which caused my eye to scan from there to the top of the tower. The full mega-file of this beauty is a vertical panorama 40"x12", and it seems as though you could push this to at least 60"x18", and perhaps a full double to 80"x24"--it is impressive just seeing it on a monitor this big--in the Grande Lux tapestry version, I am sure it would fantastic. [Source, Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/resource/cph.3c04634/]
"Let us leave our old friend in one of those moments of unmixed happiness, of which, if we seek them, there are ever some, to cheer our transitory existence here. There are dark shadows on the earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast. Some men, like bats or owls, have better eyes for the darkness than for the light. We, who have no such optical powers, are better pleased to take our last parting look at the visionary companions of many solitary hours, when the brief sunshine of the world is blazing full upon them."--Charles Dickens, Pickwick Papers, page 518.
If I were on the Moon I think I would miss the obscurity of shadows--while being partially obscuring, they also enable highlight and brilliance in the place not in shadow. This is the controlled darkness of Goethe, who also found the production of color in the intersection of light and shadow. In the sciences ennumerating the optical art of shadow there is probably no one as poetic as Goethe on this subject, at least before 1900. The great master of optics, Isaac Newton, wrote on shadows (that is a pretty good title for an essay!) with seering insight but of course with no visual-literary poetry of any kind whatsoever, as a matter of fact his "'Enumeratio linearum tertii ordinis" ("Enumeration of lines of the third order, generation of curves by shadows, organic description of curves, and construction of equations by curves) which was originally printed as an appendix to Optics (and then published in Opuscula) was like a black hole of poetry, anti-poetic--except of course for the staggering genius that went into it all.
And so these dreamy thoughts were brought out by this not-so-simple study of frammenti, found in the volume 1/1 of MIT's first architectural journal, Technology Architectural Review, published in 1887. These shadows are excellent--there's a lot going on in these layers of differentiated light.
Check of other bits on this blog on shadows by entering that word int eh Google search tool.
I'm just taking a moment to share these three unusual pamphlets, with their very striking and unusual covers. The buildings suggest a different perspective, one from below-grade and looking up obliquely--something not-usual to me. There are small categories on this blog for views looking straight up, and views looking straight down--neither very common things--and this little gathering may be a new category of "uncommon perspective".
Say "hello" to the "telescope house", an unusual idea in small house design, found in Popular Mechanics for the March, 1945 issue, just before the end of WWII in Europe. It was designed by F(rank) J. Zavada (1916-1998?), and it is a tidy little place: four rooms on the first floor and two bedrooms on the second, the house is made to collapse and expand vertically and horizontally. I don't see area mentioned, but it looks to be on the order of 400 sq ft or so.
This design put me in mind of a much-inferior idea: the rolling house of the future (offered in the September, 1934 issue of Everyday Science and Mechanics). Etienne Boullee it is not. The house does, however, roll, for whatever that is worth, and if that is a positive thing then that would be one advantage it would have over a non-rolling house. (I don' get to write that phrase very often.) And it rolls exclusive of some rolling platform, which somehow seemed like a better idea than just having a more-traditional house with wheels. Presumably the rolling house would be filled with E. Lloyd Wright nothingness, so there will be no displacement issues.
[Read more about the Rolling Houses and Glass Homes of Futurlandia here.]
"Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose."--G. Stein, (Sacred Emily, Geography and Plays)
"A rose is a rose is an onion."--E. Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls
By all measures, this window is of course a window. It is almost not a window because in the mass of the structure it is almost not there. But it certainly was--even if its height is great than ten times its width--when this cathedral at Asti was being built in the 13th century (and into the 14th). In any event, whatever the "is" might be here and in spite of the apparent isn'tness, it has a very appealing appeal.
--Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta, found in Cesar Daly (editor), Revue Generale de l'Architecture et des Travaux Publics, ca. 1860 (not sure of the volume).
As M. Chabat writes,"Considérés au point de vue de la forme et de l'ornementation extérieures un grand nombre de puits de toutes les époques peuvent être regardés comme de véritables œuvres d'art...", which is certainly true of the well at the citadel of Turin--even the elevation and (particularly) the plan of the structure.
Funny that this is what I find most interesting in this big engraved sheet from Jean Nicolas Louis Durand's monumental and important semi-biblical work on the history of architecture, but, so it goes. (The work is Recueil et Parallele des Edifices, and was printed in Venice by Giuseppe Antonelli in Venice in 1833; it comes some 31 years after the appearance of the first edition, greatly expanded, with 273 plates compared to 90 in the first.)
The original engraving is available for sale at the blog's bookstore, here.
There's plenty on this sheet worthy of attention--and as the Durand work is concerned, it is one of the few to feature towers. And in the case of the Turin well, it may be considered (here at least and not probably by anyone who knows anything at all about architecture) to be a reverse tower. This is slim pickin's so far as engineering reasoning goes--or is it? Why if it was so removed from logic would the considerable and considered Durant include the thing on his page of towers?
One of the remarkable points on this structure was the dual circular staircases that would allow the horses hauling water from the depths for go up and down without having to pass on another.
The other thing about Durand was that his work is considered a great scientific improvement in the description of architecture, and seems to me to be the first work to compare different sorts of buildings (and from different periods) all in the same scale, on pone piece of paper, side-by-side. It seems that in the history of formalization and categorization and classification that this business of comparative architecture that someone would have used a single standard of description for size--but evidently not.
See here for an interesting appraisal of Durand along with 90 links for each of the images of the first edition. (Quandom.com)
"Le puits de la citadelle de Turin dont la fig 2413 représente la coupe et le plan à une échelle moitié moindre est établi dans les mêmes conditions. On ne saurait oublier de citer également le puits de Bicétre près de Paris achevé en 1735 d après les plans de Boffrand et qui a 57 mètres de profondeur sur 3 mètrrs de largeur L eau s en extrait au moyen de deux seaux contenant chacun près de 270 litres d eau et pesant 600 kilogrammes lesquels montent et descendent ù l aide d une charpente tournante mue par 8 chevaux cette eau est reçue dans un réservoir d où elle est distribuée par des conduits dans les diverses parties de l établissement. Considérés au point de vue de la forme et de l ornementation extérieures un grand nombre de puits de toutes les époques peuvent être regardés comme de véritables œuvres d'art..." Dictionnaire des termes employés dans la construction ...: volume G.-Z, by Pierre Chabat, 1872
I thought that I had mentioned this pamphlet before--mainly because of its provocative cover art--but no. It comes from the bookstore's collection of many hundreds (a thousand?) of unusual book/pamphlet cover art. "A Dream, a Reality" and/or "Coast to Coast Transcontinental Super Highway" isn't actually the title of this work even though they are on the cover; it is mostly a caption for an interior image though it somehow percolated topside. The real title is The Highway of Tomorrow made Possible by the Ideal of Today, which gets to the subject of the work even though it is slightly unwieldy. It is difficult to say who wrote this though Mr. T.E. Steiner ("Sponsor", of Wooster, Ohio) and which somehow found its way to a fourth edition in its two years of existence, published and promoted in undoubtedly small numbers by the "Transcontinental Stream-Lined Super Highway of the United States of America" in 1938.
This is all about super-highways, and mainly replacing the old roads with four new roads that are as straight as straight could be. A map of the proposals features one line of the highway is straight from San Francisco to Boston; another from Laredo, Texas (!) direct to International Falls, Minnesota (!); a third not-straight shot from Boston-Allentown-near-Valdosta Ga-Miami; and another from near-Valdosta to Cleveland. A schematic of this map though drops near-Valdosta for Jacksonville, and has the Boston-Miami route further east to include NYC and D.C., which are omitted from the map. Ah, well.
This item is available for sale at the blog bookstore, here.
I think that the author--an accomplished "business man" was was the head of a "manufacturing company" in Ohio and a coal company in West Virginia (and "employer of labor") --was not much of an engineer, because the plan ignores topography and the highway design itself is pretty bad, especially the parts on exit/entrance (which the author takes particular care to note are separately copyrighted (?)) bits, which are killers.
In any event, the super highway extending into the clouds on the cover is all I'm here for. Mr. Steiner no doubt attracted some attention for the project because of the enormous pork and public works potential, what with the building of 6,000 miles or whatever of an 8-lane highway, which is billions of square feet of paving times some multiplier. So a lot of money would be spent, which means, well, a lot of possible interest--after all, it did get so far as a hearing before the Committee on Roads, U.S. House of Representatives, on May 18, 1937.
This no doubt was a "visionary"proposal of some sort, though the engineering aspects of it were more imaginary than anything else.
[The originals are large--27x21" or so--and files average about 2 meg; so in this program when the images are reduced so much much of the detail gets removed; however, all the detail is gloriously back when you click in to each image to expand. Also just scroll below for a full lineup.]
The chromolithographs and engravings featured on this page appeared in the massive La Basilica di San Marino du Venezia, published by the prolific Ferdinand Ongania in 1886. It is an exhaustive study of the iconic building, the publication being known chiefly I think for its very large and sumptuous chromolithographs of the building's architecture, art, and endless detail. It forms two volumes of an overall monumental 12-volume epic, though these images comprised volumes that were complete in themselves.
The images (again, they are large at 27x21", 68x53cm, and are packed with detail) are printed on a very thick paper that will now crack if you try the double-fold test, so although the paper is stable you do not want to bend it, though you wouldn't want to do that, anyway. Each sheet has a protective paper guard attached to it on the left side, covering the entire image--the reason why you may see a shadow along one long side is just from the rolled-back protective sheet not getting completely out of the way. Also all of the margins are not necessarily included in the photos--there were certain limitations in making the photographs, and some margins just didn't make it entirely into the picture.
So I decided to post these pictures to the interwebtube because there aren't any others there--perhaps the images will be useful to someone. (Also they're all for sale, so if you'd like one, just ask.)