History – Vertical or Horizontal?

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I was reviewing some 18th century images of ancient classical buildings culled from important works of architectural theory by Adam, Le Roy, Dumont, et. al. I was reviewing these and selecting a few to be included in my forthcoming book with Princeton Architectural Press. Looking at these images, which often involve images of buildings excavated from the ground, I kept thinking that our contemporary image of the geo-architectural-historical interaction is mostly unchanged. We still understand the Earth to be a type of archive of the civilizations of the past and the archive that will one day hold the present. This concept of architectural history emerged in those earlier architectural theory images. Dumont (above), for example, understood that the eruptions of Mount Vesuvius buried a classical past. This, I think, might be one of the most brilliant of the early forms of the production of nature: Nature is the archive of social history. It’s an aspect of architectural history that I explored in a much different context in a recent piece for Grey Room, due out this February.

But, here, I want to think of some other possibilities for the specifically geo- historical/preservation machine. If the eruptions and convulsions of the Earth are one type of history machine, then there are others. Our geological concept of history is primarily based on strata; based on the seemingly “geological” processes that we ascribe to the 18th century project–dust, soil, and other terrestial matter that appear to consume the present.

But, consider the moon. The moon was formed by a violent geological collision on the earth — an asteroid, a planet? The moon is, in a sense, a piece of the Earth, ejected into space and preserved in space’s vacuum. The moon represents a horizontal concept of historical preservation. Its most direct social analogs are the actual pieces of socially produced space debris that ring the Earth’s surface that may sit there for thousands of years. But that’s the most literal interpretation of the horizontal concept of geo-history

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Perhaps those architects and historians who produce the historical image of architecture might consider this Earth-moon relation as a type of perverse and inspiring geo-historical-image construct; one that considers the movements of architectural history in other “expressions” of “nature.” Perhaps this?

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