Friday, December 19, 2008

Nixon in Iceland


This morning at breakfast, with my houseguests Einar and Manuela, the conversation turned to elections, Nixon, and then Nixon‘s summit meeting with Pompidou in Reykjavik in 1973. At the time Einar and other young Icelandic architects were concerned that the city’s early timber houses were being destroyed in that era’s international craze for “urban renewal,” the excuse being that the buildings were derelict. To demonstrate that their shabbiness was only superficial, Einar and 60 to 80 friends went to work on a row of houses scheduled for demolition, painting facades and replacing windows. It just so happened that soon after, Nixon came to Reykjavik for the summit, and wanted to take a stroll around the city. As they walked down this street of newly pristine houses Nixon said to his host, “I see that you take good care of your traditional architecture here in Iceland”—and after that, of course, there could be no talk of demolishing them. The buildings stand to this day.

When Buckminster Fuller visited Reykjavik two years later, Einar told him this story. “I’m happy to know this,” Bucky said, “because I like to think that everyone has some good in them and I’ve never heard anything positive about Nixon.”

Einar writes about this, his first visit with Fuller, in his upcoming book about his 40-year quest to find what he has named the “Fang,” which is, in geometric terms “a space-filler for five-fold symmetry space.” Below, Einar’s geometry at work in one of Olafur Eliasson’s installations, Your spiral view (2002), which I photographed at the Kunstmuseum in Wolfsburg, Germany, in 2004, and is now part of the Beyeler Foundation collection.

1 comment:

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