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2005 04 04
Empire of Bricks - 6
imageNot so long ago I picked up a small research project through an architect friend in Toronto. He had a client that wanted to redevelop a residential lot in the Poplar Plains neighbourhood. The client wanted to demolish a large house by the historically significant architect Eden Smith who had influenced the style of much of Toronto downtown residential architecture from the teens to the thirties. My friend did not want to be responsible for the loss of a piece of Toronto’s architectural heritage but the client would not be swayed. It was decided that we would mount, through assembled research a more persuasive case. The inventory Eden Smiths’s design production had not been catalogued. We thought we might be able to save a building and add to the scholarship on local residential design. In the course of the research I had found out that Eden Smith was responsible for the first use of ‘klinker brick’ in the city. His own home, one of his earliest projects, in the High Park neighbourhood, had this warty texture to the brick coursing between the foundation stonework and the windows on the façade. Shortly after this stylistic innovation by Eden Smith, there was a virulent outbreak of these wart-like protuberances throughout the entire west end. I have never been fond of the use of ‘klinker brick’ I just thought that it was a curious aesthetic. My architect friend absolutely hates the stuff and when I broke the news to him that Eden Smith was solely responsible for the phenomena he wanted to break off the campaign to save the building from the wrecking ball. However, I had almost become the leading expert on Eden Smith, there was only one other guy who knew more. The very thought that I had ‘world’s leading expert’ in my crosshairs so easily, fueled my reasoned argument about stewards of cultural heritage etc. This along with the fact that it was well paying, interesting work, billed to the client, influenced my growing attraction to these diseased looking bricks.

There is entire consistency in the effects of the emergent visual components in every sector of the ancient world. The steady increase of stress on the retinal impression from the Greek into the Roman time has been noted by John Hollander in The Untuning of the Sky (p.7): “But with the exception of oral, pre-literary poetry, added complications to the consideration of poetry as sound arise in the existence and use of written languages. If a poem is to be treated as a highly complex, utterance in a spoken language, its written form becomes a simple coding of it, word by word, onto a page. The poem will thus be defined in terms of patterns of sound classes. But starting as early as the first Latin use of Greek meters, literary analysis has been confronted with poems whose written versions, or codings, contain original, or aural, versions, and vice versa. To state that both music and poetry are composed of sound, without specifying the degree to which this is true, therefore, becomes misleadingly inadequate. The difficulties of such a reduction have resulted not only in categorical esthetic confusions, but in those which produced the unnecessary conflicts among traditional European prosodic theories since Hellenistic times. The locus classicus of these confusions for our literary history occurred in the equation of what was actually a musical system (Greek meter) to a more graphic prosodic one (Latin quantitative scansion). It seems to be generally true that borrowed foreign literary conventions, as well as revivals and adaptations of past traditions, invade the linguistic structure of poetry at the written level. Any thorough formalistic analysis of the of the structure of poetry, and of its relation to the language in which it is written, must deal with the written language as a system in itself, as well as with the spoken one”.
[email this story] Posted by Bernie Miller on 04/04 at 08:44 AM

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