As I’m in Chicago, I thought I’d dredge this out of the archives. It’s part of a series of cut out models that I made some time ago.
download the pdf here
Free with the model comes this link to piece called ‘Sorry Mies’ I wrote (but never quite finished) on Mies, John Dillinger, the ad-hoc urbanism of the gangster, Robert Anton Wilson, prohibition and reductive abstraction, Mies’ Lake Shore Drive as abstract cliff, plazas as abstract plains, and how we both fail and complete his architecture.
“Four years before Mies arrived in Chicago, Americas Most Wanted Man was gunned down in an alleyway after leaving a movie theatre with a woman on each arm. John Dillinger was the dashing heartthrob of Chicago’s gangland. Dillinger optimised the glamorous and chaotic romance of jailbreaking, heist pulling, on-the-run city of rooks nests, alleyways, and safe houses, of Al Capone, of no-go zones and J Edgar Hoovers nascent FBI G Men. His death marked the decline of Chicago’s gangster culture which had grown up around Prohibition, supplying the liquor that the government had tried to ban, but the citizens just couldn’t live without.
Hoovers dogged pursuit of Dillinger and gangsterism was a victory of a certain kind of urbanism. One that is reflected in Mies’ Chicago projects. Mies is on the side of Hoovers bureaucracy, rather than the ad hoc opportunism of the gangsters. But there is mysteriousness and an impenetrability to his architecture too, just as Hoovers bureaucracy of power was, deep down, dark and paranoid. Mies made bureaucracy into a form of poetry, monumentalising though precision and a ruthless editing of architectural possibility.
In Robert Anton Wilsons ‘Illuminatus Trilogy’ – a sprawling hippy/counterculture/conspiracy epic, John Dillinger becomes a kind of super spiritual guru of the forces of chaos. His break outs from captivity are retold as a supernatural victory over matter. Dillinger dematerialises the prison walls by the power of concentrated thought – a little like the attempt to raise the Pentagon building by the Chicago led yippies and zippies. The Illuminatus Trillogies retroactive dramatisation of jailbreaks describes that weird Miesian dematerialization of solid stuff. Mies’ concentration of architectural vision beams out of his eyes like X-ray vision, vaporising the corner of buildings so that enclosing walls seem only like planes, emptying city blocks so that gigantic buildings and plazas feel as lightly arranged as still lives. Chicagos history of chaotic freedom and incarceration is mutely articulated through Mies’ architecture.”
“Like Prohibition, temperance and abstinence motivate Mies’ architecture. And just like Prohibition, the attempting to exclude behaviours only serves to highlight our vice. Mies’ Chicago landscapes are a kind of sober architectural or urban “lack”. It’s only through our use of them that they become part of and engaged with the city. Perhaps we should recognise our own creative co-authorship of Mies’ architecture, encourage the build up of ephemera across the surface of the buildings. Somewhere between the extremes of confused intoxication of ephemera and the rational sobriety of architecture that the essential uniqueness of these places can develop”