Organizational Structures Reflected in Architecture and Design

February 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Tree on the grounds that were once a forced labor camp in a residential area of Berlin.

Organizational structures were each unique to the spaces I visited in Berlin. At Zenon Concepts’ office, a visitor can see the team environment in their circular office design. Kicken Berlin’s gallery emphasized the art. While at Haliflor, there was a clear leader and hierarchy in a space that calls to mind a recent past and Barack 13 brings to mind a dark chapter of Berlin’s history. These organizational structures are reflected in the design and function of their spaces.

Zenon Concepts’ office was arranged in a circular layout with glass walls between teams with specialized tasks. Teams worked together in offices in clusters of desks and computers. The organization is based on collaboration between teams. Each member of the team understands the scope of their work but also the interdependence of how the project relates to the responsibilities of the other team members. Members of the organization are all working on more than one project at different stages. Information is often moving quickly depending on the stage of the project and the number of people involved at that point in the project.

Kicken Berlin’s gallery space focused on the displayed collection of photography. The design of the building is beautiful from the displays of photographs behind glass outside the building and the outdoor bamboo garden adjacent to and visible within the gallery space. The organizational structure was hidden from view. Even the space for the receptionist was almost hidden from view of visitors. The contributions of the individuals of the organization are secondary to the photography. The decisions of the organization are primarily made by the leader of the organization and driven by collectors/and buyers of photography.

Haliflor has a deliberate appearance of interior design to look as if it has been there for decades longer than the 10 years it has been a fixture in Berlin. The owner has been developing the design and appearance of the bar with time. He is the clear leader with a singular vision of the space that is almost intuitive. The decorations on the walls are deliberately sparse with hanging art. The interior blends new elements with existing elements. The flooring was deliberately treated to look as if it had been there for decades. The wrought iron stair railing was created with cut rings of pipe in various diameters. The bar’s organization is unique so that new hires go through an informal two month training process.

Barack 13 at the Dokumentationszentrum NS Zwangsarbeit in Schöneweide has an architecture and organization that reflects that its past as a forced labor camp. The fence and threats kept the inmates inside. Standing in Barack 13, a current visitor can feel the cold that greeted the inmates when they walked into the building. The inmates were housed in smaller rooms with rows of beds. The occupants must not have known all of the other occupants. In many cases, the inmates may not have had a language in common, as they were gathered from all over Europe. The cellar of the building still had writing and scratches on the walls, a reminder of the need to communicate felt by the inmates. In Barack 13’s current state as a museum, the rooms are stripped of any furniture or decoration. They contain only quotes from former forced workers printed on signs arranged so that each room has a theme from sickness to bathing. The cold stark surroundings allow the visitor to imagine the barracks with the words from the previous inmates.

Each organization reflects Berlin’s culture and yet makes a contribution. Zenon Concepts interior design and fair stands  recall elements cultivated from cultural icons. Kicken Berlin is influential in the photography collecting market and Haliflor as a cross cultural meeting place. The architecture of Barack 13 reflects the dark past of Berlin. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in his inaugural address at the Illinois Institute of Technology in 1938 said:

We must be as familiar with the functions of our buildings as with our materials. We must learn what a building can be, what it should be, and also what it must not be… And just as we acquaint ourselves with materials, just as we must understand functions, so we must become familiar with the psychological and spiritual factors of our day. No cultural activity is possible otherwise.


Blue Velvet: Is Jeffrey Beaumont a Pervert or a Detective?

February 25, 2011 § Leave a comment

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      When Sandy Williams asked Jeffrey Beaumont, the protagonist in Blue Velvet, if he’s a detective or a pervert, he answered “It’s for me to know and you to find out.” What drives Jeffrey Beaumont to investigate how the human ear was lying on the ground on his way to his family home? What drives him to continue to see Dorothy Vallens after witnessing what Frank Booth is capable of? The relationships that Jeffrey Beaumont has with Dorothy Vallens and Sandy Williams are central to his journey; a journey with characters that represent Freudian archetypes to the protagonist. His journey has many elements of familiar myths described by Joseph Campbell.

In Joseph Campbell’s book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, he compared heroes in myths from several different cultures and eras to find common elements in a schema that he called a monomyth. The hero may begin in an everyday existence and on his journey end up tried in a very extraordinary world full of danger that the Hero is often unprepared to encounter. He returns with knowledge and self discovery. The schema of the monomyth can be applied to Greek Epic poems like the Odyssey to modern films like Harry Potter. In this case our hero is Jeffrey Beaumont. The myths may vary in structure and emphasis on different stages but they shared these stages. “Departure” is the stage in which the hero departs for his quest. “Initiation” is the stage in which our hero encounters obstacles along the quest. “Return” is the stage in which the hero returns home with his new-found knowledge and experience. Jeffrey, like other characters of myth at the stage of “Departure” embarks on a journey that in this case begins with Sandy to investigate the ear found in the grass. Sandy provided the information that Dorothy is a lounge singer that has been under surveillance by the police because of her ties to possible suspects.  It is in the “Initiation” that Jeffrey descends into the underworld loosely constructed around Frank Booth. Dorothy is the catalyst. He witnesses the cruelty and impotence of Frank Booth and also becomes sexually involved with her. He wants to help her from this dangerous man to free her child and husband held captive by Frank Booth.  He is courting Sandy, although she is unaware of the nature of his relationship with Dorothy. Later Dorothy appears naked and beaten in front of him and Sandy. He then must confront Frank Booth and is held captive by him. He “returns” a hero with Sandy at his side and Dorothy reunited with her son.

Sigmund Freud’s analysis of the psyche defines Jeffrey Beaumont’s relationships to other characters in the film as well as the characters’ motives. Central to Freud’s understanding of the psyche are the division into two parts, the conscious and the unconscious. Freud also believed that the psyche can further be divided into the Id, Ego, and Super Ego. He also believed that in the Id lies the most basic human instincts: the sexual drive and the drive toward aggression. It is the Id that propels the psyche to seek out pleasure. Frank Booth is a representation of the Id. He lacks any impulse control and just as easily will beat a man that he sees as an obstacle in pursuit of his pleasure principle as he would rape Dorothy Vallens. Also in the rape scene of Dorothy, he keeps referring to her as his mother suggesting an exaggerated Oedipus complex. The Ego of reality is represented by Sandy. He goes to the underworld of Frank Booth without her and often unaware of what he witnesses. She represents his innocence. He protects her from the evil and danger of the world of Frank Booth.  The Super Ego is externally represented by Detective Williams, it is the area looking for order from the outside world. Jeffrey himself, is trying to bring order to this world. He tries to right the wrongs done to Dorothy by Frank Booth. Dorothy is the most complex of characters, she is a sexualized maternal figure.

Jeffrey Beaumont is yet another young man suffering from Betty and Veronica Syndrome. Archie, the protagonist in the Archie comics, was forever trying to choose between Betty, the blond wholesome girl next door and Veronica, the unattainable raven haired beauty. Betty was the girl with unwavering devotion to Archie despite his dalliances with Veronica. Betty was practical and often had domestic skills attributed to her. She’s often babysitting or spending time with neighborhood children in the Archie comics as an idealized maternal figure. Her frenemy, Veronica is her rival for the attention of Archie. Archie is constantly reminded that Veronica is out of his league. Her heart is never with Archie but she is jealous when he is with Betty. At the same time she is elusive object of beauty to Archie. He takes for granted that he can have Betty and he knows that Veronica is incapable of the same devotion as Betty, but he can’t help trying for Veronica.

Sandy is much like the archetype of Betty and Dorothy Vallens is not unlike Veronica. At first, Sandy is Jeffrey Beaumont’s confidant and partner in the detective case. It is the information she obtained from her father that leads Jeffrey to Dorothy Vallens. Dorothy represents the dark and forbidden and becomes the catalyst for the descent into the underworld. She is not a willing member of the underworld. She’s a lounge singer, this has left her vulnerable as an object of desire to the darker character, Frank Booth.

Jeffrey Beaumont was ultimately driven by his sexual drive and his aggression as well as a curiosity for what could be a little dangerous and exciting. At the beginning of his journey he was a detective driven by curiosity but once he met Dorothy Vallens, he was propelled by perversion. Like most heroes, he is complex, and unaware of the danger he will face. He had choices to make, although not always the most honorable, in the end he gets the girl, the bad guys are gone, and Dorothy is reunited with her son.

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