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Lynn + Kwinter: A Bridge of Curves

Both Sanford Kwinter, author of “Mach 1 (and other Mystic Visitations)”, and Greg Lynn, author of the essay “Architectural Curvilinearity”, were not please with the architectural practice and theory of 20th century architecture. They feel that issues are being responded to in the same autonomous manner, reducing the relevance of architecture. Kwinter goes on to say, quite harshly, “will there even
be architects in thirty years?”. While Lynn believes that architecture has been guided by the notion of contradictions.

According to Lynn, the 20th century was composed of two opposing movements, that of unity (post-modernism) and that of conflict (deconstructivism), however they both try to solve the same issue, so in that respect, are similar. Kwinter believes that architecture is no longer innovative, but rather carries a thin layer on the surface that differentiates one movement from the next, a layer of artificiality. When this is uncovered, architecture has all been the same.
Therefore they both seek to alter existing conditions with two different, yet somewhat similar approaches. Lynn wants to use external forces as input for design while Kwinter believes one needs to use external forces as inspiration. Therefore Lynn wants to integrate external forces of architecture, such as context and program, to merge them into a new continuous, seamless form. On the other hand, Kwinter believes external forces, beyond architecture itself, could help inspire innovations and new movements.

Kwinter feels that external Forces can refresh architecture and Lynn feel that external forces can bind architecture.

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The Guggenheim Museum is used as a case study for both.

Lynn dreams and hopes of a new architecture that liquifies, folds, bends, and curves, as a way to seamlessly incorporate all elements.
His article was pushed in 1993, and in that same year, construction for the Guggenheim began. He uses the museum as an example of everything he believes in. He loves it.

Once the Guggenheim was completed in 1997, Kwinter observes how this brought with it huge waves of responses, it became
a magnet within Bilbao, it made everyone curious, and many excited (such as Lynn). He believes architecture should ALWAYS elicit that kind of response and that’s why the Guggenheim by Ghery was on the right track for an innovative architecture, although not quite there yet.

Both of them want to use and integrate related and unrelated elements to create a new “continuous mixture” (Lynn) or a new movement/innovation (Kwinter). In respect to the Guggenheim, Lynn believes is a successful integration of elements in to a fluid form: Scale of adjacent roadways, bridges, the Bilbao River, existing medieval context, orthogonal and flexible programs. However Kwinter does not feel the Guggenheim is a masterpiece, but instead an exploration of innovation. It’s a step in the right direction- to create an architecture that elicits a reaction.

In addition to this case study, both use unrelated elements as external factors that have the capability of influencing architecture. Kwinter claims the innovation of mass transportation via water serves as an example to show how such a feat became inspiring to architects and intellectuals to the extent they were “spellbound” by it. For Lynn, The Catastrophe diagram, which was a geological reference, served as a tool and inspiration to architects, as a formal device for an alternative description of spatial complexity.

Both are open to new ideas architecture can take on: Lynn partially, while Kwinter completely. Lynn, who is obsessed with curvature as a new way of thinking, claims that to deal with complexity, fluid forms don’t necessarily have to have “intense curvatures” but “it is often more effective through its smooth incorporation”.Kwinter is completely open to anything, anything that makes you excited, anything innovative. There is no physical preference.

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Lynn: For chocolate souffle, there are two main ingredients, chocolate and egg whites. They both have to maintain their identity, they cannot be mixed or blended, they have to be FOLDED…where one is incorporated into the other gently, keeping the characteristics of the other.

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Kwinter: General Chuch Yeager was the first pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound. It’s 50th anniversary drew crowds, people wanted to hear the sonic boom once again, including Kwinter. He doesn’t want to see a ribbon be cut, like the grand opening of the Guggenheim, but rather, he wants to feel. “To feel with our diaphragm, eardrums, genitals, and the soles of our feet”.

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Kwinter and Lynn use the media as an example of a field that is currently superior to the advancements in architecture. Botha free that other fields have been more innovative. Kwinter claims architects cannot even dream of competing with figures of genius and heroes of popular notoriety within the field of fashion. But even then, they trifle against the presence of media design.

In respect to architectural practice, where do we go from here? Both Lynn and Kwinter seem to have hope, one more so than the other. Kwinter believes infrastructural demands are becoming more persistent, they are “breeding and mutating in kind and not only degree” They can be used to the service of architectural innovation, some of these include: Knowledge, cultural, program, and virtual infrastructures. Lynn claims that the elements and ingredients are currently existing and there to use, it’s just a matter of solving them through fluidity. The elements he refers to include: context, materials, and programatic demands.

But until then…

“it is brittle and stale”

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