I was awarded the SOM Foundation fellowship on the basis of some work I was doing to try to connect modernism as a style, ideology, and constructional system with vernacular architecture. I had just published a small book called Dice Thrown and had been awarded a Young Architects Award by the Architectural League of New York.
The SOM Foundation gave me the opportunity to try out a new medium for image making, namely etching and chine collé. The SOM Foundation linked me up with the art department at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), where I had access to etching presses. In addition to the visual work, I spent a good deal of my time working on a paper called “Speculations on the Idea of the Demotic,” which, consistent with the era, drew on the work of Northrop Frye and Giambattista Vico to try to make connections between modernity and vernacular, “demotic” architecture. This was based on Frye’s ideas of the movement from the heroic through the hieratic to the demotic, and Vico’s proposition that all civilizations begin with theocracy and end in democracy (before the ricorso). These, in turn, were tied to larger ideas of historical dialectics from Hegel’s Philosophy of Aesthetics and Victor Hugo’s proposition that the book (literacy, the vulgate) would kill architecture. As might be evident from the description I was, at that point in my life, very interested in so-called grand unified theories.