Les Pyramides

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"A pyramid is a structure whose outer surfaces are triangular and converge to a single point at the top"[1]

A slew of pyramids can be found in all of Paul Otlet's drawers. Knowledge schemes and diagrams, drawings and drafts, designs, prototypes and architectural plans (including works by Le Corbusier and Maurice Heymans) employ the pyramid to provide structure, hierarchy, precise path and finally access to the world's synthesized knowledge. At specific temporal cross-sections, these plans were criticized for their proximity to occultism or monumentalism. Today their rich esoteric symbolism is still readily apparent and gives reason to search for possible spiritual or mystical underpinnings of the Mundaneum.

Paul Otlet (1926):

“Une immense pyramide est à construire. Au sommet y travaillent Penseurs, Sociologues et grands Artistes. Le sommet doit rejoindre la base où s’agitent les masses, mais la base aussi doit être disposée de manière qu’elle puisse rejoindre le sommet.”[2]
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Paul Otlet, Species Mundaneum. Mundaneum, Mons. Personal papers of Paul Otlet (MDN). Fonds Encyclopaedia Universalis Mundaneum (EUM), document No. 8506.
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Inscription: "Il ne fut rien sinon Mundanéen"
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La Pyramide des Bibliographies. In: Paul Otlet, Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique (Bruxelles: Editiones Mundaneum, 1934), 290.
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"Qui scit ubi scientia habenti est proximus. Who knows where science is, is about to have it. The librarian is helped by collaborators: Bibliotecaire-adjoints, rédacteurs, copistes, gens de service."
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Tomb at the grave of Paul Otlet
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Design for the Mundaneum, Section and facades by Le Corbusier
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Sketch for La Mondothèque. Paul Otlet, 1935?
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An axonometric view of the Mundaneum gives the effect of an aerial photograph of an archeological site — Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, ancient American (Mayan and Aztec) or Peruvian. These historical reminiscences are striking. Remember the important building works of the Mayas, who were the zenith of ancient American civilization. These well-known ruins (Uxmal, Chichen-Itza, Palenque on the Yucatan peninsula, and Copan in Guatemala) represent a “metaphysical architecture” of special cities of religious cults and burial grounds, cities of rulers and priests; pyramids, cathedrals of the sun, moon and stars; holy places of individual gods; graduating pyramids and terraced palaces with architectural objects conceived in basic geometrical shapes of cube, cylinder, prism and pyramid, the main axis of which is symmetry with emphasis on horizontality.
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Plan of the Mundaneum by M.C. Heymans
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Perspective of the Mundaneum by M.C. Heymans
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Paul Otlet, Cellula Mundaneum (1936). Mundaneum, Mons. Personal papers of Paul Otlet (MDN). Fonds Affiches (AFF).
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As soon as all forms of life are categorized, classified and determined, individuals will become numeric "dividuals" in sets, subsets or classes.
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Sketch for Mundaneum World City. Le Corbusier, 1929
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Atlas Bruxelles – Urbaneum - Belganeum - Mundaneum. Page de garde du chapitre 991 de l'Atlas de Bruxelles.
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The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of triangular galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the triangles one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable.
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The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their place, insomuch that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
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Universal Decimal Classification: hierarchy
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World City by Le Corbusier & Jeanneret
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Paul Otlet personal papers. Picture taken during a Mondothèque visit of the Mundaneum archives, 11 September 2015
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The face of the earth would be much altered if brick architecture were ousted everywhere by glass architecture. It would be as if the earth were adorned with sparkling jewels and enamels. Such glory is unimagmable. We should then have a paradise on earth, and no need to watch in longing expectation for the paradise in heaven.
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"Alimentation. — La base de notre alimentation repose en principe sur un trépied. 1° Protides (viandes, azotes). 2° Glycides (légumineux, hydrates de carbone). 3° Lipides (graisses). Mais il faut encore pour présider au cycle de la vie et en assurer la régularité, des vitamines : c’est à elles qu’est due la croissance des jeunes, l’équilibre nutritif des adultes et une certaine jeunesse chez les vieillards."
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Traité de documentation - La pyramide des bibliographies
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Inverted pyramid and floor plan by Stanislas Jasinski
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Architectural vision of the Mundaneum by M.C. Heymans
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Section by Stanislas Jasinski
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Le Corbusier, Musée Mondial (1929), FLC, doc nr. 24510
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Le reseau Mundaneum. From Paul Otlet, Encylcopaedia Universalis Mundaneum
Les Pyramides
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Metro Place Rogier in 2008
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Paul Otlet, Atlas Monde (1936). MDN, AFF, scan nr. Mundaneum_032; Mundaneum_034; Mundaneum_036; Mundaneum_038; Mundaneum_040; Mundaneum_042; Mundaneum_044; Mundaneum_046; Mundaneum_049 (sic!)
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Paul Otlet, Le Monde en son ensemble (1936). Mundaneum, Mons. MDN, AFF, scan nr. MUND-00009061_2008_0001_MA
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Paul Otlet, Mundaneum. Documentatio Partes. MDN, EUM, doc nr. 8506, scan nr. Mundaneum_A400176
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The “Sacrarium,” is something like a temple of ethics, philosophy, and religion. A great globe, modeled and colored, in a scale 1 = 1,000,000 with the planetarium inside, is situated in front of the museum building.
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See Cross-readings, Rayward, Warden Boyd (who translated and adapted), Mundaneum: Archives of Knowledge, Urbana-Campaign, Ill. : Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2010. Original: Charlotte Dubray et al., Mundaneum: Les Archives de la Connaissance, Bruxelles: Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2008. (p. 37)
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Place Rogier, Brussels around 2005
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Place Rogier, Brussels with sign "Pyramides"
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Toute la Documentation. A late sketch from 1937 showing all the complexity of the pyramid of documentation. An evolutionary element works its way up, and in the conclusive level one can read a synthesis: "Homo Loquens, Homo Scribens, Societas Documentalis".
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Logo of the Mundaneum

Sources

Last Revision: 1·08·2016
  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyramid
  2. Paul Otlet, L’Éducation et les Instituts du Palais Mondial (Mundaneum). Bruxelles: Union des Associations Internationales, 1926, p. 10. ("A great pyramid should be constructed. At the top are to be found Thinkers, Sociologists and great Artists. But the top must be joined to the base where the masses are found, and the bases must have control of a path to the top.")
  3. Wouter Van Acker. "Architectural Metaphors of Knowledge: The Mundaneum Designs of Maurice Heymans, Paul Otlet, and Le Corbusier." Library Trends 61, no. 2 (2012): 371-396. http://muse.jhu.edu/
  4. Photo: Roel de Groof http://www.zita.be/foto/roel-de-groof/allerlei/graf-paul-otlet/
  5. Wouter Van Acker, 'Opening the Shrine of the Mundaneum The Positivist Spirit in the Architecture of Le Corbusier and his Belgian “Idolators,”' in Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand: 30, Open, edited by Alexandra Brown and Andrew Leach (Gold Coast,Qld: SAHANZ, 2013), vol. 2, p. 792.
  6. Wouter Van Acker. "Architectural Metaphors of Knowledge: The Mundaneum Designs of Maurice Heymans, Paul Otlet, and Le Corbusier." Library Trends 61, no. 2 (2012): 371-396.
  7. Wouter Van Acker. "Architectural Metaphors of Knowledge: The Mundaneum Designs of Maurice Heymans, Paul Otlet, and Le Corbusier." Library Trends 61, no. 2 (2012): 371-396.
  8. Wouter Van Acker. "Architectural Metaphors of Knowledge: The Mundaneum Designs of Maurice Heymans, Paul Otlet, and Le Corbusier." Library Trends 61, no. 2 (2012): 371-396. http://muse.jhu.edu/
  9. Paul Otlet, Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique (Bruxelles: Editiones Mundaneum, 1934), 420.
  10. http://www.fondationlecorbusier.fr
  11. http://www.numeriques.be
  12. http://www.numeriques.be
  13. Rayward, Warden Boyd, The Universe of Information: the Work of Paul Otlet for Documentation and international Organization, FID Publication 520, Moscow, International Federation for Documentation by the All-Union Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (Viniti), 1975. (p. 352)
  14. The Man Who Wanted to Classify the World
  15. Rayward, Warden Boyd (who translated and adapted), Mundaneum: Archives of Knowledge, Urbana-Campaign, Ill. : Graduate School of Library and Information Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2010, p. 35. Original: Charlotte Dubray et al., Mundaneum: Les Archives de la Connaissance, Bruxelles: Les Impressions Nouvelles, 2008.
  16. Paul Otlet, Traité de documentation: le livre sur le livre, théorie et pratique (Bruxelles: Editiones Mundaneum, 1934).
  17. Wouter Van Acker, 'Opening the Shrine of the Mundaneum The Positivist Spirit in the Architecture of Le Corbusier and his Belgian “Idolators,”' in Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand: 30, Open, edited by Alexandra Brown and Andrew Leach (Gold Coast,Qld: SAHANZ, 2013), vol. 2, p. 804.
  18. Wouter Van Acker, 'Opening the Shrine of the Mundaneum The Positivist Spirit in the Architecture of Le Corbusier and his Belgian “Idolators,”' in Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand: 30, Open, edited by Alexandra Brown and Andrew Leach (Gold Coast,Qld: SAHANZ, 2013), vol. 2, p. 803.
  19. Wouter Van Acker, 'Opening the Shrine of the Mundaneum The Positivist Spirit in the Architecture of Le Corbusier and his Belgian “Idolators,”' in Proceedings of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand: 30, Open, edited by Alexandra Brown and Andrew Leach (Gold Coast,Qld: SAHANZ, 2013), vol. 2, p. 804.
  20. From Van Acker, Wouter, “Internationalist Utopias of Visual Education. The Graphic and Scenographic Transformation of the Universal Encyclopaedia in the Work of Paul Otlet, Patrick Geddes, and Otto Neurath,” in Perspectives on Science, Vol.19, nr.1, 2011, p. 72. http://staging01.muse.jhu.edu/journals/perspectives_on_science/v019/19.1.van-acker.html
  21. https://ideals.illinois.edu/bitstream/handle/2142/15431/Rayward_215_WEB.pdf?sequence=2
  22. http://www.sonuma.com/archive/la-conservation-des-archives-du-mundaneum
  23. Mundaneum Archives, Mons

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