Cartha 2018: Building Identity
2 August, 2021
During its fourth year (2018), Cartha was concerned with Building Identity. The content – editorials, essays, projects, visual essays, and interviews – is divided into five parts, each one :
The absorption and integration of people, ideas, or culture into a wider society or culture.
The process of becoming similar to something.
The process of taking in and fully understanding information or ideas.
The action of appropriating something.
The deliberate reworking of images and styles from earlier, well-known works of art.
Take (something) for one’s own use, typically without the owner’s permission.
The dismissing or refusing of a proposal, idea, etc.
The action of mediating between two disputing people or groups.
THE CASE OF DWELLING
During his many years in France, the American sculptor George Grey Barnard acquired a large number of Gothic and Romanesque architectural elements from decayed villages in the countryside. Columns, arches, doors, rooms, and whole buildings made up his growing lot. In 1930, during one of Barnard’s financial crisis, he sold his collection to John D. Rockefeller Jr. The notorious American tycoon, in one of his many philanthropic initiatives, decided to move the collection to the USA and integrate it into the Metropolitan Museum of Art as a sort of sub-division dedicated to Medieval art: the Met Cloisters Museum. From 1934 to 1939, the cloisters of Cuxa, Saint-Guilhem, Bonnefort, and Trie were dismantled and transported to Fort Tyron Park in upper Manhattan. The architect of the new museum, Charles Collens, was given the task of reconstructing the cloisters using only the architectural elements contained within the collection. Through the processes of appropriation and rejection of specific parts of the four cloisters, the assimilation of meanings and constructive principles, and the final conciliation of each piece, Collens created a new model for the cloister, an eclectic assemblage representing an entire European typology.
Beyond any criticism regarding the context and ethics of the Met Cloisters, what we wish to focus on is the intention it represents of building a new identity by making use of previously existing elements. The project by Charles Collens seems to corroborate the possibility of making a seemingly direct analogy between the sociological theories of Lacan—among others—regarding the building of one’s own identity solely through the interaction with pre-existing traces and conditions. It also raises questions regarding the role of the architect in the project’s process: is Collens the author of the Met Cloisters?
This fifth and final issue of the CARTHA on Building Identity cycle approaches the questions posed in the four previous issues, each addressing a specific “identity process”—Appropriation, Assimilation, Denial and Conciliation—through a different medium and focusing on projectual answers sourced from an international group of architects.