Cafe de l’Alcazar, Arles For two of the last years of his brief life, Vincent van Gogh lived and painted in Arles. He was drawn to Arles for its provincial charm and the legendary beauty of its women, but found a rapidly industrializing city that housed a major railway works. After visiting the classical and celebrated medieval sites of Arles, he started painting the ugly parts of the city. One of his most famous paintings, “Bridge at Arles,” is part of a utilitarian irrigation canal. The Cafe de l’Alcazar he painted is located next to a Roman temple, which he chose not to paint, using the cafe instead as his subject of everyday life. We now look on the cafe as nostalgic, but to Van Gogh the new and brassy cafe of the 1880’s must have seemed as contemporary as a Wal-Mart does to us. He was absorbed by Arles’s modern and less obviously beautiful aspects. None of van Gogh’s paintings are displayed in Arles. Instead, they hang in the great museums of the world. Here in Arles, though, we can sense that Van Gogh used color to bathe the world in bleakness as well as joyful sensuality.
The Centennial Chromagraph is a life-size representation of the history of the University of Minnesota School of Architecture. The project is an exercise in data spatialization: using computational design tools to generate formal and spatial constructions with large quantities of data—in this case, information collected over the 100-year history of UMN’s architecture school.
The installation consists of 100 robotically-routed plywood ribs, joined together with 8,080 colored #2 pencils. The curvature of the ribs expresses major historical eras and periods of the School—the tenures of its leadership, the buildings it has occupied, the colleges it has belonged to—while the color of the pencils reflects the changing composition of the School’s degree programs over the past century. For example, the tenure of Ralph Rapson as head of the School of Architecture is evident in the large thirty-year curve that swells out in the center of the piece. Similarly, the prevalence of the Bachelor of Architecture degree, which began in the 1930s and lasted until the late 1990s, is legible in the large number of red pencils that extend across that 60-year period.