|| Bad Monsters Make Way
Panos Koulermos is in love with architecture
and his work proves it. Panos knows about form, space and, most
importantly, about spirit. Of course he should because he comes
from that part of the world where such things are honoured and
celebrated. Panos has stories to tell and we listen to him.
He makes us happy to know about the various fates of man and
also of woman. Panos understands that the ancient gods are always
waiting, observing our creations; that is , they compare and
finally judge. I think they smile with and upon Panos Koulermos.
In their positions, the gods need their hearts to be warmed
a bit as do we humans, and Panos provides us with the necessary
heat, just enough, for he does not want to burn us. He is clear
about the ambiguity as to what the heavens might bolt down,
so he makes an appropriate offering, that is , the offering
of good work in the form of architecture.
I imagine part of our friendship is due to
our similar respect to the time honoured generators of architecture.
We both love white surfaces where the sun and clouds can
do their work. We respect the shadows and the shades. We think
that the site, the plan, the elevation, the section and the
detail are weights enough in which to express our imaginings.
We are suspicious of the facile, the extravagant, the noisy.
We believe in structure and construction. We are the enemies
of chaos and of de-constructions. We abhor the mindless and
exaggerated visceral. We celebrate the invention of programme
and the explorations into the unseen. We revere our discipline
and we enjoy eating with each other. If ever I have to take
a dangerous voyage, I want to have Panos next to me. He has
the ability to make bad monsters make way. He laughs them to
death. His oblique rationale speeds up their disappearances.
I always look forward to seeing my friend again. With him, one
is still able to talk about the square, the circle and the triangle.
At this moment of his life, Panos is
having a remarkable spurt of energy. He is moving like a bat
out of hell or a man out of hell or a man out of the labyrinth.
His architecture on Crete/in Crete is extraordinary; wonderful
plans, solid geometries/volumes bathed in unrelenting sun/light,
the mastery of large programmes, elaborate requirements made
into imposing structure, cities on a hill, at once hidden and
seen. One can be assured that these are joy-full places of learning
and discovery. How refreshing to see an architect making precise/simple
architectural plans. Panos loves columns, beams, piers, wall,
stairs, ramps, windows, balconies, cylinders, cubes, earth modulations,
bridges, floors, ceilings, lightwells, skylights, doors , entries,
arches, masonry, plaster and steel. He uses the above as an
alchemist would. His chemistry is judiciously mixed.
I want to extract out and speak to/of
two of his most recent projects that provoke thought - thoughts
about time , our time, past time, new time, old time, time within
time...The two projects are the Nursery School in Los Angeles
and House 12 in Ithaca. In a way they encapsulate the conditions
we confront today.
The Los Angeles Nursery School presents
the diabolicalness of the outside conditions if our cities,
the compressions upon the innocent and the proposition that, like
the monasteries of the Middle Ages, the schools of today are
becoming the refuges and protectors of our youth and their freedom
to learn. Panos' school presents certain problems head on. He
understands that our educational institutions are under attack
and he makes a monastic/defensive proposal. One can inter/change
the programme: stated school/unstated refuge. Also, the undertone
as school for sunlight, air, and school as penitentiary, schoolyard
as playpen, and schoolyard as minimum security exercise yard.
The Los Angeles Nursery School plan is quite simple: three cylindrical
volumes in a court surrounded on three sides by a volumetric
wall-walkway-rampart; the fourth side enclosed by a two-story
volume which contains kitchen/dining facilities plus administration,
toilets, etc. Basically a normal nursery school . Taking the
same plan, two other institutional programmes could be imagined:
a monastery and penitentiary. For the monastery, the surrounding
narrow walkway could be considered the cloister walkway, enclosed
and overlooking the cloister yard . The three cylindrical volumes
could perhaps be the monastery chapel, library and meditation
areas, with the large vaulted structure serving as kitchen/dining
and administration along with sleeping facilities. All told,
a reasonable plan for brothers.
second programme/plan could be conceived as a penitentiary, with
the encircling outer wall-walkway, the elements for security
guards overlooking the prison exercise yard. The Three cylindrical
volumes could be used for the prison work areas, and the fourth
elements, the vaulted rectangular volume, for administration,
kitchen, dining, sleeping, toilets, and so on.
I speculate about this because I believe
plan/programme can be interchangeable, as shown in the above
case either for learning, for prayer or for incarceration. It
is eerily strange that our times seem to need all three. In one
case a joy-full programme, in the other a thought-full programme,
in the third a chilling programme.
Panos Koulermos' Los Angeles Nursery
School could be thought of too as school for angels that provides
for prayer so that the angels are not captured and imprisoned.
PanosThe project House 12 in Ithaca is a beautiful idea and seminal
work. I am deeply moved by it. It is a land ship, a house ship
that a modern-day Ulysses would have to engage, Whatever his
trials and tribulations, at least the ancient Ulysses always
had a water ship, a ship that floated upon the liquidity of
a fluid. Panos' modern-day ship/house is tied to the land. Its
fate physically is to be static and fixed. The oar-like structural
buttresses are at once ancient, medieval and modern: the wood
of antiquity, the concrete/masonry of the Middle Ages and gripping
of modern earth.
I believe Panos is saying that with
all our apparent modern-day mobility we in fact have become
more fixed, more internal, more inaccessible and, in a strange
way, more private.
In response to his
land/fixed ship, I can live within it. That is , I can think
within it, I can pray within it, and I can travel throughout
the world within it. And most important of all, I can imagine
I think somewhere or other Le Corbusier
has stated that the only thing transferable is thought. Panos
Koulermos helps us to understand.
First published in the catalogue to the Panos Koulermos exhibition
Topos, Memory, and Form, shown in 1990 at he House of Cyprus,