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Lets read Bernard Rudofsky together.

This is Bernard Rudofsky, designer, architect, and social historian. His work was most well known during the 1960s and 70s. The space in his mustache corresponds to the dimple in his chin, which is part of his natural sense of symmetry & how the world works. He comes across as an urbane, secular humanist.

This coat is from Italy. He worked in Florence for many years. Ive never cared for the Nehru collar, but in this photo, for me he looks like a man of his times.

His thoughts about how weve constructed our current incarnation of civilization speaks to everything that we understand with our instincts but is somehow the type of important knowledge that escapes fully being put into use. Here is a short overview of his books to offer some insight into his thinking: The Unfashionable Human Body: I found this book in the town library when I was in high school; I was looking for AP pornography, although I dont think I totally knew it at the time. It is not pornography, but aside from that, whatever youre imagining from the title, youre probably going in the right direction. There will be a further discussion of this book.

Architecture Without Architects: A log cabin,

an igloo,

a baobab tree,

which can be hollowed out into a dwelling, or a toilet, as in this outhouse in Zambia,

or a even a prison,

as in this example from Australia. Being imprisoned here would be like the end of Camus The Stranger, when he imagines himself living out his days in the hollow of a tree with his face like a flower looking at the sky. This French village, Les Baux de Provence, was carved into the stone in a hillside.

Architecture without Architects was featured as an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in 1964. The exhibit advanced the concept of vernacular architecture, which is based on using local building materials, such as snow, and construction methods, such as your hands, rather than a separate notion of design.

The Prodigious Builders: Dude wheres my face?

This book is about how civilization happens. It talks about things like this:

Loath to waste precious space for graveyards, the Spaniards bury their dead in highrises reminiscent of African granaries. Dead people apartment Storehouse in Tunisia

Other things you can learn about in this book: apartments with mud roofs; houses that use wind catchers for ventilation;

and houses on sleds.

There is also this page of the book that shows you how people in ancient times drew little symbols of their house on a sled:

Streets for People: Youre walking, buildings are framing all of your physical communication, and emotions happen within these structures because you are an animal pacing through a biolinguistiic arpeggio. The book is basically about eye contact: Youre coming down this colonnade,

or this one.

Now: think of all the ways you could look into the soul of the person walking towards you at the other end. If you like thinking about how other peoples souls can burn into yours, and how all of our thoughts are telepathically mixed up together in a thought miasma, including plants, animals, rocks, and water, and the way that our concept of architecture mediates that, then this is a book for you. The Kimono Mind: Do you like Japan? Are you interested in hearing Bernard Rudofsky talk about what people wear, the language, the values of the culture, and many other things, from a mid-sixties point of view? Then you may like this. This passage about sleep tents for Japanese beds is important:

Manifestly intended to keep out mosquitos, it has a hypnotic power of inducing pleasant dreams. Unlike the Mediterranean variety of mosquito net which droops in thick folds from one central point in the ceiling, this one is a rectangular box of starched netting. Its four panelswhich trail on the floor like the train of a robeand the flat, equally transparent top hang on silk cords from hooks set in the framework of the house. The misty walls fo this tent are dyed the color of green sea-foam, or shaded from blue to white like water in a pool, and resemble, as Pierre Loti noted, an immense aquarium with drowned people at the bottom.

Rudofskys books talk about the way our human shape fits into the world, especially in the dwellings and habitats we imagine for ourselves, and clothing. There is no one quite like him; the person who comes to mind most as having something in common with his feeling for how humans conform and reconcile with the forms that comprise the infinite corporeal trajectories that fabricate reality, is Thomas Laqueur, especially Laquers book, Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to Freud. But that can be for another time. For now, this is about Bernard Rudofsky. Bernard Rudofsky is generally interested in shapes, especially natural ones. One shape that was of particular interest is womens feet. In the 1960s he started a line of sandals called Bernardo that emphasized style as a natural extension of human shapes. They have a classical feeling; the ads often juxtapose a powerful Greco-Roman foot with a dainty modern one wearing a Bernardo sandal.

This ad combines the sensibilities of the two.

Bernardo sandals were often featured in Vogue. The foot is graceful & capable because it is free from misshapen shoes. The contemporary Bernardo sandals have retained his designs.

Although these sandals are comfortable and I personally own two pairs, they are the opposite of comfortable shoes, such as crocs.

Even though crocs may be fine for some occasions, they look best on very young childrenthe people with the smallest feet, who are so soft and new that a foot in a croc isnt that different from a colorful flower or marshmallow.

Many adults in Crocs look like they got lost on their way home from a Fraggle Rockthemed street festival

Some Bernardo sandals have a theme. Here is one sandal design pictured with the Eiffel Tower. The feet are pretty and comfortable, while they also evoke a French clown.

These printed sandals with a hoof platform heel suggest a graceful zebra reclining on the veldt. Shes in a world of being a pretty zebra.

Zebras are beautiful.

These sandals make the person look like a colorful snake or fish.

The woman poised in this photo could be a cat or a bird.

Some animals must think we look like a big noisy cucumber, if they even cared about a cucumber, or a defenseless cactus, or a warmongering earthworm with tuber legs and arms. With animals, we love to be so close to them but we dont know why. Its probably because they are full of information we cant understand any other way than by snuggling them, and then we feel better and the world makes more sense. Bernard Rudofsky thinks about the human body as if it is a natural setting on which we impose many kinds of architecture. Here is a window into his views from The Unfashionable Human Body: The skirts lasting popularity is understandable: it helps to counterbalance the notorious topheaviness of the human figure, a defect that has plagued artists of all times. Anybody with an eye for proportion can see that our bodies center of gravity is misplaced (163-64). Another plaything for idle hands is the pipe. A semi-functional part-time head ornament with a simple but nevertheless unpredictable mechanism, it has gained much favor in recent years. Originally a container for burning tobacco, today it is chiefy used as a tranquilizer that induces slow gesturing and a more accentuated though less intelligible speech . . . Not only does the pipe complement a mans facial features, it greatly bolsters ego (148-49).

Birdwomen were once as ubiquitous as the common housefly. In the guise of nymphs, fairies, erotes, harpies, geni, etc. they wrought havoc among mortal men. Usually their love was lethal (257). Furthermore, restriction of body movement, be it the hampering of limbs or the bundling of the trunk, was early recognized as an essential quality of ceremonial dress. Both intensify personal awareness. In turn the tension of muscles and nerves expresses itself in unnatural behavior. The classical example is the military style of machine-like motion (221). in addition to notions of shape & human shape, Rudofsky talks a lot about concepts of corporeal modesty, as in this example:

Cut-outs in clothes, & what is emphasized vary, as here:


and here:

I think this outfit, with her abstracted shirt, as Rudofsky calls it, looks great.

Our conception of the world is fashioned onto our bodies. Rudofsky says our state of mind is mapped in this example of a sewing pattern:

This is a way that we are.

Is this architecture without architects? I wonder what Bernard Rudofsky would say about this article of lingerie. The obvious sexual things about this picture, while Im interested in them, arent the most important things about this. The main thing about it is all the emotion in the shapes, and the tone of what the leg is saying. Shapes are emotions; the specific way that a figure is shaped by what is cut or shown makes you feel something. This is far beyond a feeling that is exclusively sexual. The transmission those cut-outs make is, Why is it less anxiety producing to know some things rather than others? Why is some cleavage unsettling, when others register as conventional? It might be partly because some cut-outs recall more unusual circumstances, such as an accidental moment in which something is revealed; the odd cleavages create a prolonged version of the accidental moment, revealing what might be hidden again and again, each time the image of the cutout is encountered. In The Kimono Mind there is a story where Bernard Rudofsky goes to the beach in a rural town in Japan.

In this town, no one wears a bathing suit and everyone is naked. There is one woman who has a yellow one-piece swimsuit. She walks around naked like everyone else but wears the swimsuit when she goes into the water, then takes the swimsuit off and carries it on her arm when she gets out and walks up the beach. Its easy to see why this makes sense. This scenario makes me think of the history of volcanoes on Earth because they are a window into geologic time.

The bathing suit evokes all of the swimming she or anyone might do, and it underscores our interface with creation, which is vast and tangible. A bathing suit emphasizes how small we are. When we swim near the bank of a river, or in the wide ocean, or enter a melted glacier such as Lake Superior, a swimsuit underscores our size as a creature with a short life span being acted upon by a larger force. The bathing suit and the person joining surfaces with these enormous entities raise other questions about size. Although I am not technically a scientist, I have a theory that might be plausible: is it possible that things are not small or large, but that they are just closer or very far away? It may be that a person swimming in the ocean is not exactly smaller than the ocean, but because of the way dimensions, particles, and time are set up, is limited to being always very far away from the totality of the oceans parts. For example, the ocean is full of sounds and sound waves, but we cant physically hear all of them. The same would be true of the microscopic or insect world. When you look at things under a microscope, maybe what we perceive as microscopic actually means that it is permanently very far away, so far away that we cannot go there, and also why we cant hear anything that happens there. Size versus distance is part of the space-time continuum. We cannot experience all of time simultaneously, and some parts of time we cannot experience or arrive at at all, but we know that different parts of time exist simultaneously and equally. A sense of scale or proportion that includes similar possibilities seems sensible.

These two woman are pretending that they are rocks.

We dont know where the materials for the human body come from because we only see that they come from other bodies. Since no one has definitively solved questions about where the first people biologically came from, we cant say that we actually know. Some answers have included imaginary people like Adam and Eve, or a transformation from other species as in evolution, but imagining either of these scenarios produces holes and problems almost immediately; sometimes they are satisfying and sometimes they are not.

The same thing is true about science and the creation of the Earth. This is something that is very important to us, and very mysterious.

We imagine the time of early Earth many ways:

When the sparks of molten fire have faded,

we settle onto the Earths loamy shore in the cast of our moon

and our imagination is a dissolute film that breaks over our creation. The creation of the Earth and the realms that reside in its biology bloom into our viscera. When we see a foot, the air that surrounds it, underneath the sole, and recognize its parameters, it is where outer space, and all of time begin.