For the last year I have been paired up with the book called „Cours d’Architecture“ by the French architect, art theorist, and architecture historian Jacques-François Blondel. I haven’t heard about it before this year-long “friendship“ as it is written about three hundred years ago, not the type of book I normally read, so that was already an experience.
In the first exercise, we gathered the first basic informations about our book. When, where and by whom it was written. The task was short and clear, we gathered informations and got to know the book for the first time. Of course with a lack of depth, but these informations were the first time the books could introduce themselves to us.
I honestly wasn’t excited about the idea of getting to know my book. It was hard to find any information on my book for task one and the fact that I had to change the book again for task two didn’t really motivate me more.
As a result, however, I ended up in the beautiful library in Einsiedeln. The visit was definitely worth it in the end; the atmosphere and the calm during filming the „encounter“ gave us the opportunity to get to know our book better. It was the first time that I held such an old book in my hands, which was a nice experience. The old pages, the small floral illustrations as decoration, and the small notes by the owner Werner Oechslin gave the book a certain personality and told the story of the many years it has experienced and all the hands that have touched it. I really felt like being thrown back a few hundred years when scrolling through the pages. For me, this was probably the most exciting part of this friendship.
During the first year I learned more about Blondel in different ways. Through the tasks of Friends with an old book, but also by being mentioned in lectures. Even though I now know that he is an important figure in architectural theory, I don’t really feel informed about him or the book. Working with the old books only through the Internet or the online version was not really educational in terms of content, which I hoped to learn most about through this whole task.
But a very simple but key thing I learned from this was how to use the tools the ETH library provides. Not that I use it now often, but having gotten to know how to make use of it means if i ever want to use it i’ll be able to, which makes it a huge advantage.
I would lie if I said I could feel a personal connection to the book or the author now. But I think I have learned this year that much of what I have learned is related. Names of works, buildings, theoreticians and architects have appeared repeatedly in various areas of the course and combined them in a way that I would not have expected. They accompanied me through the year and this exercise certainly contributed indirectly to this eye-opening knowledge.