The Boston Visionary Cell

Disco Volante

© Paul Laffoley 1998

1946: Arizona – Taliesin Winter Camp, January 5

Oligvanna, third wife of Frank Lloyd Wright, invites the renowed hermetist G.I. Gurdjieff (1873- 1949).  He provides information about the “new” flying saucer sightings, and his theories about “dream architecture”

1947:    Mount Rainer, Washington, June 24

A private pilot, Kenneth Arnold, spots 9 UFOs

Arizona, August 3

Wright designs the Sports Club for Huntington Hartford (unbuilt) based the flying saucer form.

Belmont, Massachusetts, September 13

The man who trimmed our bushes (a recent emigrant from Belmonte, Naples) tells me of how he and his son were abducted 17 times into a “Disco Volante” (Italian for flying saucer). He was shown other planet, glowing people and new inventions.

1949:    Hollywood –20th Century Fox, February 3

Film director Robert Wise contacts Wright to work on the set design of a new movie he is planning that has a UFO theme.  Wright agrees and designs the classic flying saucer profile: The soliton wave or curve of normal distribution.  The image of the interior of the ship was “lifted” right out of the Johnson Wax Company Administrative Headquarters he was working on since 1936.  Wright claims: “The horizontal translucent plastic tubing motif works well with the ‘bauhaus-like’ control instruments, and the metal sheathing of Gort (the robot) and the spaceship will imitate living tissue.  If cut, the rift will heal like a wound that leaves no scar”

1950:    Washington D.C., April 10

The Filming of The Day the Earth Stood Still begins.  Wise casts Michael Rennie (a British repertory actor) as the alien Klaatu.  He bases the character on a combination of Mikola Tesla (1859-1943) and Leon Theremin (1896-1993) because they are aristocratic in bearing, preternaturally young, and both have developed electronic devices that are useful to the script “The Death Ray”, the first electronic musical instrument, an electromagnetic bridge, robotics, artificial intelligence, and a machine to revive the dead

1951:    Boston Massachusetts, September 10 (Robert Wise’s Birthday).

The Film is released across America.  I see it for the first time at The RKO Keith Memorial Theater.  Instantly it is my favorite.  I want to become an architect so that I can design flying saucers.

1955:    Belmont, Massachusetts, August 14

The man from Balmonte (I never learned his name) said he was leaving for good.  He gave me a gift- a medallion.  He called it the symbol of The Order of Melchizedek which was given to him by “the People”, indicating those worthy to aid in “The Cosmic Task”.  He was  told to pass it on to someone else “when his time came”.

1956:    Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, June 4

“The Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church”, designed by Wright and built as a flying saucer motif.

Cambridge, Massachusetts, M.I.T.’s new Kresge Auditorium

I see the movie again, now thinking it is some kind of “foreign” film (I overhear a remark to that effect by someone in the audience).  But I actually believe it to be a kind of “architectural future vision” like “Metropolis” (1926) or The Shape of Things to Come” (1936)

1957:    Cambridge Massachusetts, Brattle Square Theater, March 3

As a science fiction film, I come to believe the movie transcends “science-fiction” (which is simply an escape into the past & the future).  Being filmed at the height of  “the cold war”, I finally came to appreciate its terrifying immediacy, which is the intent of Wise’s message: “to avoid Atomic War at all costs”.  It now seems to me to be a “horror movie” filmed in “documentary” style.

1961:    Cambridge Massachusetts, H.G.S.D., October 2

At architectural school I learn from a classmate that Frank Lloyd Wright “had something to do with the movie”.  I begin my own research about this.  Also I have my first spontaneous lucid dream (in which I am aware that I am dreaming while dreaming)

1963:    New York City, Frederick Kiesler’s studio, April 13

I point out that the dome of The Shrine of the Book, a Sanctuary for the Dead Sea Scrolls, that Kiesler and Armand Bartos were working on, looks like Klaatu’s spaceship.  Kiesler reluctantly admits this.  He then begins a tirade about his contribution to the image of the modern robot.

1965:    Paris, France, Boulevard Saint Germain, June 2

It is my first evening in Paris.  Sitting alone at a sidewalk table at the café “Les Deux Magots”, I order a “Coke”.  Also, I decide to wear my “medallion” on the outside of my turtleneck “just to look cool”.  Suddenly, a young man sits down at my table.  He is dressed like an “Apache” dancer.  Introducing himself as Claude Vorilhon, a reporter with Paris-Match, he reaches into his side bag.  Thinking he is about to pull out a pen to begin “my interview”, I relax.  Instead he brandishes a small knife, cuts the pendant string that is around my neck, grabs the “medallion” and runs into the night.

1975:    Boston, Massachusetts, My Studio, Sptember 25

I am invited by personal letter to write an article for a book entitled Gods of Aquarius: UFOs and The Transformation of Man.  The editor, Brad Steiger, after I sent in my article, claims he never wrote to me and never heard of me, but agrees to accept my contribution “as an encounter of the first kind.”

1976:    Boston, Massachusetts, My Studio, July 3

Today, I receive copies of two books in the mail, both with publications dates of July 4.  One is The Gods of Aquarius, which I knew about.  The other I did not entitled Unbuilt America by Alison Sky and Michelle Stone.  Somehow my “Atlantis project” A Study Center for World Utopia” is included.  At this point, I consider the movie a piece of “unbuilt architecture”

1987:    Boston, Massachusetts, My Studio, December 13

While developing the principles of Bauharoque design, I analyze Klaatu’s spaceship as pure form and discover it uses the divine proportion, or Phi= (.382…/.618…) of unity, in five ways, including linear, mass and surface proportions.  The traditional classical Greco-Roman columnar orders use Phi in only three ways.  I consider “The Thanaton” to be a new classical form.

1990:    Boston, Massachusetts, My Studio, September 10

By phone, I am informed that I have finally become a registered architect.  It is the 39th anniversary of my first viewing the movie

1992:    Boston, Massachusetts, Beth Isreal Hospital, February 17

During a routine Cat-scan of my head, a miniature metallic “implant’ is discovered in my brain near the pineal gland.  A local chapter of “Mufon” (Mutual UFO Network) declares it to be a “nanotechnological laboratory” capable of accelerating or retarding my brain activity like a benign tumor.  I come to believe that the “implant” is extraterrestiral in origin and is the main motivation of my ideas and theories.

1996:    Providence R.I., The Bell Gallery, Brown University, January 5

Expecting to see my favorite piece of “unbuilt architecture” represented in a new exhibit entitled: Film Architecture: Set designs from “Metropolis” to “Blade runner”, I was at first both disappointed and indignant at its omission.  But upon thinking about it, I came to the conclusion that “my movie” was not “unbuilt” but actually “built architecture”.  What Robert Wise created is literally a new “Jungian Archetype – a Tulpa”.  The Tulpa is the hindu concept for a “degree of embodiment” from Brahma (true reality) to the Maya (our world physical illusion).  We might say it is a point on the continuous spectrum from consciousness to mass.

The Day The Earth Stood Still is, therefore, a “Tantric” film and a “built piece of architecture”, whose existence is verified, not by walking up to it and giving it a kick, or constructing it within “virtual reality”, but by means of lucid dreaming.  I have seen this movie, now over 750 times, most of which were not on the “silver screen”, but in “The Lux Theater” of the mind.

© Paul Laffoley 1998