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The Oblique Condition Towards an Understanding of Somatic Architecture (without falling)

Isabella Moretti Architect (Universidad de Buenos Aires)

Master Thesis to obtain the academic degree of Master of Science (M.Sc.)

Stiftung Bauhaus Dessau Anhalt University of Applied Sciences Humboldt University Berlin

Submitted September 2015

to Dani ( I N C O N D I C I O N A L ) and to the most charming Queen of Moths

[fig.1] Structure,  Claude  Parent  and  Paul  Virilio   1966


ABSTRACT The Oblique Function is a theory that was developed by Claude Parent and Paul Virilio in the mid-1960s, which envisioned a wall-free architecture composed solely by non-orthogonal, inclined planes that would subsume the body in active participation. Most architecture historians regard it as a phenomenological intent in the advent of the hegemonic role played by information technologies, which consequently amounted to the exhaustion of the physical. What some failed to realise, by tagging Architecture Principe’s practice as being merely about forms, is the understanding of the whole theory as a psycho-physiological experiment. I will argue that the word ‘function’ in the title does not necessarily relate to architecture; on the contrary, it enables to analyse the writings of the manifesto through a psycho-physiological lense. The aim of this thesis is to understand how perception, behaviour and movement are entangled, in order to find out how The Oblique Function can actually subvert habitual schemes while embracing the motor potential of the soma. The argument will be constructed around the studies made by the German neurologist Kurt Goldstein. By means of his pathological findings on the 'lived-body', it will be explained how the disordered organism regains order, and how that renders the ‘normal’ functioning of the organism. Furthermore, his innovative setting of experiments in everyday-life circumstances will qualify to inversely place oblique architecture in a clinical scenario. Goldstein's definitions of ‘concrete’, ‘abstract’ and ‘excellent behaviour’ – on occasion translated by Maurice Merleau-Ponty's philosophy of experience – will show how shock and instability are used as design methods to existentially reunite the individual with its environment. In this sense the psycho-physiological consequences will be translated into the morpho-somatic ambitions of Parent and Virilio, proving both the autonomy of the individual and of architecture.


CONTENTS (0) Introduction


(0.1) Manifesto


(0.2) Form


(0.3) Soma


(0.4) Methods and Structure (1) The Unstable Condition

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(1.1) Standing room only


(1.2) Stand by me


(1.2.1) Organic and Mechanic Organisation


(1.2.2) Topological and Cybernetic Organisation


(1.3) Standing on an old planet (2) The Damaged Condition

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(2.1) Experiments on Behaviour


(2.2) Testimonies of War


(2.2.1) Kurt Goldstein’s Patients


(2.2.2) Paul Virilio’s Bunkers


(2.3) Pathologies of Movement (3) The Excellent Condition (3.1) The Habitual and The Milieu

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(3.1.1) Performing Shock


(3.1.2) Performing World


(3.2) The Motor Project


(3.2.1) Abstract, Concrete and Oblique


(3.2.2) Potentialism


(4) Conclusion










[fig.2-­10]  Publications  of  Architecture  Principe  Groupe  1966


(0) Introduction

For the last twenty-five years architecture theory has increasingly incorporated notions that make buildings move – be it liquid, navigable, fluent, dancing, just to name a few – not in an attempt to characterise unattainable space but the construction itself. I suspiciously wondered what reality can be attached to such notions, and in what way they relate to the navigating, flowing, dancing body that experiences the architecture. Preceding these discourses, Parent and Virilio in The Oblique Function envisioned an architecture that projected both bodies and buildings back to the ground in the hope of finding in the fall answers to concerns very similar to mine.

(0.1) Manifesto The publications of the Architecture Principe Groupe comprises nine issues. As the president – stained glass artist, self-made urbanist, and philosopher – Paul Virilio (born 1932), sustains that all issues are to be understood as an ongoing manifesto of The Oblique Function [fig.2-10]. In an interview in 1996 he clarifies that the architectural and urban proposals “were simply statements of principle” to illustrate the theory of inhabiting inclined planes (Virilio in Johnston 1996, p. 13). The contributors were the architect Claude Parent (born 1923), the painter Michel Carrade, and the sculptor Morice Lipsi. The latter two, who were actively involved in the detail planning of Architecture Principe's only built project the Chapel Bernadette du Banlay in Nevers (1963), did not participate in the manifesto's theoretical production. Even though responding to the collective name of Architecture Principe Groupe, they still signed each text and drawing as individuals. All nine issues were published throughout the year 1966. The tone of the writing varies according to the issues: some are devoted to documenting specific projects (no. 4: The Nevers Work Site; no. 9: A Blueprint for Charleville), exhibit personal, ongoing enterprises (no. 7: Bunker Archeology),

[fig.11]  Saint  Bernadette  du  Banlay,  Claude  Parent  and  Paul  Virilio  1962-­3



or recompile a series of lectures (no. 8: Power and Imagination). The remaining publications (no. 1: The Oblique Function; no. 2: The Third Order; no. 3: Potentialism; no.5: Habitable Circulation; and, no. 6: The Mediate City) behold the imperative tone that characterises a manifesto proper, and will be analysed in depth in the following investigation.[1] For the thirty year anniversary the 1966’s issues were reprinted including a tenth publication with new contributions by Parent and Virilio as well as by renown architects Bernard Tschumi, Jean Nouvel (a student of both who later worked in Parent’s atelier), Daniel Libeskind, COOP Himmelb(l)au, François Seigneur, and architectural theorist Frédéric Migayrou (Parent and Virilio 1997). In the same year, 1996, an anthology edited by theorist Pamela Johnston was released with interviews and project descriptions (Johnston 1996). These two publications are the only ones devoted exclusively to The Oblique Function in the English language.

(0.2) Form The revival of The Oblique Function in the mid-1990s is contextualised in the so-called ‘digital turn’, characterised by the development of computerised visualisation technologies, computer aided design techniques, and the theorisation of the digital’s potential in architectural discourse. Even though some theorists sustain that The Oblique Function was a deconstructionist architectural forerunner (Leach 1997, p. 358; Ockman 2007, p. 409), I believe it to be closer to Deleuze’s folding than to Derrida’s deconstruction. However, what these two models have in common is the reconceptualisation of the ground as a generative force that is not static but in constant becoming. This, we will see, was already very present in the architectural landscape of the French utopias in the 1960s. Deconstruction might have become an old-fashioned term but the implications of these discourses remain relevant and alive in discussions. The digital images and volumes were translated into architectural discourse either as


The quotes taken from the manifesto can be distinguished throughout the text by the page count in Roman Caps specified in the references.

[fig.12]  Environment   Transformen,  Haus  Rucker  Co   1968

[fig.13]  Ear  on  Arm,  Stelarc  2008



‘liquid architecture’ or as ‘folded architecture’, which had Deleuze’s philosophy of The Fold (‘le pli’) in its theoretical core, and focused on materialising flux, movement, and continuity. The space-time of architecture was then reformulated as a system of events (Rajchman 1997; Solá Morales 1998; Carpo 2004; Stickells 2010). Virilio positively recognises in Greg Lynn, Marcus Novak and Lars Spuybroek a younger generation that has rediscovered the theory of The Oblique Function (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 39). Greg Lynn’s seminal work Folding in Architecture was published firstly in 1993, in which he locates calculus in the centre of architectural research. He conceives it as a tool to translate mathematical abstractions into innovative three-dimensional forms and topological surfaces that aim to illustrate the complex in the continuous (Lynn 2004). Lars Spuybroek (NOX) furthers the combination of discrete states in a general fabric, and complements it. The mathematical perspective, which he holds to be too conjectural, is embedded into a discourse of empathetic and sensual experience (Spuybroek 2009). Furthermore Marcos Novak, who is probably closest to Virilio’s idea of technology, speculates that architecture has lost its power of inscription in favour of a navigable and dynamic ground (Novak 2004). New grounds altogether can be redefined as hybrid territories, in which mathematics, biology, and architecture find a common place of digital expression (Ingraham 2006, p. 28).

(0.3) Soma Hybrid territories suppose hybrid subjects ever since Fukuyama declared the end of humanity in 1989, and left the term ‘post-human’ to an open field of contested interpretations (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 144). In this regard, the discussions held in the 1960s seem to have progressed naturally if we compare for example the work of Haus Rucker Co [fig.12] with Stelarc’s [fig.13]. Progression that has developed from external to dependant, internal prothesis breaching the skin as yet another topological surface. Prosthetic theory in architectural research is being undergone by theorists such as Mark Wigley and Georges Teyssot. Whilst the first examines the his-

[fig.14]  Stability,  Schweder  and  Shelley  2009

[fig.15]  Pavillion  Francais,  Claude  Parent  1970



torical construction of hybridity through orthopaedics (Wigley 1991), the latter focuses on the interface between habitable and habitual in the realm of art, architecture and technology tentatively displaying the complexity of contemporary values (Teyssot 1994; 1996; 2013). Recently in the arts there has been a broader resonance of The Oblique Function in the practice of Alex Schweder and Jaques Bilodeau. Both artists take explicit inspiration from The Pendular Destabiliser No.1, a psycho-physiological and phenomenological experiment Parent and Virilio projected. In line with Teyssot’s concerns, Schweder conceives his practice around the term Performance Architecture [fig.14], in which he critically confronts the notion of the architectural program to the performative script in order to reflect on the way architecture subjects bodies and vice-versa (Schweder 2012). According to Beatriz Colomina the relation between architecture, medicine and war is perceived and intimately connected all through the twentieth century (Colomina 1997). The manifesto’s publication no. 7 Bunker Archaeology being a testimony of that, which was expanded into a book and exhibition in 1975. The bunker motif becoming then centre of debates, and later revived in 1996 in Diller and Scofidio’s Back to the Front: Tourism of War. Furthermore, Bernard Tschumi is probably the most serious theorist of ‘shock’ as a design method. In Architecture and Disjunction, a collection of essays Tschumi wrote during the two decades before the publication of the book in 1998, he starts from the assumption that all architecture is violent towards the body, and that such violence should be recognised, enhanced and consciously incorporated in architecture. His aim was to design events, which would immaterially or cinematographically hold together actions instead of spaces. Borrowing Walter Benjamin’s concept of shock, he asks: “(i)s the experience of architecture something that is meant to defamiliarise – let’s say, a form of ‘art’ – or, on the contrary, is it something that is meant to be comforting, heimlich, homely – something that protects?” (Tschumi 1998, p. 246) What for Tschumi was to be experienced in a visual sequence as in a film or in a shock of images, for Virilio and Parent was to be endured physically. They conceived ‘somatic architecture’, and the question whether it is “a

[fig.16]  Inclined  Plane,  Haus  Rucker  Co  1976

[fig.17]  Glass  Video  Gallery,  Bernard  Tschumi   1990



form of ‘art’” or not will be attempted to be answered here. However, first it is necessary to understand how shock is imbedded in the manifesto and secondly in Virilio’s subsequent writings. Architecture Principe’s work is now reviewed – though not as widely nor deeply as in the 1990’s – in the light of embodiment (Stickells 2010), post-humanity (Harrison 2013), and architecture forensics (Hatherley 2010; Lambert 2014). All of the mentioned theorists describe The Oblique Function by referring to Virilio’s phenomenological studies under the tutelage of Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and his curiosity towards gestalt psychology. Merleau-Ponty (1908-1961) was interested in constructing a phenomenological account of behaviour, and in order to do so he relied on the work of German neurologist and psychiatrist Kurt Goldstein (1878-1965). Goldstein is the missing link that will allow us to comprehend how shock and living are bound, as well as helping us decipher the psycho-physiological analogies and medical vocabulary employed in the manifesto. By thoroughly outlining the organisational aspects of behaviour and the importance of motor activity we will find out how The Oblique Function – or architecture in general – can subvert habitual dwelling schemes. Goldstein’s holistic premise understands the body as an ‘organism’, which, according to Teyssot excludes the idea of a ‘body without organs’, a hypothesis more indebted to Deleuzian philosophy than medicine. Teyssot argues that both explanations are opposites, whilst the first envisions the body in its interiority, singularity and autonomy, the second compromises the singular in its exteriority allowing for a social and political body to appear (Teyssot 1994, p. 32). However in my reading of Goldstein and Virilio, Teyssot’s distinction cannot be sustained as the organism – though singular and autonomous – is in between interior and exterior through its weight, thus in constant becoming. That is why I will analyse – as Goldstein did – the organism through its ability to perform, and the soma as its motor potential. Starting from here, it will be possible to analyse not only Parent and Virilio’s oblique venture in the 1960s but also to implicitly suggest interpretations for more contemporary architecture.


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(0.4) Methods and Structure What Architecture Principe Groupe addressed and how, will be dealt with in the first chapter: The Unstable Condition. Situating The Oblique Function in the broader context will be complemented with architectural references in France from mid-1950s until end-1960s, as well as with canonical modernist endeavours. Standing room only focuses on urban, political and social aspects, and borrows its title from a passage in Pierre Bertaux’s book The Mutation of Mankind, which will be discussed as a testimonial guide. Stand by me describes modes of organisation and referential systems surfacing on definitions of biology, anthropology, and technology. Moreover, it introduces the work of Kurt Goldstein, and deepens into the neurological debate around the turn to the twentieth century. Lastly, Standing on an Old Planet compromises all the categories mentioned above in a rather philosophical account of what happened to the human once it figuratively left planet Earth. The Damaged Condition aims to find out the relation between gravity and the body’s orientation and existence in space-time, as well as its response to extreme conditions of instability or speed. Experiments on Behaviour compares the physiological experiments undergone for air and space travel with Parent and Virilio’s Pendular Destabiliser No. 1. Testimonies of War explores and correlates the pathological as well as gravitational conditions of Goldstein’s clinical studies and Virilio’s Bunkers. Furthermore, Pathologies of Movement will translate the results to everyday experience by interpreting the motor that compelled certain architectural endeavours. Diving into Goldstein’s holistic practice and philosophy in the last part, The Excellent Condition will show how the psycho-physiological findings can be useful to understand the constitution of a somatic architecture. The Habitual and the Milieu will discuss the constitution of habits and their possible transgression through shock, and define their place of action by distinguishing between concepts of isolation and autonomy. Lastly, The Motor Project introduces Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology, and will commit to display the oblique as a liberating behaviour, as well as the potential and spirit of its architecture and theory.

[fig.18]  Urban  Poster,  Claude  Parent  1972

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(1) The Unstable Condition

The state of crisis which is manifestly affecting all human activities, the return to a principle of unity which undermines all classifications (...) point up to the proximity of an event, perhaps an unprecedented one. Historically, we have already observed numerous modifications of societies, but never have we attended the mutation of mankind itself. (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. III)

Paul Virilio opens with a Warning. Without pointing to it clearly in the manifesto, but considering his later production, it becomes evident that behind “the return to a principle of unity” lies the idea of homogenisation through information travelling at the speed of light. Retrospectively, he recalls the 1960s as the decade in which cities became 'tele-topic', i.e. when physical space was exhausted through technologies of mass communication.[2] In a subsequent paragraph he writes that “(t)his fundamental disturbance would then spread over all human activities as a shock wave,” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. III) and the projective tactic they will adopt formally, as well as methodically, is this idea of a shock wave; however twisted, petrified and architectural. In their projects the wave is solidified by the cantilever, which becomes the structural element for the ‘toppling over’ of cities and architectural standards. Fiercely working and inclining the ground in this way, the shock effect is inevitably caused, and The Oblique Function is its theory. But first a further warning: Architecture Principe Groupe's strategy sometimes seems contradictory, as they hold strongly to the concepts they are against (Leach 1999, p. 73), therefore the manifesto is to be read carefully and attentively to not fall into rushed assumptions. However, in order to contextualise The Oblique Function: how can humankind be actually mutating?


In Speed and Politics, Virilio states that: “In the 1960s a mutation occurs: the passage from wartime to the war of peacetime, to that total peace that others still call ‘peaceful coexistence’. The blindness of the speed of means of communicating destruction is not a liberation from geopolitical servitude, but the extermination of space as the field of freedom of political action (...) the more speed increases, the faster freedom decreases” (Virilio, 2007, p.158). Furthermore, Virilio’s definition of ‘tele-topic’ has been combined and compared with Bentham’s Panopticon by architect Marcos Novak as ‘pantopicon’, which is a combination of pan (all) and topos (ground), which “describe[s] the condition of being in all places at one time. (…)” (Novak 2004).

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(1.1) Standing room only In 1963 a book was published in France called La Mutation Humaine. Its author, Pierre Bertaux (1907-1986), had attended the Ecole Normale in the same years as Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, and in 1958 he took up a professorship at the Sorbonne. This coincides with the time in which Paul Virilio was studying Phenomenology with Merleau-Ponty at the College de France (1956-1961). Being immersed in the same academic circles, it is not hard to draw parallels between Bertaux's and Virilio's concerns. Especially when it comes to speed. Virilio, who – after the active participation in the upheavals of the French Universities in 1968 – abandoned architectural praxis, noted that: “(t)he focus of my research, has shifted from topology to dromology, i.e., the study and analysis of the increasing speed of transport and communications on the development of land-use” (Virilio 2007, p. 8). Comparably, Bertaux attempts to construct humankind's history – or its end – through concepts of speed.[3] Historical, demographical, and technological developments are drawn together by an underlying law of speed, which can be represented and predicted through statistics. By paralleling industrial progress and biological evolution, he aims to structure humankind’s past, present and future (Bertaux 1979, p. 16, 101f.). Certainly, not all of Bertaux's argument is pertinent for the manifesto's assumptions, nor is Bertaux a reference in any of Paul Virilio or Claude Parent's writings I have reviewed. Much of what Bertaux took as granted is radically questioned in the defying tone of the publications of the Architecture Principe Groupe. Still, I do believe that the following concerns, as a testimonial of France during the sixties, are of general relevance for the period and the approach, but particularly for the critique placed in The Oblique Function. The resemblance becomes specially evident when Bertaux opens the Ninth Bergedorfer Gesprächskreis in 1963, saying “(m)y thesis is that this


In the 1980s, in order to explain the acceleration of history, speed became the topic of theorisation. For more information see: Looking Back on the End of the World, symposia held in 1986, with contributions by Virilio, Baudrilliard, Kamper, et. al., who discussed it vigorously. Three years later Fukuyama published his famous essay: The End of History? Found at: The National Interest, Summer 1989. [online] Available: discussion_2006/ref1-22june06.pdf [accessed: 30.08.2015]

[fig.19,20]  Ende  der  Geschichte,  Pierre  Bertaux  1979

[fig.21]  Les  Vagues,  Claude  Parent  and  Paul  Virilio  1966

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big event deals with a mutation of mankind, and it is to be understood as a biological mutation”.[4] Bertaux's book places humankind as another species in the evolutionary chain, and argues that anticipating the future plays a decisive role in its constitution.[5] With biological, chemical and zoological analogies, he argues that mutation does not have to mean a morphological change in the anatomical construction of the human, but can also be of a techno-social nature (Bertaux 1979, p. 99f.). Having said that, his main concern is demographic growth and the extending of cities beyond sustainable limits.[6] The event he prognosticates is traced to the meeting of the exponential curves of both, population growth, and exhaustion of human resources. Where to house the increasing population of Paris was one of the recurrent topics addressed in most contemporaneous discussions. When Charles de Gaulle was re-elected in 1958 a change in the public policies became readable in the suburban skyline. Mass housing projects, ‘the grand ensembles’, were colonising the Parisian periphery, and soon addressed as ghettos for their socially segregating consequences (Busbea 2007, p. 114f.). In Claude Parent's words: “Charles de Gaulle once said that the French were like cattle, meaning that we’re content to remain neutral towards our surroundings because we want nothing more than a tranquil homelife. All apartments here tend to look alike” (Mostafavi and Scalbert 1996, p. 52). Architecture Principe's mission on the urban scale – and this can be said for most of the french utopias of that time – is to stop this event from happening. Accordingly, they demand “to construct on a superior scale for huge population masses; [and] to avoid at all price that these masses smother the lithospheric tissue of the planet” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. VIII). In this light the initial concrete wave specula-


"Meine These ist nun, dass es sich bei diesem großen Ereignis um eine Mutation der Meschheit handelt, und zwar eine Mutation im biologischen Sinne des Wortes" (Bertaux 1963, p. 2; my translation and italics).


Pierre Bertaux constructs his argument around the writings of Teilhard de Chardin who was a French theologist: "(e)in neues, noch nicht katalogisiertes, aber äußerst wichtiges Element: der homo progressivus, wie man ihn nennen könnte, ein Menschentyp, dem die Zukunft der Erde wichtiger ist als die Gegenwart" he quotes (Chardin quoted in Bertaux 1979, p. 71).


“Our planet will have standing room only”, Bertaux quotes Isaac Asimov (Bertaux 1979, p. 104).

[fig.22]  Nautacite,  Claude  Parent  and  Paul  Virilio  1966

[fig.23]  Modular  slopes,  Claude  Parent  and  Paul  Virilio  1966

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tively resembles another type of exponential function, a revolutionary, solid architectural curve as represented in Les Vagues [fig.22] or Nautacité. The toppling over of the high rise is to be understood literary. By tilting the mass housing ensembles they enabled for communication between the levels. Hence, obliqueness becomes the third urban order for human grouping [fig.23]. Horizontality, as the first mode of urbanisation, is unsatisfying because of the colonisation of the ground. Verticality, as the second mode, is critical because of (a) the stacking of isolated dwelling cells, and (b) the invention of the elevator, which they argued, replaced a ‘reactive urbanism’ with an ‘urbanism of servitude’ (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. V; Virilio 1996, p. 12). According to Virilio, “(t)he population mass has reached a density so high that it has become an unimaginable force of inertia” (Virilio 1997, p. IX). Bertaux moreover raises the bet and states that an increase in the population leads to the loss of one's individuality, i.e. collective domestication (Bertaux 1979, p. 13). To prove this point in a biological frame he explains the functioning of unicellular organisms (e.g. slime mould), which are individual and free whilst having enough space, but become choreographed, coordinated and predictable when densely populated (Bertaux 1979, p. 93). Architecture Principe fights such analogies or sociologic tendencies like this: Faced with the uncertainty of the psyche, the disquiet and anguish, collective fear, the advent of violence, architecture must work to topple over mentality (...) Architecture must never be neutral or undetermined. It must be active, the human in architecture must be constantly concerned, must participate in an activity or a show. (...) Architecture in its process of creation must not develop through accumulation, juxtaposition, or addition of the basic cellular element. (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. IV)

They were not the only collective to encourage architecture to become part of the city as a show. Mass media, mass production and consumption of lifestyle equipment, as well as technology and cybernetics informing habitation schemes, were creatively and critically translated into architectural visions. These tumultuous and edgy times were a fertile ground for intellectual bonding and the writing of manifestos. Amongst them were the Situationist International, who critically addressed the alienation of the spectacle caused by the newly introduced commodities in the domestic – mainly the televi-

[fig.25] Instant  City,  Tuned  Suburb,  Archigram   1968

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sion. In their manifesto written in 1960 they devised playful strategies for rediscovering the city in what they called ‘unitary urbanism’. Singular situations spread in the existing urban tissue, would create a continuos fabric of interaction between architecture and inhabitant. Inspired by the neo-marxist theorist Henri Lefebvre, they approached the city through a drifting method (‘dérive’), which subverted the capitalist spectacle by walking around muddle-headed. What they fostered was a psycho-geographical layer for the reading of the city (Schaik and Mácel 2010, p. 44).

(1.2) Stand by me The basis for human interaction, understanding and coexistence is constituted in referential systems. If the living is organised – and, if not, how is it before? – it means that it constitutes a biological time-space whole. In other words, it frames an enclosed inside and a surrounding outside, and the referential system constantly translates the informational exchanges between them, between the individual and the world. Plainly said, because of a referential system we humans can construct relations, accordingly make decisions, and be physical, social, political, nice, tolerant, aggressive, and so on. According to Bertaux it is such a system, which owns the domesticating power and therefore demands careful attention (Bertaux 1979, p. 97ff.). The mentioned unicellular organism seems to be now a rather flat example, albeit the space in that particular case remains abstract. It stands merely as a metaphoric representation of human settlement and expansion according to organic cellular growth, which were very inspiring indeed for scholars – specially architects who focused on the morphological aspects – during that period (Ingraham 2006, p. 230). However, what is important to illustrate now is if, what, and how the environment or architecture play an essential role in human mutation. Thus, if humanity is unable to organise itself organically, it does so mechanically, or at least that is Bertaux's argument. He states: “(m)aybe the machinelike thinking will free us from our own fossil referential system, and for the beginning, at least, foster awareness and understandabili-

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ty about our own relativity”.[7] The mechanical interpretation he supplies, e.g. “it is a characteristic of the homo sapiens to replace organic functions with those in which the organ is aided by a tool or even substituted by it”,[8] is a sociological and anthropological explanation of the problem. We can echo such thoughts in Leroi Gourhan's writing. As he said in Gesture and Speech: “The hand, already formed in the monkey, stops changing (except for purposes of neuro-motor adaptation) from the moment it begins to hold a tool” (Leroi Gourhan 1993, p. 271). Tools, in other words, mechanic extensions of the human body, or – how Virilio calls them – protheses, cannot be considered the drive of a somatic architecture. Leroi Gourhan's exception is already an interesting starting point to continue analysing The Oblique Function, because it is in the neurological explanations of movement and behaviour to find answers.[9]

(1.2.1) Organic and Mechanic Organisation Between 1850-1900 the wide spread assumption was that the brain functioned ‘mosaic-like’, very much as a machine, where the damaged parts can be isolated and treated. ‘The Cartesian body’ or ‘the object body’, as it is defined, was then seen as a reactive machine or a blueprint constituted by an immutable network – the nervous system – of connectors and centres, which responded or explained each symptom in the anatomy of indefinite patients, i.e. for each symptom there was a diagnosis, and for every stimuli a definite reflex (Leder 1984, p. 29). The popular use of maps of the brain earned these physicians (Wernicke, Broca, Dax, to name a few) the name ‘dia-


"Vielleicht wird ihm das maschinelle Denken den Ausweg aus dem eigenen, fossilen Bezugssystem zeigen und für den Anfang wenigstens die Erkenntnis und das Verständnis von dessen Relativität verschaffen. Das organische Denken kann zum Beispiel praktisch nur mit einer Zeitdimension arbeiten. Diese Begrenzung kennt die Maschine nicht. Sie könnte mit beliebig vielen Zeitstrukturen operieren." (Bertaux 1979, p. 83f.; my translation).


“Doch gerade das Ergebnis der zeitlich letzten Mutation, der homo sapiens, zeichnet sich dadurch aus, dass er bisher ausschliesslich organische Funktionen durch solche ersetzt, bei denen ein Werkzeug dem Organ zu Hilfe kommt oder es gar ablöst” (Bertaux 1979, p. 99f.; my translation).


Neuro-motor adaptation has various definitions in anatomy, one of them can be explained through the functioning of the nervous system as a figure-background relation, which will be discussed later.

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gram makers’. In response to this, Kurt Goldstein asked “[what] if the human brain is different from a machine?” (Goldstein 2000, p. 203; Harrington 1998, p. 27ff.). By the turn of the century physicians were formulating new ways of understanding the nervous system. Against reflex theory, Charles Scott Sherrington (1857-1952) coined in 1906 the term synergy, which supposed that one single reflex was an analytic construction and for that unreal whilst the sum of all reflexes proved to be a coordinated reality (Roy 1997, p. 25). Furthermore, Jakob von Uexküll (1864-1944) devised a more dynamic functioning of nervous activity in what he called the Tonustal, where the excitation resembled a flow finding its way of expression in the most direct path. Goldstein was much more inclined in furthering this second approach, as Sherrington in his view was still operating under an atomistic preconception (Goldstein 2000, p. 86f.). Goldstein studied the organism in its individual nature. His methodology was primarily holistic, which he developed according to concepts of performance and orderliness (Goldstein 2000, p. 361). His work was embedded in the emerging fields of phenomenology, existentialism and gestalt psychology. Opposed to ‘the object body’, the apprehension of experience and intention towards a world, was intellectualised in ‘the lived body’ (Leder 1984, p. 30ff.). In parallel, 1853 to be exact, the word 'machine' entered architectural discourse spoken by Adolphe Lance. For the Encyclopédie d'architecture he wrote: A house is an instrument, it is a machine, so to speak, which not only serves as shelter to man, but must, as much as is possible, submit to all his needs according to his actions and multiply the results of his work. Industrial buildings, factories, plants of all sorts are in this respect nearly perfect models and worthy of imitation. (Lance quoted in Teyssot 1996a)

It would take some decades though for architecture to fully engage with technology.[10] Once it did, it became the hard core of the modernist agenda. In 1914 the futurist’s manifesto read “the futurist’s house must be like a huge machine”.[11] 10.

It has been contrarily suggested by Catherine Ingraham that architectural modernity has a longer tradition than biological modernity. According to her, the first starts in the Renaissance with the invention of perspective instead of the rise of the machine (Ingraham 2006).


“das futuristische Haus muss wie eine riesige Maschine sein” (Conrads 2013, p. 32; my translation).

[fig.26]  The  Endless  House,  Frederick  Kiesler   1947-­61

[fig.27]  City  in  Space,   Frederick  Kiesler  1925

[fig.28]  L’hotel  en  Corse,  Claude  Parent  and   Mannoni  1963

[fig.29]  Décor  pour  la   pièce  de  théâtre  les   Oiseaux,  Claude  Parent   1961

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Seven years later, Le Corbusier formalised “the house as a machine for living” in the pages of L'esprit Nouveau, and was followed by the Bauhaus's dwelling experiments shortly after.[12] Nevertheless, within the modernist movement Frederick Kiesler “proposed an organic architecture of the living machine (and not a machine for living)” (Phillips 2010, p. 104). The house therefore becoming an organism itself. Through a biotechnological approach and physiological research, he actively involved the body in its environment, appropriating the term ‘psycho-function’ for architecture (Colomina 1997, p. 235). This, Virilio commemorates: “(e)verybody loves the ramp-like construction of Frederick Kiesler's Endless House. Why? Precisely because it's the dancer. That's the logic we adhered to. We were not Corbusians” (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 37) [fig.26]. Kiesler started his career in stage design, conceiving innovative, inspiring theatre expositions in the from the 1920s on in Europe and in the United States. A few decades later Virilio built the scenography for some of Sartre’s plays (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 31; Redhead 2005, p. 43). Also, Claude Parent was commissioned to design for a play in which he incorporated a neo-plastic sculpture by Andre Bloc in a dynamic stage composition [fig.29] reminiscing Kiesler’s ‘electromechanical’ stage (Migayrou and Rambert 2010, p. 118). Furthermore, Critical Modernity is the tag Claude Parent gives to Architecture Principe's practice. He insists on the radicalisation of forms – instead of language as the post-modernist would – to save architecture from industrial standardisation and mass construction (Parent 1996, p. 17). In this regard, Parent is much more inclined towards Frank Lloyd Wright – which might be obvious given the ramp-like heaven in the Guggenheim Museum – who acknowledged that buildings should be made by machines but yet no two homes should be alike (Carpo 2004, p. 18). However, modular construction and standard sizes, for example, are a halfway commitment between


Beatriz Colomina in The Medical Body in Modern Architecture, explored the relation between modern architecture and medical research. It is well known that health and gymnastics played a substantial role in the modernist agenda, but their impact is sometimes overlooked. Her thesis is that “Architects like Le Corbusier and his colleagues actively redesigned the body with their architecture rather than housing or symbolising it” (Colomina 1997, p. 235). Hence, a new spirit requires a new body .

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the building’s ageing and one or many people’s lives. Flexibility can be either architecture’s enemy or ally. But there is a difference to make between flexible assemblage and flexible use. Parent is not against the latter, living on oblique planes should not compromise programmatic flexibility but rather motivate creative dwelling. In unison, for the architecture theorist John Rajchman, the empty house with the least specifities is not to be regarded as the one with the most possibilities. It is rather the virtual house – virtual as potential and not as tacit – which in “(i)ts arrangement or disposition allows for the greatest number of singular points (...) it is because it is a dynamic space prior to any qualifications (…) Thus it inserts chance where there was only probability.” (Rajchman 1997, p. 119)

(1.2.2) Topological and Cybernetic Organisation In the midst of the twentieth century, cybernetics became a proper, recognised scientific field. Its cornerstones information and control, which are shyly mentioned by Bertaux as new ways of organisation (Bertaux 1979, p. 87), would be later extensively examined by Virilio. He understands cybernetics as the ubiquitous reign of technology over politics, society, and the human being (Armitage 2013, p.57). For architecture he frames its implications in the famous essay The Overexposed City of 1984: It is too easily forgotten that more than being an ensemble techniques designed to shelter us from inclemency, architecture is an instrument of measure (...) This ‘geodesic’ capacity of defining a unity of time and place for activities now enters into open conflict with the structural capacities of mass communication. (Virilio 1998, p. 548)

Why? Because the faster information travels, the more controllable action becomes, and the ‘exhaustion of the physical’ seems inevitable. This quote not only crystallises what behind The Oblique Function is the ambition to reconquer the physical terrain “architecture as measure” is necessarily embedded in, but also the (utopian) confidence in the discipline. So, how can architecture improve the organisation of the species? Or, better, how can it adapt, not only unharmed but proud and victorious?

[fig.30]  Seuil  de  rétablissement,  Claude  Parent  and  Paul  Virilio  1967

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Firstly: formally. Architecture Principe fought the disintegration of the human terrain erupting from the ground powerfully. Inspired by the metaphor of the wave, Parent based his life’s work on reproducing their apparent movement towards the shore. Even though the waves are seemingly approaching the beach, the waters move up and down, continuously folding in a rhythmic score directed by the forces of the Universe (Parent 1998). That is the illusion Claude Parent conceptualises as fracture. It is not to be misinterpreted as a break in the continuity, which most of his contemporaries did, but it is a scission that enables continuity to appear.[13] Like the wave that grows and breaks to unite with the sea (Obrist and Parent 2003, p. 345). Horizontal planes were not forbidden, they were encouraged to emphasise the breaks and constitute a threshold. Inspired by Rene Thom’s studies (1950-1970), topology proved to be the proper solution for the materialisation of space-time, as well as to combine fluid and solid. As mentioned before, their chosen material was concrete, a liquid rock. Treating the ground sculpturally, they made an “aerial scanning consciousness of place” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. I) possible, which subverted modern, euclidean, partitioned space. Thus, a succession of linear events – dwelling on stacked boxes – was transformed into a simultaneous unfolding of events (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 83ff). Notwithstanding, the mathematics of topology can also be interpreted architecturally in the labyrinth, i.e. as a set of rules of connections and prohibitions (Teyssot 2013, p. 203). The Situationist’s architecture, i.e. Constant’s New Babylon [fig.31], built on this idea of the labyrinth, in which “every space is temporary, nothing is


Parent writes in a small text in the manifesto called Waves that “(e)ach wave attacks its complementary element in curving ascension, without ever reaching it. Between them there is an oblique void, a ‘fault’ linking the two toppled cliffs" (Parent 1997, p. VII). I believe him to be directly inspired by Merleau-Ponty when he wrote in The Structure of Behaviour: “A wave is not an individual except for the man who regards it and sees it advancing toward him; in the sea it is nothing but the successive vertical rising of portions of the water without any horizontal transference of matter” (Merleau-Ponty 1967, p. 8) However, 22 years after the publication of the manifesto, Deleuze in his most architectural essay The Fold writes: "The perfect harmony of the scission, or the resolution of tension, is effected by the distribution of two stories, which both belong to one and the same world (…) The infinite fold thus passes between two stories. But in differentiating itself, it swarms over both sides: the fold differentiates itself into folds, which insinuate themselves into the interior and overflow onto the exterior, articulating themselves into the high and the low" (Deleuze and Strauss 1991, p. 243). We continue to understand how The Oblique Function has been taken up by liquid architecture.

[fig.31]  New  Babylon,  Constant  1963

[fig.32]  Habitable   Circulation,  Claude  Parent   and  Paul  Virilio  1966

[fig.33]  Paris  Spatial,  Yona  Friedman  1960

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recognisable, everything is discovery, everything changes, nothing can serve as a landmark” (Constant quoted in McCaffery 2003, p. 121f.). The most notably conceptional difference between New Babylon and The Oblique Function, is conceived in the landmark. Whilst Constant awarded architecture a secondary role in favour of the inhabitant’s desires and drives, as a ‘psycho-analytic architecture’ might endorse, Virilio and Parent were dogmatic advocates of form and monumentality. Parent at that time was very much influenced by his friend and collaborator André Bloc, who strongly believed in and promoted the integration of architecture and sculpture. He was the editor of L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui, founder of the Groupe Espace in the early 1950s, and had worked in Le Corbusier’s office where he met Parent (Ockman 2007, p. 408). Secondly: phenomenologically. “The natural dynamic of this situation [obliqueness] will achieve what social theories failed to accomplish: the invention of a new society at the level of individual behaviour” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. X). Living on slopes – the habitable circulations [fig.32] – were to activate the ‘last metabolic vehicle’ (the soma) by constantly working against the neutrality and sublimation of the inhabitant. Planes on which the body cannot move are useless, therefore uniting floor and wall in obliqueness have the advantage to dissuade consumerist accumulation in favour of the somatic. Virilio in an exaggerating manner sustains that the usable surface of an exemplary inclined dwelling increases from thirty to ninety square feet (but certainly without considering the one unavoidable dead angle) (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 14f., 33). In Paris and other European capitals, ‘architecture mobile’ was the avantgarde consensus, which was triggered by Team 10’s critique towards modernist urbanism as exposed in the CIAM conferences (Ockman 2007, p. 408). In France this tendency was formalised by The Spatialist, who grouped firstly in the GEAM (groupe d'études d'architecture mobile), led by Yona Friedman. They envisioned a mobile architecture [fig.33] that would be as undetermined as the structure would allow, in order to permit maximum flexibility to accommodate the inhabitant's needs and desires (Conrads 2013, p. 160). Constant, who was a member of the group for a short

[fig.34]  Suspending  City,  Paul  Maymont  1960

[fig.35]  Paris  sous  la  Seine,  Paul  Maymont  1960

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time, proved to be very influential. Ever thinner structures densified the city by spreading a multi-layered scaffolding, i.e. an ubiquitous grid, which preserved the existing urban fabric, and encouraged urban centralisation. Whilst most of the Spatialist’s projects remained suspended above the ground, Paul Maymont – regardless of his Suspending City [fig.34] – devised an underground infrastructure called Paris sous la Seine [fig.35], which was three to four metres below the water of the river Seine, and accommodated fourteen lanes of traffic, parking, public and private spaces. This ‘linear city’, as Maymont called it, connected the centre of Paris with the system of peripheral highways (Busbea 2007, p.123ff., 140). In conclusion, ground zero was, informally speaking, ‘off limits’. Through grids and parabolas, architecture was dematerialised and elementarily reassembled as a network, where information from the environment or the people could be constantly re-inscribed or re-assembled (Rajchman 1997, p. 82). The ambitions of the GEAM were later consolidated in the quite heterogeneous and continental GIAP (Groupe International d'Architecture Prospective). Amongst its members were two of Claude Parent's former collaborators Ionel Schein and Nicolas Schöffer, and, surprisingly, himself. The labyrinth described above as a set of rules of connections and prohibitions, seems now to work as a spatial model to incorporate cybernetic methodology and terminology into the architectural landscape. Thus, Virilio argues: In a world in which everything is transformed: the object into energy, the point into path, we can no longer dissociate habitation from circulation. Henceforth these two tendencies will oppose one another: either render ‘architecture mobile’ or ‘circulation habitable’. (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. IX)

Respectively, phenomenology was the path Architecture Principe Groupe had to rediscover not only to resist the ubiquitous forces of technology but also to maintain the eminence of the profession (Busbea 2007, p. 166), and not confuse architecture with its opposite mobility (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. IXf.).

[fig.36]  Cover  of  Bertaux’s  The  Mutation  of   Mankind  1964

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(1.3) Standing on an old planet A demographic focal point, a pole of autonomous fixation, for the colonisation of the earth. (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. IV)

Mobile architecture, especially in Britain, was also inspired by a machine. In fact, the next one in order of colonisation: the space capsule. The scientific certainty of the existence – not only existence but multiplicity! – of life in outer space, suddenly questioned the integrity of human intelligence as well as human dwelling schemes. In 1946 the first images of the earth were published, despite the fact that they revealed its sphericity, they were too close to actually cause dissociation. That would be a process ongoing all through the 1960s. It started in 1959, when the American satellite Explorer VI broadcasted images of the earth at 19500 miles height, and when the unmanned Luna 2 Mission, casted by the Soviet Union, reached the surface of the moon (Asendorf 1997, p. 311ff.). In addition, in 1967 The Whole Earth Catalogue was published. The image of its cover, on the one hand showed the wholeness of the system, Mother Earth; and on the other hand, showed the last common ground, the atmosphere left behind. In my opinion, this initial confrontation with outer space ended in 1969, when the first manned mission, United States' Apollo 11, landed on the moon. During this decade, a spatial revolution was taking place. This term, originally Raumrevolution, borrowed from the German jurist and philosopher Carl Schmitt, outlines that the conquest of all space goes hand in hand with a revolution in the world views and by that challenges the historical existence of men. But what was tainted with optimism in Schmitt's argument, because of the successful military expansion of the NS-Regime in the beginning of the 1940s (Asendorf 1997, p. 260ff.), is catastrophic to Virilio's eyes. In the article Vitesse, Vieillesse du Monde (1991), he specifically addresses the loss of referential systems in light of astrophysical travel (astronomy as astronomical intrinsically referring to revolution). The polarity between ‘scale giving’ and ‘scale losing’ – in German more likely: Maßgabe and Maßlosigkeit – might be clarified by Virilio’s interpretation of the event of man landing on the moon. On the one hand, what was striking were not the images of earth from afar but the simultaneity of

[fig.37]  Électricité,  Man  Ray  1931

[fig.38]  Scene  from  Pillow  Talk  directed  by   Michael  Gordon  1959

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being able to look at the moon out the window, at the same time as empathically walking it on the television screen. On the other hand, Virilio recalls Armstrong's words ‘altitude zero’ while mastering the final manoeuvre. Height, as a measure of distance, became completely abstract. However, the earthly audience still thought of the moon as either being high or low (Virilio 1990, p. 3). The loss of scale, the dissociation between action and reaction, the simultaneity of distant happenings – in addition to ever faster transportation – shows that the earth is not only not moving, but shrinking. Gaining a second ground meant that the earth had to be redefined. In that sense, Virilio takes up a critical reading of his philosophical guide, Edmund Husserl (1859-1938). If phenomenology is concerned in how things are experienced, the earth cannot move, as it is the stable ground that actually affords perception by constituting the somatic being. Thus, it enables movement to appear. Earth is no longer place but origin: a mother, an ark, a spaceship in itself. It has to be symbolised as such and becomes, therefore, a virtual ground zero. Humans shift from beings to terrestrial beings, i.e. that they carry earth within their definition (Günzel 2003, p. 16f.). Now, in a consciousness of space that extends infinitely beyond the limits of the atmosphere, Virilio asks: “am I the earth, am I the human-planet?”.[14] The planetary being, moving or still in space, loses its references, there is no time, nor placements, or displacements for that matter (Virilio 1990, p. 4). This is the crucial moment in which Virilio left architectural practice, and it can be argued that it is just indirectly related to the The Oblique Function’s manifesto, which was written before. However, I hold that first of all the authors were immersed in this transitional times, and that their speculations were projective; and secondly that their architectural strategy becomes the more clearer by contrast. In 1977, a film made by two architects, Charles and Ray Eames’ Powers of Ten, would beautifully (frighteningly) summarise the revolution set in motion with the


"Je suis la Terre, je suis l’homme-planète?" (Virilio 1990, p. 9; my translation).

[fig.39]  Still  from  Powers  of  10,  Charles  and   Ray  Eames  1977

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first satellite images. Still holding the human in the centre, the frames travel from galaxies to tiny cellular organisms [fig.39]. The relativity of the human being was determined by the scale of the framework’s projective instrumentality; from the microscope to the telescope and back. The frame – a word that might be used as a synonym to body – earns a hostile connotation when used simultaneously as a visual prothesis (Teyssot 2013, p. 245). For Virilio they act not only in space but in transforming ‘time-space’ into ‘speed-space’, which he regards as different forms of reality. According to him, putting frames together in film made a passage from extensive to intensive time possible, where the notions of here and there are no longer distinct. It is not that the footage is not real, but that the speed (of the cinematographic motor) in editing and filming is, and by that shapes and controls perception (Armitage 2013, p. 173; Virilio 1991, p. 15). He noted: To say today that speed is obsolete is an untruth as obvious as that which consists in praising slowness. Hughes was already aping our technical future: the abandonment of the vehicular speed of bodies for the strangely impressive one of light vectors, the internment of bodies is no longer in the cinematic cell of travel but in a cell outside of time, which would be an electronic terminal where we’d leave it up to the instruments to organise our most intimate vital rhythms, without ever changing position ourselves, the authority of electronic automatism reducing our will to zero... somehow the vision of light moving on a screen would have replaced all personal movement. (Virilio 1991, p. 104)

Howard Hughes (1905-1976), an US-american magnate of film and air travel, is probably the most intriguing character of the twentieth century for Virilio. Hughes, after leading an excessively glamorous life, secluded himself in the same room but in different places. That narrow cell was equipped with a bed, a telephone, a projector, and a screen. Furthermore, he refused to wear a watch. For Hughes “to be is not to inhabit”, he wanted to be present everywhere and nowhere at the same time, i.e. that he aimed to distribute his perception and action upon the world (Virilio 1991, p. 25ff.). Virilio calls him a ‘technological monk’ and with immense skepticism he observes how Hughes’ mode of living is spreading as a disease thus its syndrome is technological confinement. Architecture Principe Groupe turned to the difficult task to, through ar-

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chitecture, reinvent the human as ‘being situated’ in difference to being present.[15] As well as to fight the disintegration of the geophysical environment, to demand the potential of the flesh, and to attack ‘behavioural inertia’ of an inactive body freed of its environment (Virilio 1990, p. 5; Armitage 2013, p. 141).


According to Merleau-Ponty: “...our primordial encounter with being, and that being is synonymous with being situated.” (Merleau-Ponty 2005, p. 294)

[fig.40]  Mystery  Spot

[fig.41]  Biotechnical   Motion  Study,  Frederick   Kiesler  

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(2) The Damaged Condition

The space of the body necessarily draws from the stability of the environment to be a body in space. In order to do so, the organism develops a referential system with a sense of orientation and of location, which are bound primarily to gravity. In 1908 the term ‘body schema’ (Körperschema) was introduced by Ludwig Pick, back then it suggested that the mental image of the body helps as a coordinating system for any spatial experience. Three years later the term was adopted by Henry Head and Gordon Morgan Holmes, who first called it a ‘postural scheme’. As Kurt Goldstein, they started observing patients with cerebellar dysfunctions. The body schema became a model to understand and register the functional changes through movement and environmental exchange (Asendorf 1997, p. 159), or as Head and Holmes expressed it, the body schemas are "organised models of ourselves" (Head and Holmes 1911, p. 189). We are kept in the dark about the physiological information our body produces when accommodating to the environment as these processes remain unconscious. To actually grasp the relation of the body in space we have to draw on notions of posture, force and orientation by paying attention and changing positions. In those situations we become aware of the primary part of the body that completes the action, whilst the rest of the body fades into oblivion. Conventionally, standing and not falling – gravity as a reference – enables the spatial separation between vertical and horizontal directions, as well as up and down, right or left. This is known as kinaesthesia, from the greek ‘to move’ and ‘sensation’, or as the dancer Rudolf von Laban called it ‘Kinaesphaere’, who defined it in the volume of the sphere, which frames and at the same time renders all movements of muscles and joints (Laban 2010, p. 21). Moreover, the ‘spatial schema’ incorporates the projection distances between the sensing organs and the environment. In an increasing scale of proximity those would be: mouth, hand, and eyes (Asendorf 1997, p. 160). Architects and artists recurrently

[fig.42]  Pendular  Destabiliser  No.1,  Claude  Parent  and  Paul  Virilio  1968

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felt the need to define it anew in order to orient and distribute spatial elements and attributes in their projects [fig.41]. All the mentioned definitions take the body’s uprightness for granted as a perpendicular force to the ground, but what happens when the normal force is decomposed by an oblique ground? And how do the spatial and postural schemes of the body change in relation to gravity? What are the somatic consequences of instability?

(2.1) Experiments on Behaviour Just like Howard Hughes, Virilio and Parent wanted to lock themselves up. Yet it was not a lifestyle joke but a serious medical experiment they wanted to undertake in order to prove that the oblique was, above all, habitable. For that they designed The Pendular Destabiliser No.1 [fig.42], which was a twofold cabin raised twelve – or sixteen depending on the interview – metres above the ground with a system of angulation to test the most appropriate radiuses for habitation. Anyway, Parent later recognised “there is no ideal oblique angle!” (Mostafavi and Scalbert 1996, p. 55; Parent 2012, p. 133). Experiments for testing the body’s reaction under special gravitational circumstances have a long history related to air-flight and space-travel. Before and during the World War I flight simulators started to be designed to improve the performance and accuracy of pilots, and after World War II the experiments expanded to send the human to space. They were preparing the body for (a) the loss of gravity, and for (b) the incredible speed required for travel, which was the concern from early on. The aim of these experiments is to intensely practice the behaviour the organism has to endure in order to adapt to a new environment and fulfil a mission. How to live in space has to be learnt on earth, even though these circumstances are the most unreal for it. The incredible speed of rotation of the earth (300 km/sec) remains unnoticed because the surrounding atmosphere moves along with it and keeps the gravitational attraction from dissipating (Müller 1967, p. 169ff.), somehow imaginatively like the Kinaesphare. With the purpose of testing the physiological and physical consequences, the aviator

[fig.43]  Human  Centrifugue  

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swivel chair and the centrifuge were designed or appropriated. Originally, the centrifuge was conceived for psychiatrical use in 1794 to combat sleeplessness. The patients had to endure five times their weight tied up to a turning wheel. However, it was not until 1918 that it was adopted in flight simulators to assure the clear judgement of the pilot in extreme conditions. Finally in 1930 the flight simulator was patented as such, and seven years later distributed. The advertisement read “an efficient aeronautical training aid – a novel profitable amusement device.” (Link quoted in Asendorf 1997, p. 198) The early flight simulators consisted of an isolated cabin, which incorporated the instrumental equipment connected to a pneumatic system holding the cabin itself. At that time, crazy, abrupt movements and views were neglected in favour of the accuracy of the instruments. Televisual systems and later computer generated images ended up compensating for the missing sensory data (Asendorf 1997, p. 196ff.). In 1967 – one year before the oblique experiment was supposed to be taking place at the campus of the University of Nanterre – the specialist for space flight medicine Bruno Müller writes that the centrifuge [fig.43] was at the point of making the training astronauts tolerate twelve to fifteen times their weight. This responds to the exceptional acceleration rate the rocket develops when trespassing the stratosphere. Internal organs are then almost moving freely inside the skeleton frame making it extremely hard for the organism to achieve physiological equilibrium (Müller 1967, p. 170). Once surpassed, up and down in space stop being references for the orientation of the body, and the vestibular apparatus, which is the organ in the inner ear that attains balance, becomes obsolete. In performing a flight a combination of the vestibular apparatus and sight are crucial to complete the manoeuvres of take-off and touchdown, i.e. the relation between the seen horizon and the felt movement.[16] In floating however information is produced almost exclusively by the visual spectacle, thus


I formulate ‘performing a flight’ because according to Müller’s neurological explanation, flying is a combination of the vestibular system, sight, as well as proprioceptive and exteroceptive reflexes. Goldstein however does not embrace the definition of (re)actions in reflexes, and sees them as performances. The proprioceptive and exteroceptive reflexes, in this case, mean processes of self regulation of the organism in movement (Goldstein 2000, p. 142).

[fig.44]  Gravity  Zero  Simulator  

[fig.45,46]  Pendular  Destabiliser  No.1,  Claude   Parent  and  Paul  Virilio  1968

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turning the coordination of movements into something that has to be heavily trained. In this regard, longterm space habitats are designed to recreate the rotational speed of the earth in order to technically overcome the loss of gravity (Müller 1967, p. 234, 257f.). To lure the up and down was tested in a pool as well as in gravity-zero-simulators [fig.44]. The Pendular Destabiliser No.1 was re-enacting the flight simulator but as a ground simulator. The experiment was conceived as “a ‘centrifuge’ to study inclines”, in order to examine the behavioural changes due to movement, gravity and ‘ponderal mass’ for a month. “This is something that should exist more in architecture anyway, tests,” Virilio claims; and reasonably they included medical vocabulary such as ponderal mass, and apparatuses such as the centrifuge in their discourse (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 42, 44). The oblique experiment, consisted of two mirrored capsules with projected variable slopes of 30, 40 and even 60 percent as shown in the architectural plans [fig.45,46]. Although it was a psycho-physiological experiment, it was no centrifuge because the point was for the body not to be tied up but moving, becoming centrifugal itself. Instead of proving what the body could endure, it was designed to show what the soma could accomplish. In the hermetic, controlled space capsule and costume – as well as in any automobile – the organism is safe from the consequences of speed as long as it remains constant, their shells respond therefore to the laws of aerodynamics. The Pendular Destabiliser No.1 is however an aerostatic design. Furthermore, isolation as a means also played an important role. Unattached from the world – no telephone, no post – they counted on a little window between the capsules to communicate to each other (Mostafavi and Scalbert 1996, p. 55). They were influenced by Michel Siffre’s ventures, who in 1962 withdrew for two months into an underground cave in southern France. Either to test the consequences of living in an atom-bomb shelter or in the confinement of outer space,[17] the point was to test


In Siffre’s book Beyond Time, he states that “humans first sheltered in caves, and in this century of progress it looks as though they might end up back there”. Later on, Siffre’s experiments were used

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how and to which extent physiological rhythms and time cycles were altered (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 41; Parent 2012, p. 131). Without renouncing to clinical supervision, electrodes and monitoring, Virilio and Parent had arrange to cooperate with the University’s medical and sociological departments. The plans for the structure were approved, the site chosen, but the student’s upheaval of May 1968 with its epicentre in Nanterre, marked the end of the experiment before starting by the university’s authorities, as well as the conclusion of the partnership between Virilio and Parent. Due to irreconcilable political standpoints their professional and personal paths separated (Redhead 2005, p. 12).

(2.2) Testimonies of War Kurt Goldstein's studies combined gestalt theory, neurology and phenomenology. The same as Virilio, he was a devoted reader of Husserl. His findings became relevant to understand bodily procedures of perceiving and behaving that were not evident to, or escaped the normal eye. Against common thought, he is not to be depicted as a ‘Gestaltist’ since he exclusively uses clinical methods with phenomenology as a supplement to his interpretations (Goldstein 1971, p. 10). He particularly focused on the way the body or the organism adapted to the environment and vice-versa. Similarly, Paul Virilio undertook the investigation of the geopolitical, architectural and phenomenological characteristics and consequences of war bunkers. I aim to bring them together as damaged testimonies of war, on the one hand, in the soma, and on the other, in architecture. What makes them testimonies is not a narrative of destruction but the resistance, recovery and perseverance to it. And it will be consequently shown how this ballistic evidence – ballistic understood as moving under the force of gravity and not as artillery – was expressed in the writings of the manifesto, as well as in the ability of Kurt Goldstein’s patients to compensate for their performative loss.

by the NASA (Siffre quoted in Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 41).

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(2.2.1) Kurt Goldstein’s Patients During the course of World War I, it became imperative to attend the lesioned soldiers returning from the front lines. Many of them had suffered from brain injuries, and in 1916 Goldstein established The Treatment, Care and Evaluation of the BrainDamaged Frankfurt Institute (Goldstein 1971, p. 2f.). During the ten years in which this institution persisted, and in close collaboration with the gestalt psychologist Adhemár Gelb (1887-1936), they provided the medical journals with very good results (e.g. 73 percent of their patients returned to their old jobs). What they realised was that it was not enough to perform psychological tests with the patients, but that they had to be clinically observed for a longer period of time and in unorthodox environments (Harrington 1998, p. 33ff.). In other words, for them the most interesting cases were the ones that combined a psychological and a neurological condition, which enabled them to combine psychological testing with clinical observation (Geroulanos and Meyers 2014, p. 15). This resulted in a treatment where the notions of experiment and therapy collided. It was an experiment because the subjects were clearly patients (who had suffered a brain lesion) and were asked to perform certain tasks, and at the same time, it was a therapy because the treatment went on for several years, and had its accent put in empathic observation instead of distant enquiring. In this way, they encouraged the study of behaviour – behavioural interpretation as well as behavioural manipulation – in the medical setting. Some of the most revealing situations they created, were the ones performed in an everyday-life scenario. The experiment, in this sense, left the confinement of the laboratory, and started taking place outside, which could become problematic. Constant and particularly designed conditions were replaced with ‘natural’ conditions. Contingency, surprises and errors, which the physician was not able to totally control, were new factors of analysis. The tasks the patients had to perform were not specific or artificial, but part of their habitual repertoire (Geroulanos and Meyers 2014, p. 72; Goldstein 2000, p. 281). By having to deal with obstacles, the patients were compelled to accommodate to the environment, e.g. a film documentation shows a woman with a damaged left frontal lobe walking down

[fig.47]  Still  from  Woman  with  left  Cerebellar   Lesion,  Kurt  Goldstein

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the streets. Because of her trauma she tends to walk to the left, and necessarily has to adjust her walking when a bench appears along the sidewalk. The environmental setting in this case is necessary to understand the negotiations between the organism – or what we will later define as the disordered state of the organism – and its present behaviour (Geroulos and Meyers 2014, p. 75). Moreover, Goldstein in the holistic contemplation of the patient’s condition was interested in understanding the vital role played by the motor structure (‘tonus’) in relation to other dysfunctions. For example, he wanted to observe what happened to the body with one sided stimulation, in that sense patients with “one-sided cerebellar disturbance were especially suited for such experiments.” (Goldstein 2000, p. 225) He observed that, on the one hand, patients who suffered from a minor lesion deviated their behaviour to the same side of the stimulus, i.e. they yielded to the tonus pull without major disturbance. On the other hand, patients with an acute condition, changed their posture by inclining towards the healthy side. The patient assumed a somewhat asymmetrical behaviour in what is usually called ‘abnormal effort’. This adjustment Goldstein tagged as more voluntary and conscious. Nevertheless, that state of raised awareness slowly faded out, which marks the process of compensation (Goldstein 2000, p. 335f.). In an article published in 1933 entitled About the Influence of the Motor in Sight,[18] Goldstein and Jablonski introduced the case of a patient who presented the following symptoms: headaches, dizziness, vertigo whilst walking, feeling of falling towards the left. She had the tendency of slightly tilting her head and body limbs towards her right side. The moment she was stimulated otherwise she had the tendency to slowly tilt again towards the right because she was scared of falling and felt nausea. She was compensating the impaired behaviour. This is according to Goldstein and Jablonski, the new normal situation, the excellent situation. The purpose of this one therapy was to understand the influence of the motor in sight as the title evidences, which was best in the excellent condition, e.g. tilting the head meant


Über den Einfluß des Tonus auf Refraktion und Sehleistungen, aus der Neurologischen Abteilung des Krankenhauses Moabit-Berlin of which Dr. Kurt Goldstein used to be the head.

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lesser tension of accommodation of the eye muscle to focus or maintain a clear image. In the excellent condition the patient felt much better, walked better, experienced less vertigo, et cetera (Goldstein 1933, p. 395ff.). In conclusion, Goldstein tested the way in which behaviour generated a crisis for the individual, and only when it did come to such a crisis to accomplish everyday life tasks, it was possible to characterise it as pathological (Geroulos and Meyers 2014, p. 65). Thus, “(t)hose behavioural forms that are earliest and most markedly affected express the main characteristics of the human species and bring to the fore its unique place in nature.” The ‘nature’ for Goldstein is an individual pattern, its psychosomatic constitution, which drives the organism to constantly actualise itself in order to live within a world (Goldstein 2000, p. 46, 50, 162). The cured or adapted patient shows in a better way how an organism is able to regain its order. As Aron Gurwitsch observed, Goldstein's discoveries become relevant when the pathological findings are able to explain an organism's normal functioning, which in health or stability is often overlooked (Gurwitsch 1971, p. XXIV). Back then the usual approach was to translate the data collected by the observation of animal behaviour into explanations of human behaviour, and Goldstein contrarily argued for the radical avoidance of anthropomorphism and zoomorphism (Goldstein 2000, p. 25). In addition, he rejected a collective scanning of patients in favour of an individual following of the developments. It is mainly through the meticulous observation of particular cases that Goldstein's studies were adopted by scholars like Georges Canguilhem and Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Outlining the border between pathological and normal, brought great insight into the structure of behaviour (Geroulos and Meyers 2014, p. 30). It assisted Merleau-Ponty to come to the conclusion that “behaviour is not a thing, but neither is it an idea. It is not the envelope of a pure consciousness and, as the witness of behaviour, I am not a pure consciousness. It is precisely this which we wanted to say in stating that behaviour is a form.” (Merleau-Ponty 1967, p. 127) If behaviour can be a form it means that it is formed, and therefore, The Oblique Function has a chance of fulfilling its mission.

[fig.48,49,50]  Bunker  Archaeology,  Paul  Virilio   1991

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(2.2.2) Paul Virilio’s Bunkers Methodologically, the ‘shock wave’ can be conceptualised through pathology. Virilio theorises about war, as he likes to say his school was partly the battle field. Born shortly before the beginning of World War II his first critical and reflective encounter with architecture were the Bunkers of the Atlantic Wall, he called them “the symbol of modern times.” (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 24) Virilio writes: Astounding examples of the blindness of an epoch to itself, these primitive works announce a new architecture founded no longer on the physical proportions of man but on his psychic faculties, reality finally overcome, habitat can finally unite with the secret possibilities of individuals. (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. XVIII)

In 1975 Paul Virilio published Bunker Archaeology, which is a collection of essays, documents and photographs. It draws back to the year 1958 when he started investigating and photographically cataloguing the bunkers of the northern French coast. Chapter 7 of the Architecture Principe Groupe's manifesto is devoted to it. In conversation, Virilio acknowledges, “(w)ar was my starting point. I discoverred the bunkers when I discovered freedom.” (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 23) A statement such as that, the carefully taken photographs of the bunkers and the design of the Church Sainte-Bernadette du Banlay run the risk of being misinterpreted because of the use – and for some abuse – of literal translations of war images and forms, back then, in the 1960s and now. At a symposium organized by the International Dialogue of Experimental Architecture (IDEA) in 1966 at Folkestone they were saluted with the Nazi gesture after finishing a provocative presentation of their designs for oblique cities (Redhead 2005, p. 47). Furthermore, Claude Parent remembers his contemporaries comparing their architecture to that of prisons of the Bolshevik secret police (Mostafavi and Scalbert 1996, p. 55). More recently, Neil Leach specifically condemns Bunker Archeology as an “aesthetic celebration of destruction”, he argues that “for Virilio to publish a book full of exquisite photographs of bunkers, photographs that themselves fall prey to the trap of turning emblems of war into haunting, seductive images” is evidently problematic and contradictory (Leach 1999, p. 81). Certainly, there

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was an aesthetic agenda behind the photographs. Part of Virilio’s investigation took him to Düsseldorf, Germany, where he made acquaintance with the work of renowned photographers Bernd and Hilla Becher (Armitage 2013, p. 9). Nevertheless, I argue that, without discrediting this opinion about a rather controversial topic, this case of defensive architecture can be reinterpreted conceptually as pathological. Thus, what is the difference between arkhaios and pathos when talking about war bunkers of the last century? If it is merely a methodological distinction then I find pathos, as in passion without positive nor negative connotation, much more accurate to describe Virilio’s estimation of war. Thus, if pathology is also the study of diseases (for diagnostic and also forensic purpouses), maybe Kurt Goldstein could have also quoted Hölderlin – as Virilio did to open the chapter War Landscape – “but where danger is found, there rises also that which saves.” (Hatherley 2010, p. 241) Human's bodily existence is bound to the fragility of the soma (and its ability to compensate for the organism's dysfunctions), and architecture, in the bunker, to the thickness and heaviness of the concrete: The monolith does not aim to survive down through the centuries; the thickness of its walls translates only the probable power of impact in the instant of assault. The cohesion of the material corresponds here to the immateriality of the new way environment; in fact, matter only survives with difficulty in a world of continuos upheaval. (Virilio 1975, p. 4)

What fascinates Virilio is how the form of the bunker anticipates its destiny, in what Hatherley eloquently called “fossils of time future” (Hatherley 2010, p. 241). Their constitutive matter imply the destructive powers used against it, an impact yet to happen, and inevitably their resistance. Virilio claims almost nostalgically that the monoliths are spread along the beach as “last blossoms of a history of borders.”[19] They consolidate the last physical evidence of geopolitical organisation in the advent of mass weapons of destruction, which strike at the press of one button. As part of the design of a war machine, attack and defence are projected by the same agent, i.e. the shell


“letzten Sprösslinge einer Geschichte der Grenzen,” (Virilio 1992, p. 12; my translation).

[fig.51,52,53]  Bunker  Archaeology,  Paul  Virilio   1991

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and the bunker share morphological attributes as well as intelligence [fig.51]. In spite of this, there shall not be a confusion between the aerodynamic character of the aggressor and the aerostatic of the defender (Virilio 1975, p. 5), which as shown in The Pendular Destabiliser No.1 was adopted in the research of The Oblique Function. Not only do they assimilate their aggressor, but they are also ahead of the transformations of time; avoiding hard, rectangular edges, all surfaces are modelled in advance by the environmental forces ahead. Furthermore, the bunker is a rebel imbedded in the official, monumental architectural program of the Nazis, tracing expressionist forms, which the regime wanted to suppress so hardly. The concrete, once fluid, remains dynamic in the cohesion of all of its molecules, which hold to each other tightly without interrupting joints. There are no pillars nor foundations, it sticks to the ground by its centre of gravity because of its weight. Usually buildings are not made to stand upright through balance, they need bracing, however the synergic relation between body and ground is what grants the bunker an anthropomorphic character (Virilio 1975, p. 5ff.; Ingraham 2006, p. 28).

(2.3) Pathologies of Movement “When you go to the Chateau de Chambord, you become a man from that times just by walking up and down the staircases (...) The staircase works your body like a ballet master, and the ‘oblique function’ is the same,” (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 31) said Virilio in an interview. He is convinced that architecture choreographs time and memory.[20] In addition, it could be stated that when you enter the bunker, you can become either a man of war or of freedom as Virilio did. During the Blitzkrieg he developed a claustrophobic condition, which is best translated into his architecture by the words of the art historian Wilhelm Worringer. In Abstraction and Empathy he de-


Movement as a discursive, argumentative tool in architectural theory was introduced in the nineteenth century by art historians such as Heinrich Wölfflin and August Schmarsow (Stickells 2010, p. 44). In Prolegomena zu einer Psychologie der Architektur, Wölfflin writes: “ein architektonischer Stil gibt die Haltung und Bewegung der Menschen seiner Zeit wieder.” (Wölfflin 1884, p. 31)

[fig.54]  Kinaesphaere,  Rudolf  v.  Laban

[fig.55]  Sketches  of  the   Scale,  Rudolf  v.  Laban

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scribes it as a “left over of man’s evolution, in which man, in order to become familiar with an expanding space, cannot merely rely on visual perception but has to balance out the insecurity or instability through touch. The moment man develops the upright position and becomes of the eye [Augenmensch] a feeling of light insecurity remained.”[21] An architecture, which is determined by the experience of the weight of the body – and not sight – both human (animate) and concrete (inanimate) is intrinsically autonomous, somatic and dynamic. This is the ‘energetic being’ in opposition to the ‘ergonomic being’, where proportions are roughly impressed on architecture with stereotypes like Le Corbusier’s Modulor or the Vitruvian body (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 75). Thus Virilio argues that “(t)oday one must assume an energised body, that is, a body with reflexes and anticipatory qualities, a body that is constantly in-becoming, just as some choreographers and modern dancers do already.” (Virilio quoted in Armitage 2001, p. 62) Dancing and defending are, according to Laban, intimately related. For him, basic orientation in space can be described in a sequence of six movements which are exactly the same in fencing. Defensive and aggressive gestures extend to all possible activities in a continuous fight with matter, which resolve in an economy of movement (‘Antriebsökonomie’). Especially in dance, the impetus for economy is combined in a playful confrontation with gravity and balance (Laban 2010, p. 46, 53). In spite of this, Laban was interesting for Virilio because of the notation system he invented. Labanotation allowed the representation of space-time, which could be crystallised in the architectural drawing as a qualitative measure. However, a graphic language that registered movements in signs for further elaboration, combination and reproduction becomes a dangerous tool in its distribution. Laban was never affiliated to the Nazis but his scores were widely used by the party’s propaganda de-


“Jene körperliche Platzangst lässt sich volkstümlich erklären als ein Ueberbleibsel aus einer normalen Entwicklungsstufe des Menschen, in der er, um mit einem sich vor ihm ausdehnenden Raum vertraut zu werden, sich noch nicht allein auf den Augeneindruck verlassen konnte, sondern noch auf die Versicherungen seines Tastsinnes angewiesen war. Sobald der Mensch Zweifüssler und als solcher allein Augenmensch wurde, musste ein leises Unsicherheitsgefühl zurückbleiben.” (Worringer 1921, p. 20; my translation)

[fig.56] Antonio  Sant’Elia  1914

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partment to choreograph the masses in seemingly harmless gymnastic routines (Dobbels, Louppe and Virilio 1994, p. 35, 52). Laban and Schmitt are not the only fascists Virilio might relate to. The Italian futurist Fillipo Tommaso Marinetti (1876-1944) occupies a major part – next to Howard Hugues – as one of the most intriguing figures in his writings. For Virilio, art and technology should not be bound analogously in the same endeavour but rather work reactively instead of reproductively. Art in its political implication is to resist and question technology, and if it fails to do so it runs the risk of becoming despotic. That was the case of the futurists who embraced technology – especially its speed – and by that marked the empirical ground for any further critical enquiry concerning these two disciplines (Armitage 2013, p. 90ff.).[22] However, it is hard to dissociate the graphical production of The Oblique Function from the one placed in the futurist’s manifesto [fig.56]. Morphologically they share imperatives, for example the futurist states: “I proclaim: that [3] oblique and elliptic lines are dynamic, and by their very nature possess an emotive power a thousand times stronger than perpendiculars and horizontals”; and four points later “[7] that by the term architecture is meant the endeavour to harmonise the environment with Man with freedom and great audacity, that is to transform the world of things into a direct projection of the world of the spirit.” (Marinetti and Sant’Elia 1914) However alike their designs might be, they are to be experienced by different bodies: on the one hand the automatic, and on the other hand the metabolic or somatic. When the futurists talk about “the world of the spirit” they refer to the spirit of modern-times, it being the fuel of the motor that drives the body up and down with ease. Virilio defends Architecture Principe Groupe’s work against a futurist or fascist interpretation in terms of force by differentiating between ‘falling into the world’ and ‘making an assault on the world’. “Of course it is a movement”, he recognises, “but its interpretation is completely different: to make an assault on the


Marinetti exclaims: “We affirm that the world’s magnificence has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed. A racing car whose hood is adorned with great pipes, like serpents of explosive breath;” and furthermore: “(a)rt, in fact, can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice.” (Marinetti 1909)

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world is to exercise violence in the fall.” (Virilio, Louppe and Dobbels 1994, p. 56) In this regard, Virilio’s notion of falling might become clearer in reference to Deleuze and Guattari’s distinction of the ‘motor of work’ on the one hand, and the ‘motor of free action’ on the other. They respectively relate to the speed of projection of tools in the first case, and to the one of weapons in the second. Deleuze and Guattari argue: Work is a motor cause that meets resistances, operates upon the exterior, is consumed and spent in its effect, and must be renewed from one moment to the next. Free action is also a motor cause, but one that has no resistance to overcome, operates only upon the mobile body itself, is not consumed in its effect, and continues from one moment to the next. Whatever its measure or degree, speed is relative in the first case, absolute in the second (the idea of a perpetuum mobile). In work, what counts is the point of application of a resultant force exerted by the weight of a body considered as ‘one’ (gravity), and the relative displacement of this point of application. In free action, what counts is the way in which the elements of the body escape gravitation to occupy absolutely a non-punctuated space. (Deleuze and Guattari 2012, p. 67f.)

Deleuze and Guattari conclude that while the movement of the tool is bound to gravity (as a referential system of weight and height), the weapon is able to escape gravity because of its speed (Deleuze and Guattari 2012, p. 69). The automobile as the futurist epithet combines risk and comfort, and by that dangerously renders the soma obsolete. Futurism according to Virilio conceived “the anthropocentric superman (coming identification of man and motor), they envisioned the metal claws, the dissappearance of bodies in the cumbersome prostheses that technology then produced.” (Virilio 1991, p. 66) However, if we translate Deleuze and Guattari’s notion of the motor to the body itself, and assume that it is intrinsically (a) motor always defined anew by the architect,[23] it can be argued that Le Corbusier’s architecture is designed for the ‘cinematographic motor’. Certainly, the first architect to recognise in the ramp a powerful element and make it a protagonist of space was Le Corbusier. What before merely assured the ac-


Since Virilio here mentions the “identification of man and motor” it should be understood in my terms as the ‘motor of the machine’, or the ‘motor of free action’ as defined by Deleuze and Guattari. Furthermore, the discussion of ‘the body as a tool’ will be dealt with in the next chapter.

[fig.58]  Still  from   L’architecture   d’aujourd’hui,  Le   Corbusier  and  Chenal  1929

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cessibility of the automobile, was aesthetically implemented by him as ‘promenade architecturale’ – one of his famous five points of architecture. He choreographed a sequence of visual frames that harmoniously showcased the coexistence of function and form (Stickells 2010, p. 45). In that sense, the contemplative pace of the dweller is analogical to the travelling of a film camera.[24] Walter Benjamin suggested that film as the then new art of entertainment for the masses is absorbed in a state of distraction, in opposition to concentration as in the fine arts. He exemplified his argument with architecture – which is assimilated in the same way – and argued that “(b)uildings are received in a twofold manner: by use and by perception. Or, better: tactilely and optically” (Benjamin 2002, p. 120). While the first is due to actions that through repetition and association turn habitual, the second is regarded to a spontaneous contemplation. What eventfully began with film, was starting to be virtualised in the 1960s, and becoming omnipresent in the 1980s. At the very beginning of The Aesthetics of Disappearance (first edition published in 1980), Virilio invents a medical condition that aims to define contemporaneous distraction. He calls it picnolepsy (picnos from the Greek word frequent). In an endnote he provides a modern definition of epilepsy that regards it to have become a chronic disease, in order to further argue that absences are common to all, and frequent. The picnoleptic episode is a disjuncture between perception and space-time. In other words, a moment in which space and time are experienced separately (Virilio 1991, p. 10; Cook 2003). He describes: “The sense function, but are nevertheless closed to external impressions. The return being just as sudden as the departure, the arrested word and action are picked up again where they have been interrupted.” (Virilio 1991, p. 9) This condition is aggravated by “the rapid tout, the accelerated transport of people, signs or things,” which repeatedly blurs the individual from its context (Virilio, 1991, p.101). Virilio’s picnolepsy has been illustrated by Sean Cubitt in the car driver who traveling on a familiar route forgets the notion of time and is suddenly surprised


Shown clearly in the film L’architecture d’aujourd’hui of 1929 directed by Le Corbusier himself and Pierre Chenal that frames the experience of walking the Villa à Garches (Colomina 1998, p. 289).

[fig.59]  Cover  of     Flesh:  Architectural   Probes,  Diller  and   Scofidio  1994

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to find him or herself at home (Armitage 2013, p. 142). Architecture theorist Stan Allen has described Benjamin’s distraction in similar terms: “Freeway driving is good model: you can concentrate and perform activities necessary to keep the car on the road and, at the same time, think of and actually do all kinds of different things.” (Allen 1995, p. 48) However, what in the first is rendered as an abduction of time and space is in the second envisioned as a liberating moment in which distraction implies a particular kind of attention or embodiment.[25] Allen concludes, that “Spatial practices are not discursive practices,” (Allen 1995, p. 50) and while that might be sustainable for Le Corbusier’s architecture, it is not for Parent and Virilio’s theory: True architecture is the being of construction opposed to the being of man. True architecture has weakened over the past several centuries, becoming comfortable, degrading itself into ease. (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. X)

As two independent ontological categories, architecture can operate discursively as well as reactively. Architecture Principe Groupe speculated that comfortable dwelling had abstracted man from social, political, national and worldwide happenings. Therefore, sloping, habitable circulations – housing and circulation being the two means for geopolitical organisation in the city – can be interpreted as a critical response to the equilibrium of terror during the Cold War. The Cuban missile affair, the moment when the ‘stability’ between the world powers, USA and USSR, was most endangered, coincided with the design of the Church Saint Bernadette du Banlay (Paoli 2008). However, instability can also cause the opposite if it is performed in extreme speeds, and become “a novel profitable amusement device” as said by the inventor of the flight simulator; either by the speed enthusiasts carted in a rollercoaster, or the petrified (in amazement) visitors of a Mystery Spot.[26] 25.

Paul Virilio further describing picnolepsy (without referring to distraction per se) states: “the picnoleptic onset would be something that could make us think of human liberty, in the sense that it would be a latitude given to each man to invent his own relations to time and therefore a kind of will and power for minds.” (Virilio 1991, p. 22)


After the Great Depression in the United States, a curious architecture for entertainment emerged. Basically it is a tilted house, but its inclination is hidden by the surrounding landscape. Once entering the building a spectacle of balls and water running uphill, as well as oblique people is unfolded in a refined but yet simple optical illusion. Source: Sandlot Science 2015. Mystery Spots Explained.

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An article published in September of 1968 in the magazine L’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui – probably the last text signed by both Virilio and Parent – argued that architectural vocabulary had become anachronistic. It abused the term stability which had long been surpassed in fields like economics or philosophy, and replaced by “ideas of transference, displacement, and thus successive instability.” (Parent and Virilio quoted in Ockman 2007, p. 408) Accordingly, in the pages of the manifesto they wrote: “We are entering a new age of architecture and if the claustral and the cryptic do belong to its origins, one must be able to recognise in the sense of disequilibrium, in vertigo, the second archetype of this art of space” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. X). Furthermore, Virilio defined vertigo as “ what serves to cover up trajectory, in a certain way. I'm talking about the trajectory of the walking or falling men.” (Dobbels, Louppe and Virilio 1994, p. 43; my italics) In other words, it is a state in which motor and sight are dissociated, and – as we have seen in space travel – seeing and balancing work together for the orientation of the body. Hence, vertigo can be induced by the cinematographic motor as well as by the motor of free action, but it is indeed reduced or controlled by the somatic. Some architectural theorists have related vertigo, as well as claustrophobia and agoraphobia, to Freud’s concept of the uncanny.[27] This interpretation proposes the projection of the anxieties of the beginning of the twentieth century, and the psyche’s unconsciousness in the architectural realm, and is therefore incompatible with the theory of The Oblique Function. On the contrary, that article of 1968 read “Architecture is a form of consciousness.” Hence, according to Goldstein, anxiety “has no corresponding content [in the world] and is lacking in object.” It has to be clearly differentiated from fear that is “conditioned by, and directed against, very definite contents of the environment.” (Goldstein 2000, p. 232f.) In other words, fear is con-

[online]. Available: [accessed: 25.08.2015] 27.

For more on this account see Anthony Vidler 1992: The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely. USA: The MIT Press. And, Anthony Vidler 2000: Warped Space: Art, Architecture and Anxiety in Modern Culture. USA: The MIT Press.

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scious and surmountable whilst anxiety is unconscious and paralytic. Vertigo arose in Goldstein’s patient in combination with headaches, dizziness, and falling in a random daily scenario, and not in a vertiginous architecture. Hence, what does vertigo as an architectural archetype do? How can it work with and commit to the individual? And furthermore how is it recommendable? The bunker typology was the beginning of this exploration, The Pendular Destabiliser No. 1 could have been a proof; but the actual demonstrations were the interior ramps installed during the 1970s in Parent’s house, and the Saint Bernadette du Banlay Chapel in Nevers.

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(3) The Excellent Condition

The hope and the reassuring dream of miraculous therapies are finished. Their obligatory succession into a permanent renewal of the temporary boggles the mind. Our time is no longer one of a remedy for the effect, but of a cure of the cause: somatic architecture is born. (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. VII)

In terms of our own body it is the common assumption that we forget its presence unless we endure pain, are sick or just feel different. In that sense, it has been suggested that the ‘Cartesian body’ is actually just common sense (Burwood 2007, p. 264). But if we support this, how can we engage in an explanation of spatial experience? Or, how can we understand human behaviour and the formation of habits? We probably cannot, and have to be certain of the fusion of the cognitive and corporeal spheres to escape the objectification of the body, as well as analyse biological and personal existence together in space-time. Physiological explanations, provide the basic and most direct starting point, but it has to necessarily be combined with psychological interpretations, in order to not abstract the natural from the cultural, or the self from the world. Kurt Goldstein and Paul Virilio start from this assumption, where mind, soma and world cannot be other than a whole. What psycho-physiology analyses is the functioning in the light of or in comparison to the so-called ‘normal behaviour’. What Architecture Principe Groupe does is analysing the functioning in the light of the excellent. The excellent, as reviewed in the previous chapter as a translation from the pathological functioning of the organism, should be helpful to visualise a rather discursive relation between symptom, disease, and recovery, as well as between reflex and stimuli. The reflex theory, also referred to as ‘atomistic approach’, supposes a constant pattern of responses according to the stimulations of the environment, i.e. isolation in time and in space, as well as distinction between motor and sensory activity (Goldstein 2000, p. 292ff). According to Kurt Goldstein’s studies, the nervous system works as a network, which

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is connected to the world through the sense organs and the body in movement. Its holistic functioning can be analysed through performances, which are voluntary actions that undoubtedly need a field of action to evidence themselves. First of all, it is important to stress that the system is never at rest but continuously under stimulation. However, the excitation created by the stimuli is never homogeneously distributed, but more intense close to the localisation of the stimuli – this is what Goldstein called ‘the local near effect’. Assuming that the organism is constantly being stimulated, the pathological cases enable to comprehend the functional significance of the stimuli as a behavioural pattern, when for example an injury becomes more prominent than any other affecting stimulus (Goldstein 2000, p. 95ff., 177). Therefore, no movement or stimulus exists in isolation, but rather reconfigures the whole of the body through a dynamic, structured process that occurs in the entire nervous system, and which Goldstein explains in the foreground-background relation. In this sense, it is possible to state that each performance draws a figure, which arises from the background becoming foreground, and at the same time constantly alternates or mutates into other figure formations. There is a hierarchy amongst performances. Certain parts of the body might then be highlighted but not isolated, and it is the body’s great potential to behave partitively as well as holistically. Nevertheless, the parts could never function separately, they are indeed broken if not considered in the whole (Goldstein 2000, p. 301ff.). In a conference held in 1924 titled About the Influence of Motor Disorders on the Psyche,[28] Kurt Goldstein presented the case of a patient who had suffered from brain damage on the left side. He presented a psychotic and a motor dysfunction, and it was under discussion which of the symptoms was of primary importance. Goldstein reviewed this case through the analysis of the patient’s behaviour by asking him to perform certain tasks. The patient did not realise when something was moderately asked from him, whether to change a movement or take an object being handed.


Über den Einfluß motorischer Störungen auf die Psyche. Nach einem Vortrag gehalten in der psychiatrischen Sektion der Naturforscherversammlung zu Innsbruck 1924.

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If the request was repeated more intensely, the patient would flinch and have a slight shock. Whenever he found himself occupied doing something this reaction would be enhanced. In conclusion, the content of the request was insignificant in comparison to the intensity of the demand. He could not abruptly switch to any other action but kept repeating the requested task in an automatic and stereotypical manner until he flinched or tired. Goldstein excluded a primarily psychic disorder because the patient was not firstly scared but experienced the shock secondarily to the bodily flinching. In comparison, he deduced that the healthy organism can accommodate to a certain setting through its fore- and background constellation, e.g. does it need to concentrate to ignore surrounding disturbances. Distraction would then be kept in the periphery of awareness, being consciously apprehended only if demanded. The normal can escape the stereotypical through the constant modification and adaptation to new stimulus, and it is because of the impossibility of the patient to adapt to secondary provocations which explained his condition (Goldstein 1924). It becomes clear now that the most important activities for the organism are the voluntary performances, which enable “reasoning discursively, (...) disjoining given wholes, as well as establishing connections, for example in learning.” (Goldstein 2000, p. 301)

(3.1) The Habitual and The Milieu Body Techniques is a concept developed by the French sociologist Marcel Mauss. Contemporaneous to Goldstein, Mauss approached man as a holistic being. Compromising psychological, sociological and biological elements, he said in 1935 “(i)t is the triple viewpoint, that of the ‘total man’ that is needed”. He explains his concept by means of the Latin word ‘habitus’ which relies in the knowledge of everyday life practice, and embodies in collective and individual techniques the traditions or the art of using the human body. For Mauss the body is “man's first and most natural technical object, and at the same time technical means” (Mauss 1973, p. 75). Education and imitation then become key factors to understand the transmission of the habitus or body techniques as social practices (Mauss 1973, p. 73). However, when it

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comes to the apprehension of habits or learning by moving, Goldstein makes a further distinction between practice and drill. Practice means the optimal adaptation between environment and organism, it is an ‘adequate performance’ and emerges from the body as a whole. Contrarily, drill is an ‘inadequate performance’, which focuses an isolated part of the organism into a forced relation with an equally isolated part of the environment (Goldstein 2000, p. 381). This could be understood as a compulsory or partitive imitation, nonetheless self-imposed drill is essential for the individual to accommodate to the demands of everyday life. Thinking of the body as a tool however presents the problem of objectification and has two opposite consequences: on the one hand, the idea that if we become conscious of how we walk, for example, it could lead to a clumsy, amorphous performance, and on the other hand, the notion that the body can be perfected. Partial isolation caused by mechanical or patterned movements, an unchallenging environment, or the incorporation of instruments, imply that the body is increasingly behaving partitively. Incorporation in this sense is already a dangerous word as it can render all things used, done, repeated into the consideration of one’s own, and therefore their oblivion. Teyssot claims that “(h)abit and forgetfulness are the two extremes of notknowing.” (Teyssot 1996a) However, it is not a moment of mere not-knowing but rather of knowing-too-well, and consequentially of dependance and reliance towards the environment. The chaotic behaviour of Goldstein’s latter mentioned patient arose when his automatic, robotic performance was interrupted. One characteristic of the robot is the uniform division of linear time to do a task, its rhythm is constant and steady in difference to the body’s (we might think of breathing, for example, as constant, but breathing changes and compensates according to the task).[29] Therefore, time plays an important role in achieving adequate performances. When the tem-


The word ‘robot’ appeared firstly in 1923 in the English translation of the play Rossum's Universal Robots by the Czech author Karel Capek. In Czech ‘robotnik’, ‘robota’, ‘robotiti’, respectively mean ‘slave’, ‘forced labor, compulsory service, drudgery,’ ‘to work, drudge.’ Found at: Online Etymology Dictionary. Robot. [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 29.07.2015].

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poral frame is altered – either accelerated or decelerated – the robot might have a short circuit, and the individual might loose consciousness. Therefore, speed is a constitutive part of the environment. Furthermore, Mauss sustained that “(i)t is not thanks to unconsciousness that there is an intervention of society. It is thanks to society that there is the certainty of pre-prepared movements, domination of the conscious over emotion and unconsciousness.” (Mauss 1973, p. 86) However, a revolutionary stance might wonder: if you disagree with the course society is taking, will you adopt their motor when there is no more ground for Body Techniques to inscribe? Therefore Architecture Principe Groupe manifested that: “(t)he banality of private life, thus obtained, has barely preceded the uniformity of collective life and slowly, starting with architecture, this prudence has perverted society as a whole.” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. X) Virilio and Parent assumed that building for comfort – the normal condition – according to Vitruvius’ tripod of ‘firmness, commodity and delight’ would construct a passive dweller. It is not in their interest to build the perfect body but to enhance its potential, and free it from a secluding habitat that turns enslaving by succumbing to human scale and proportion.

(3.1.1) Performing Shock According to Goldstein, behaviour can be divided in being-in-order (effectual performances) and being-in-disorder (deficient performances, disease, catastrophic reactions). The ordered is synonymous to the normal, and it is strongly linked to the preferred behaviour. “For what reasons are the ‘preferred’ ways of behaviour preferred? Why do we do best, the most comfortable, and the most correct pointing, in a definite realm?” Goldstein asked. It does not come as a surprise that the preferred situation is accompanied by feelings of comfort and naturalness. Thus Goldstein observed that patients who were asked to perform an unpleasant task, usually slipped to a more comfortable position without even noticing (Goldstein 2000, p. 106, 271ff., 286f.). If the organism has the tendency to always turn to the preferred behaviour un-

[fig.60] The  Necker  Cube

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consciously, then Virilio’s concern about the immobilisation of society through architecture might not be so far-fetched. Thus if the environment is emptied of demands, nothing stands against the organism driving for the most comfortable position, laying, where movement is closest to zero.[30] In the oblique, laying is not as easy to achieve, as a matter of fact instability is the strongest antidote to laying. Instability presents the organism with two tasks: on the one hand, regain stability through a translation of weight or muscle tensioning, and on the other hand, reorder the axes of the visual spectacle into up and down.[31] Stability and lability as in constant change and reorganisation, go hand in hand because of the organism’s imperfect state of centring. In walking, for example, putting one food in front of the other engages the movement with subsequent instants of instability – an unstable equilibrium – what Virilio called ‘metastability’, i.e. stability in motion (Virilio in Johnston 1996, p. 13). In a lecture given in 1998, Claude Parent explains his life’s work as looking for freedom by continuously asking how to create a catastrophe without making it real. The catastrophic reactions of the organism are crystallised in behaviour that is “disordered, inconstant, inconsistent, and embedded in physical and mental shock.” (Goldstein 2000, p. 49) The shock, usually expressed in anxiety, extends beyond personal limits and affects also the surrounding environment. When the world appears to the organism in disorder, it has to choose or change behaviours. This is usually what the 30.

Virilio refering to Husserl: “In a footnote, Husserl questions what the absolute zero of movement is: ‘The laying position, which is the most comfortable, should be position zero. It has to be taken into consideration that the normal zero presents a problem’.” The original quote reads: “À la page 43, en note, Husserl s’interroge pourtant sur ce zéro absolu du mouvement : ‘La position couchée, vu qu’elle est la plus confortable, devrait être la position zéro. Il faut donc prendre en considération le fait que le zéro normal constitue un problème’.” (Virilio 1990, p. 2; my translation)


This is not only an interpretation of the observation of the space-travel specialist Müller, but also of the tests conducted by Gestalt psychology, which dealt with the visual perception of movement. According to Goldstein these experiments, like Rubin’s famous images or the Necker Cube [fig.60], “appear strangely real and unreal at the same time, uncanny in their realness, in their simultaneous stability and instability.” (Goldstein 2000, p. 290) Merleau-Ponty points out that “Wertheimer’s experiment shows that the objective direction of my body can form an appreciable angle with the apparent vertical of the spectacle. What counts for the orientation of the spectacle is not my body as it in fact is, as a thing in objective space, but as a system of possible actions, a virtual body with its phenomenal ‘place’ defined by its task and situation,” (Merleau-Ponty 2005, p. 291) i.e. the orientation of the body is somehow independent of the constitution of a spatial level.

[fig.61] Landing-­techniques  (relation  between   gravitational  force  and  time)

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damaged organism has been impaired to do, which makes it anxious and leads to the catastrophic, compulsive reaction (Goldstein 2000, p. 49ff.; Geroulous and Meyers 2014, p. 51). The behavioural act can but only be set in a given circumstance and cope with it in order to gain an existential equilibrium. If the organism fails to do so, the environment would be in continuous flux making it impossible for the organism to self-actualise and exist. Functional autonomy thus means independence by compensating the shock in a performative accommodation. For Virilio and Parent, the instability created by the incline is to cause shock. The shock as an architectural method becomes a ‘surmountable obstacle’, and it has two acts. In the first one, the individual is brought into a state of refusal and repulsion. Once surpassed that, in the second act, the individual is free to “establish a non-conformist communication and gain access to a conscious participation with architecture. He has reached that state of evidence in which man and architecture cohere.” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. XI)[32] As for Goldstein, to overcome such an initial state of shock is characteristic and intrinsically part of life, however to remain in fear is clearly inconceivable. “Thus the pleasurable surprise when the conquest of a piece of the world has succeeded replaces the experience of shock,” is how Goldstein described the ‘tendency-to-action’ (Goldstein 2000, p. 238), for the oblique we will subsequently call it ‘force-to-ground’.

(3.1.2) Performing World The organism’s world deals with two layers: the contingent environment where the catastrophic is always on the prowl; and the milieu, where order reigns and the stimuli is always adequate. The organism is continuously confronting the world to make of it its milieu. This means that the environment is never static but is always in a process of becoming an ordered place for the actualisation of the organism (Goldstein


Parent and Virilio adhere to Merleau-Ponty when he transforms, with the example of climbing a rock, the notion of an obstacle into a means. “It is, therefore”, he observes, “freedom which brings into being the obstacles to freedom, so that the latter can be set over against it as its bounds.” (MerleauPonty 2005, p. 510)

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2000, p. 85). At the same time, the organism in movement is exposing itself to the environment in a specific way, i.e. we respond to certain environmental stimuli because we made ourselves vulnerable to a certain situation. Therefore, the environment cannot solely be regarded for the organismic process, but it is rather the organism which selects autonomously its milieu.[33] The topography of the organism, which structures behaviour in the continuous drive for self-actualisation, is then not rigid nor fixed, but of a dynamic nature (Goldstein 2000, p. 295ff.; Merleau-Ponty 1967, p. 13). Self-realisation through self-actualisation is the necessary step for the organism to successfully exist in the world. In extreme cases it has to shrink its environment, i.e. substituting habitual performances. The constitution of the milieu happens through inclusion and transformation, “(t)hus organism and world realise themselves simultaneously and grow from the sphere of potentiality into that of actuality” (Goldstein 2000, p. 388). The individual is inclined to equilibrate tensions of the changing environment (e.g. inadequate stimuli which evoke isolated effects) alternating between states of disturbance and rest. If the environment is completely adequate, i.e. world and milieu are the same, it would mean total equilibrium between organism and environment (Goldstein 2000, p. 277). But is a constant state of equilibrium desirable? Rather not, since being released from tension assumes that the parts might become increasingly isolated, and an isolation from the world, complete release, means death (Goldstein 2000, p. 259). It is important to bear in mind that isolation does not mean in any way autonomy, but the opposite. The shrinkage of the milieu cannot limit the possibilities of self-actualisation or freedom, and should not be understood as creating a more dependent relationship to the environment.


For a more profound account of the relations between milieu and organism see Georges Canguilhem: The Living and Its Milieu, in: Grey Room, No. 3 (Spring, 2001), pp. 6-31.

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(3.2) The Motor Project What he lacks is neither motility nor thought, and we are brought to the recognition of something between movement as a third person process and thought as a representation of movement – something which is an anticipation of, or arrival at, the objective and is ensured by the body itself as a motor power, a ‘motor project’ (Bewegungsentwurf), a ‘motor intentionality’ in the absence of which the order remains a dead letter (…) the background to concrete movement is the world as given, whereas the background to abstract movement is built up. (Merleau-Ponty 1945, p. 127)

Merleau-Ponty insisted on understanding behaviour as a form in order to synthesise things existing physically and mentally, as well as potentially and actually (Merleau-Ponty 1967, p.137). He characterised the relation between things, the world and the body according to the individual reflection upon the spatial structure, and distinguished two attitudes: either “(I) live among things and vaguely regard space at one moment as the setting for things, at another as their common attribute”; or, “I catch space at its source (...), and now think the relationships which underlie this world, realising then that they live only through the medium of a subject who traces out and sustains them; and pass from spatialise to spatialising space.”(Merleau-Ponty, 2005, p.284) Similarly, Michael Balint in 1959 divided behaviour into two groups. On the one hand, the ‘philobat’, who is an acrobat ever dancing amongst objects to which he keeps a respectful distance, and on the other hand, the ‘ocnophil’ who finds the space in between objects frightening and lives in a world merely constituted by them (Asendorf 1997, p. 169). Probably unanimously it can be stated that The Oblique Function designs for the philobat: it embraces movement, change, transitions. In the dwelling, all objects are constituting space. Furniture – the mobile in the immobile flat – play a protagonist role in the formation of the habitat. They constitute the choreography of the habitual, at the same time as they are obstacles (one might neglect their placing and hit one’s toe on the table’s leg). Hence, is furniture less dangerous than the oblique? No, they can be drawn together as potential stimuli. Being reactionaries Architecture Principe Groupe dismisses furniture, on the one hand because of its consumerist connotation and tradition, and on the other hand, to open the


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surface of the flat, make it more flexible in spite and because of its oblique constraint. Replacing furniture with a dynamic surface meant opening the space for improvisation (Virilio 1997, p. XV). Parent’s daughter, Chloé Parent, remembers the table in the sloping interior where she grew up having different levels. She could eat either sitting or laying, and use it to rest the back, the feet or as a tablet (Parent 2010, p. 17). She further recalls: “I ran with my dog over ramps and let marbles roll down – my parents had banned all furniture from the house, there were hardly any doors, you laid on plateaus and in caverns… After the day when the workmen came to install the ramps, the extraordinary became everyday life. It was exciting for me as a child. I didn’t belong to the bourgeois world any longer.”[34] For one of Goldstein’s patients who was very susceptible to alterations, it was possible to tame her lability (externalised in a nystagmus) by making her focus on an object (Goldstein 2000, p. 124f.). The Oblique Function in this sense, bewares one part of the concentration of the organism to the floor, to the grounding, the relation between one’s weight and gravity, which might reduce also such an absentminded condition. This force-to-ground is described by Chloé Parent as being constantly estimating spatial relations, in order to evaluate the next ascent or descent. The inclined planes helped her develop a sense of equilibrium.[35] According to Merleau-Ponty, self-evidence is only achievable “when one stands in wonder before the world”, i.e. when the world is not a given thing but a place for infinite apprehensions: The experience of absurdity and that of absolute self-evidence are mutually implicatory, and even indistinguishable. The world appears absurd, only if a demand for absolute consciousness ceaselessly dissociates from each other the meanings with which


Found at: 032c. The Supermodernist Architect: Claude Parent. [Online] Available from: http:/ / [Accessed: 14.04.2015].


Chloé Parent had since childhood a problem with hearing. When the doctor tested her for vertigo however, he was very surprised to find that she could keep balanced. She speculates that this is due to The Oblique Function: “Il y a sans doute une explication médicalement plus acceptable et rationelle, et la fonction oblique n’a pas été créée pour cet effet thérapeutique, mais pourquoi pas?“ (Parent 2010, p.18) Furthermore, Cognitive Therapy was established in the 1960s as a practice to treat anxieties. It supported a more pragmatic approach than psychoanalysis, and confronted the patient directly with the cause. However, as a treatment it would have an end, and as Goldstein acknowledged “you never really know when a therapy is concluded,” (Goldstein 2000, p. 40) The Oblique Function, in this sense, could definitely be quite effective.

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it swarms, and conversely this demand is motivated by the conflict between those meanings. Absolute self-evidence and the absurd are equivalent, not merely as philosophical affirmations, but also as experiences. (Merleau-Ponty 1945, p.344f.; my italics)

The experience of the oblique, which is also playful and absurd in its questioning of gravity, regularity, and horizontality, gives its architecture autonomous quality.

(3.2.1) Abstract, Concrete and Oblique As Goldstein stated there is a hierarchy amongst performances, with those which are voluntary i.e. conscious being more important for existence. Patients with frontal lobe lesions are partially impaired to perform in that way, as said before they might seem normal and be dismissed of treatment because they are able to perform routinely. This means that they take the world for granted and lack initiative to handle new tasks. Their attitude is blatant and whenever they have to turn to something imaginatively they are unable or become anxious. This led Goldstein to make a distinction between abstract and concrete behaviour.[36] Movement and behaviour become entangled in an analogical relation of figure formation. Abstract behaviour is constituted by the voluntary actions performed by the more sensitive flexor muscles (adductive), which are accurate movements directed towards the body. On the contrary, concrete behaviour is crystallised in the more spontaneous actions, expressed in an automatic or accidental but yet stronger form, they are performed by the extensor muscles (abduction) (Goldstein 2000, p. 119ff., 227). Goldstein takes this further and interprets this anatomical fact with attitudes towards the world. According to him the abstract “emphasise more the self in contrast to the world”, and oppositely “a cer-


The case of patient Schneider brings most insight to this categorisation. As Harrington describes: “Simply put, it seemed to Goldstein and Gelb that Schneider had lost the capacity to see the world holistically. His brain had lost the capacity to create and experience the unified, organising patterns that gave coherence to the onslaught of stimuli actually entering his retina. (…) He began to teach that language was also not an isolated skill, as classical neuropsychology supposed, but functioned to synthesise and organise experience in ways that permeated the individual's total (…) Patients lacking the capacity to use language in the service of categorical behaviour —who had regressed to what Goldstein called a more primitive ‘concrete’ mental altitude— might still have words at their disposal, but could not "unstick" them from the concrete things with which they were associated at any particularly moment.” (Harrington 1998, p. 34ff.)

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tain surrendering to the world”, which is a “more passive mode of being ‘in’ the world, a state of the ego submerged in the world” in the concrete (Goldstein 2000, p. 367). In this way he succeeds in anatomically explaining the difference between the philobat and the ocnophil.[37] In summary, patients who move in a reduced body scheme (as defined by Head and Holmes) remain in the frame of the non frightening habitual, and are incapable of expressing themselves freely, in a way they cannot perform the existential dance and act in a free frame for no tangible reason (Merleau-Ponty 2005, p. 119). Merleau-Ponty appropriates the notions of abstract and concrete, and redraws them in his definition of the body. Motor project and perceptual field unite in the actual and the virtual body, where: “between my body as the potentiality for certain movements, as the demand for certain preferential planes (...) a pact is concluded which gives me the enjoyment of space and gives to things their direct power over my body (...) This maximum sharpness of perception and action points clearly to a perceptual ground, a basis of my life, a general setting in which my body can co-exist with the world. (Merleau-Ponty 2005, p. 292; my italics)

Is not this what the oblique function translates? Can we say that through inclined planes “the background to abstract movement is built up”? In the movement things or objects can be combined in passing. Movement in this sense is transition at the same time as it is ordering. Recalling the invention of Virilio’s medical condition picnolepsy, inattention to experience which constitutes the diagnose, is caused partly by lack of movement.[38] If we accept the premise that movement increases attention, then 37.

“The difference can best be illustrated if we contrast the total behaviour, the bodily and mental attitude of a person who is concentrating intensely on an object, with that of a person who dances and, touching the ground with nothing more than the tip of his toe, surrenders himself completely to the outer world.” (Goldstein 2000, p. 367)


Paul Virilio in the Aesthetics of Disappearance (Virilio 1991, p.106) turns back to the french psychologist Théodule Ribot. In his book The Psychology of Attention, he states: “As regards perceptions, there are no difficulties. All our organs of perception are at the same time sensorial and motor. (…) without motor elements, perception is impossible (…) Consciousness is only possible through change: change is not possible save through movement. It would be easy to expatiate at great length upon this subject; for although the facts are very manifest and of common experience, psychology has nevertheless so neglected the role sustained by movements, that it actually forgot at last that they are the fundamental condition of cognition in that they are the instrument of the fundamental law of consciousness, which is relativity, change.” (Ribot 1911, p. 46)


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could we say that the oblique provides two motion modes, and by that two types of attention? An inclined ground produces acceleration and deceleration for a constant, regular moving body. In an uniform, horizontal plane acceleration becomes a voluntary action of the body.[39] As we have seen, the tendency to preferred behaviour brings about the most comfortable position, which makes a shifting in the body’s velocity – running, dancing, jumping, etc – eventful. The gravity in the inclined and in the horizontal is the same, but with a variation of angulation it is decomposed, and the forceto-ground is either, pulling or pushing. Consequent to Architecture Principe Groupe’s pessimism, they included vectors of fatigue to “combat neutrality and give direction to the occupation of a place.” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. XI) In The Oblique Function, the individual is subjected to changing speeds, which challenge a continuous or durational apprehension of experience (Virilio 1991, p. 105). They studied the slope variables [fig.63] to draw the limits of human capability. Texture as indicated in the graph plays an important role for the incorporation of the surface, but they chose to ignore its potential in favour of the rather simple but concise play with angulation. Vectors of fatigue, lower speeds, cannot be detached from their opposite pole, what they determined as euphoria, higher speeds. When going for a hike, popular culture tells the hiker to be more careful and aware when going down rather than up. Downwards movement – which, in Goldstein’s terms, would be a categorical behaviour performed by the extensor muscles – is enhanced by its accelerating character, and has to be accompanied by particular attention in the performance, much more than voluntary ascending. Rationally speaking, the inclined plane and the body “form a directional vector of supply or expenditure of energy” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. XI). In Virilio’s diagram which accompanies the third publication of the manifesto


The inclined plane was once defined as the sixth simple machine, which are elementary devices that transform the distribution of forces. An inclined plane becomes a ramp when it is used to transport anything. The potential of the ramp was firstly defined by Archimedes who, according to Virilio, is the last trustworthy geometer. His geometry was of an empirical nature instead of the following mathematical geometers (Cook 2003).



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Potentialism [fig.64], he illustrates three possibilities of walking the oblique. He numbered them and added arrows to highlight the movement as a vector. That plane is conceived as a field of forces,[40] which should not be reduced to up, down and diagonal; because, does not the force-to-ground make out of three directions indefinite interactions? Every angle, every fraction of an angle, provides a different movement, and the positioning of the body is a multiplying alteration. We do not have one variable anymore but all angulations in relation to weight or energy. This constitutes the Motor Project. Somewhere around the conception of The Oblique Function, Henri Lefebvre was looking out his window in his flat in Paris. He observed that “(i)n the street, people can turn right or left, but their walk, the rhythm of their walking, their movements [gestes] do not change for all that” (Lefebvre 2007, p. 40). ‘Dressage’, a concept he developed later in Rhythmanalysis, is embedded in a contested socio-political frame, which in the 1960s was more closely related to the practices of the Situationists. Lefebvre criticised Virilio and Parent for being formalists. But what he failed to comprehend then he did so in retrospect, or at least that is what Virilio tells. The Oblique Function wanted to transgress dressage by proving what the body can do. Virilio mentions that “(w)ith the orthogonal plane, the flat plane, as in the entire history of architecture, there is no difference between making one movement or another. On an inclined plane, climbing and descending are radically different; but climbing diagonally or descending diagonally are different again; and walking laterally is different as well. Every dimension, every direction of space becomes a modification of the body.” (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 36) It is common knowledge that children as well as adults have the urge for perfecting performances. Walking on the flat is certainly easier than walking on an


The ‘field of forces’ is understood as Goldstein does: “Reducing the entire situation to 'field forces' would therefore imply the necessity of introducing new variables again and again. And since the functional significance of these variables depends on the respective 'task', in reference to the potentialities of self-actualisation, we are referred back to the organism as chief determiner of the 'field forces'” (Goldstein 2000, p. 300).

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oblique. Mastering the force-to-ground provides many playful ways of adapting to the environment. The inclined plane is the catapult for exploring somatic possibilities. It becomes a dance, urban and pedestrian as well as homely, not because of an imperative choreography but because of the changing rhythms of a very personal conquest.

(3.2.2) Potentialism Glory means ‘weight’. Glory is heaviness, not brilliance. When we think glory, we think stars, shiny things, but not at all, it’s weight, density. (Dobbels, Louppe and Virilio 1994, p.13f.)

Soon after World War II had finished Virilio converted to Christianity. His oblique approximation to religion – he defines himself as an ‘anarco-christian’ – places man at the end of the world not in the centre, which excludes all that might be post-human, e.g. supermans, cyborgs, invading prostheses (Armitage and Virilio 1999, p. 29). Similarly, Goldstein’s refusal to adopt inductive methods in the medical practice, challenges the notion of the normal, healthy average, on behalf of the patient’s human essence. He manages to not compare the patient’s condition and recovery to the statistical norm but rather to itself and its personal development. Goldstein aims to disjoin disease from the concept of anomaly, because anomaly is the normative conclusion of the scanning of many bodies embedded in a larger social structure, thus its immanent reference is the one of the ‘universal super-individual’, as Goldstein calls it. He is not preaching for an individualistic or egocentric interpretation of the organism; there is a difference to be made between individuality and the individualistic. His perspective preconceives sociability as intrinsic to individual behaviour as it is part of the milieu, and necessary for organisation as well as centring. These attributes comprise self-realisation, which is not a static level that can ever be completed but a process of an unfolding encountering between the organism and the other (Goldstein 2000, p. 343ff.). Furthermore, Goldstein’s suspicion about genetics or eugenics is grounded not on moral values, but rather on the ignorant stance of such assumptions towards the necessity of individuality and freedom for existence. As he



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says, “Man, as a ‘spiritual’ being, is no longer tied to his drives and his immediate milieu; he is milieu autonomous, and as we should call it, ‘world open’. For the human being alone has ‘world’. To him, as well as to the animal, the world is given originally, as centres of resistance - and reaction,” (Goldstein 2000, p. 353) instead of ‘centres of relaxation’ as Virilio called contemporaneous architecture, which is secreting “ever increasing amounts of inverse weight.” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. VIII) It could be stated that The Oblique Function is in relation to Kurt Goldstein, in the same way as it is to (Paul Tillich’s) religion, a “doctrine of human freedom”: One can say that the significance of Goldstein for the study of religion lies in his doctrine of human freedom. Only a being who can transcend the concrete situation, or who has ‘an attitude toward the abstract’, is able to transcend the whole of encountered reality. Only he who is able to deal with the merely possible can transform everything into a ‘possible’, into something which ‘could have not been’, and then ask the question of that which cannot not be, the ‘ground of being.’ Freedom, not in the obsolete sense of an indeterministic metaphysics, but in the sense that Goldstein describes it, as the ability of transcending the bondage to the concrete situation, is the condition of the religious question. (Tillich 1959, p. 20)

Culture is characterised by the coexistence of the possible and the actual (abstract and concrete), according to Goldstein “without the ‘attitude toward the Possible’, abstract behaviour could not exist.” (Goldstein 2000, p. 302) In the potential lies the ability to deliberately say no or yes to the actual and change directions. Architecture Principe said no to Euclidean space and orthogonality, rebelling against the long architectural tradition of statics as seen in the bunker; and they said no to the polarisation of man into an inertial state. Virilio and Parent crystallised the theoretical research made on the oblique, in the project for the Saint Bernadette du Banlay Chapel in Nevers. The church was built in honour of Bernadette Soubirous who had 18 consequent epiphanies of the ‘Immaculate Conception’ at the Grotto of Massabielle near Lourdes in 1858.[41] It all comes together in this project: the cave, the bunker, the church,


“...Massabielle is a really unfitting place: it’s the pigsty. Men would also take prostitutes there at night. That’s where the Virgin Mary was about to appear, which perfectly fits my faith moreover. She appears where danger grows, preceded by the prostitutes and the good thieves. It’s all there. For me, this grotto is the bunker.” (Lotringer and Virilio 2002, p. 27)

[fig.68] Saint  Bernadette  du  Banlay,  Claude   Parent  and  Paul  Virilio  1962-­3

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are spaces of withdrawal and refuge. In the description of the Nevers project, it says: “(a)t the present time religious architecture can have no finer end than the one allowing for the elaboration of a favourable milieu to man; with such an end it can be considered proper spiritual material, for no symbolic architectural gesture can compete with the use of an unusual place.” (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. XI) The church’s structure, construction, form, and expression are accomplished by two mirrored cantilevers of reinforced concrete, in their meeting is the access, which is unusually placed in the centre of the space [fig.68]. Apart from that, The Oblique Function takes the rather traditional scheme of the ground plan – with the altar in the highest point of one of the slopes – and tilts it, as if God’s force-to-ground impacted on earth. This one ‘simple’ action allows the faithful to experience the ‘glorious weight’, instead of stunningly contemplate the ritual, light, and images. According to Merleau-Ponty: “What enables us to centre our existence is also what prevents us from centring it completely, and the anonymity of our body is inseparably both freedom and servitude.” (Merleau-Ponty 2005, p. 99) In a way, servitude and freedom are both synthesised in the soma’s force-to-ground.


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(4) Conclusion

Many beings have found their place in my writing: the terrestrial being, the planetary being, the energetic being, the somatic being; all fall under the category of the human being, however I encountered the ergonomic being, the architectural being, and the technical being, as well. The question about hybrid subjects is open to discussion, and as Ingraham supposes “ontological shifts in the meaning of life affect, and are affected by, shifts in the meaning of architecture.” (Ingraham in Harrison 2013, p. 44) The ‘mutation of mankind’ advocated in the manifesto can be understood as an ontological shift, at the same time as Condition also speaks of being but can nevertheless be used more specifically as state, environment, fitness, disorder, constraint. Almost half a century has passed since the publication of The Oblique Function. Claude Parent continued theorising and implementing the oblique in exhibitions and buildings [fig.69]. Paul Virilio, on the contrary, became in 1972 co-director of l’École Speciale d’Architecture, and after a few years abandoned teaching The Oblique Function because it “seemed to offer no practical benefit to young architects starting out in the working world.” (Virilio 1996, p. 13) In addition to their political incompatibility since 1968, the passion they once shared for speed found in their subsequent, independent work opposing expression. Like in the two sides of one coin, Parent embraced the accelerating vector of the slope and proceeded to design nuclear power plants and supermarkets, whilst Virilio praised deceleration and committed his work to a pathological survey of technology and dromology (Migayrou and Rambert 2010, p. 282f.). Whether it is a ‘work of art’ or not is rather irrelevant, in any case it is “closer to an ‘artistic realisation’,” as Virilio calls it, which seeks aesthetic satisfaction in the holistic experience of space-time, as seen in the Saint Bernadette du Banlay Chapel (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. XII). Therefore, it is surprising to see Virilio embracing the


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pioneering work of Liquid Architecture as a continuation of The Oblique Function in view of the fact that they understand form separate to experience, which in Spuybroek’s words “involves as much routine and habit as ‘program’ normally would.” (Spuybroek 2009, p. 21) The Oblique Function designed forces of occupation instead of a sequential program, more in line with modern dance as it discovered in the floor a ground for the most dynamic movements (Rajchmann 1997, p. 53). However, Virilio’s rather pragmatic approach to teaching might have seen in the liquid model a conscious use of digital programs that methodologically translates untenable technologies into design techniques. In the manifesto, the ‘shock wave’ as a supersonic, immaterial propagation of information was formally tamed by the concrete architecture, but nevertheless interrupted by the functional shock inferred by the inclined. Through the analysis of experimental settings it was feasible to appraise the psycho-physiological consequences endured by the individual, and translate them into the morpho-somatic evidence of The Oblique Function. In parallel to the massive broadcasting of space travel and race, it seemed legitimate to ask: why do we undergo so many experiments for inhabiting other planets and artificial environments when we do not really understand nor embrace the possibilities of being on Earth? Experiencing and exercising to live elsewhere in the galaxy had to still be undertaken on terrestrial ground. However, nowadays that the pilot population of Mars is already in trial, this question might seem outdated for the upcoming generation of martian beings. Anyway, It was not surprising for such an inquiry to find inspiration from what the atrocities of the war had left behind – that which had survived. The pathological findings of Virilio about the Bunkers of the Atlantic Wall and Goldstein’s patients were not fatalistic in any way but rather encouraging. They allowed themselves to question the norms impinged upon bodies in both the clinic and architecture by constituting a ‘ground of being’. Given their holistic appreciation of ‘the lived body’ it was possible to presume that what binds human and architecture is, on the one hand, their respective autonomy and weight, and on the other hand, the processes within a world arising from them. The unques-



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tioned laws of gravity were no longer forgotten rules but what potentiates the soma’s motor and ‘excellent’ performances. “Beauty is no longer our goal. Form is refused by a universe having broken away from it. The goal to be attained is self-evidence,” stated Parent (Parent and Virilio 1997, p. VI). What made their work ‘critically modern’ were not the sculptural, and expressionist forms, but the incorporation of energetic factors. Way too much potential was being wasted by the population (‘inverse weight’) therefore conditions of expenditure as well as conservation had to be introduced to confront a world made too comfortable. Architecture’s self-evidence could but only instate itself by being the ground for displacement – and dogmatically ask for it – and not move itself. The adversary quest saw in an assembled, synergic and flexible system a more promising future. What the French utopias of the 1960s nevertheless had in common was the eager to suppress the dissemination of collective life through segregating urban policies and tele-visual technologies (the latter in the case of the Situationists and The Oblique Function). However, it was not only about novel structures, a necessary change of behaviour was being demanded as well. Then, when the question concerning participatory design was initially raised, the other associations assumed a more passive attitude reducing their agency to planning infrastructures, whilst in the case of The Oblique Function the role of architecture prevailed because of somatic participation. Through Goldstein’s neuro-physiology it was possible to translate behaviour into movement, through Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology to understand movement as form, and therefore to demonstrate how The Oblique Function can become Somatic Architecture. Goldstein divided behaviour into ‘abstract’ and ‘concrete’ – what Merleau-Ponty called ‘virtual’ and ‘actual’ – visualising in the abstract a voluntary shift in the attitude towards the world. This was crystallised in a performance that is by no means isolated but a conscious participation within a dynamic milieu that transcends the concrete situations of everyday life. However, such a state cannot be achieved without a dysfunctional moment, a shock, which rattles the organism in order to regain existential equilibrium. It was shown how a disjuncture from the space-time con-


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tinuum – either traveling in a car or watching a film – could induce vertigo at the same time as an automatic, absent, distracted or picnoleptic condition, and how through the oblique it was possible to reconnect. Architecture Principe did so by projecting the abstract or virtual behaviour into their enterprise, and bound the potentialism of such an attitude with gravity, which was defined as force-to-ground. Somatic architecture is in this sense highly imageable, i.e. built in voluntary choices or surmountable obstacles qualify the soma to explore and control its habitat. It is a motor project. Following this line of thought it would be interesting to review the work of Nikolai Aleksandrovich Bernstein, a Russian Physiologist and Neurologist, whose aim of study in the 1930s was the coordination of movement. In order to address the socalled ‘degrees of freedom problem’ he developed a cinematographic method to comprehend and analyse motor functions. This problem envisions two models: on the one hand, ‘the externally controlled marionette’ in which movement responds to external instructions, and on the other hand, the ‘self-organised marionette’ (Roy 1997, p. 27). It could be possible to argue that whilst Mauss’ Body Techniques respond to the first model, Goldstein’s organism confronts the latter. However, Bernstein’s cases were hard trained athletes and his data was manipulated footage, and would therefore open new lines of inquiry in respect to The Oblique Function as well as Virilio’s dromoscopic theories of perception. Furthermore, the relation to cinematography in general was only briefly dealt with here and could definitely be object for future research.

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FIGURES Fig. 1: Structure, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1966. Here: p. 2-back. Untitled. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 2-10: Publications of Architecture Principe Groupe 1966. Here: p. 4-back. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 11: Saint Bernadette du Banlay 1962-63. Here: p. 5-back. Another view of the bunker church in Banlay. In: Maak, N. 2010/2011. Claude Parent: The Supermodernist. In: 032c, No. 20 [Winter], pp. 104-115. [online] Available: [accessed: 31.08.2015] Fig. 12: Environment Transformern, Haus Rucker Co 1968. Here: p. 6-back. Laurids, Zamp and Pinter with Environment Transformern (Flyhead, Viewatomizer and Drizzler) 1968. In Awan, N., Schneider, T., and Till, J. 2015. Spatial Agency. [online] Available: [accessed: 31.08.2015] Fig. 13: Ear on Arm, Stelarc 2008. Here: p. 6-back. Ear on Arm. Source: Stelarc Web 2015. [online] Available: ?catID=20242 [accessed: 31.08.2015] Fig. 14: Stability, Schweder and Shelly 2009. Here: p. 7-back. Stability. In: Schweder, A. 2012. Performance Architecture. In: Le Journal Spéciale’Z, No 4. Paris, France: École Speciale d’Architecture, p.114. Fig. 15: Pavillion Françias, Claude Parent 1970. Here: p. 7-back. Pavillion Françias. In: Migayrou, F., and Rambert, F. (ed.) 2010. Claude Parent: L’oeuvre construite, l’oeuvre graphique. Paris, France: Orléans X, p. 201. Fig. 16: Inclined Plane, Haus Rucker Co 1976. Here: p. 8-back. Inclined Plane. Source: Ortner, L., Ortner, M. 2015. O & O Baukunst. [online]. Available: [accessed: 31.08.2015] Fig. 17: Glass Video Gallery, Bernard Tschumi 1990. Here: p. 8-back. Glass Video Gallery. In: Wikipedia 2015. Bernard Tschumi. [online] http:/ / [accessed: 31.08.2015]

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Fig. 18: Urban Poster, Claude Parent 1972. Here: p. 10-back. Affichage urbaine. In: Migayrou, F., and Rambert, F. (ed.) 2010. Claude Parent: L’oeuvre construite, l’oeuvre graphique. Paris, France: Orléans X, p. 203. Fig. 19: Ende der Geschichte, Pierre Bertaux 1979. Here: p. 12-back. Untitled. In: Bertaux, P. 1979. Mutation der Menschheit: Zukunft und Lebenssinn. Frankurt a. M., Germany: Suhrkamp, p. 103. Fig. 20: Ende der Geschichte, Pierre Bertaux 1979. Here: p. 12-back. Untitled. In: Bertaux, P. 1979. Mutation der Menschheit: Zukunft und Lebenssinn. Frankurt a. M., Germany: Suhrkamp, p. 106. Fig. 21: Les Vagues, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1966. Here: p. 12-back. Les Vagues. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 22: Nautacité, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1966. Here: p. 13-back. Nautacité. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 23: Modular Slopes, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1966. Here: p. 13-back. Coupe sur les éléments structurels préfabriqués. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 24: The Naked City, Situationist International 1957. Here: p. 14-back. The Naked City. In: Burridge, A. 2003. We are Bored in the City: The Situationists and the Haptic City. [online] . Available: press/we-are-bored-city-situationists-and-haptic-city [accessed: 31.08.2015] Fig. 25: Instant City, Tuned Suburb, Archigram 1968. Here: p. 14-back. Instant City, Tuned Suburb. In: Kuhnert, N., and Ngo, A.L. (ed.) 2014. Klotz Tapes. In: Arch+, Vol. 47, p. 133. Fig. 26: Endless House, Frederick Kiesler 1947-61. Here: p. 17-back. The Endless House. Source: Frederick and Lilian Kiesler Foundation. [online]. [accessed: 31.08.2015] Fig. 27: City in Space, Frederick Kiesler 1925. Here: p. 17-back. City in Space. Source: Frederick and Lilian Kiesler Foundation. [online] http:/ / [accessed: 31.08.2015] Fig. 28: L’hotel en Corse, Claude Parent and Mannoni 1963. Here: p. 17-back.

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L’hotel en Corse. In: Migayrou, F., and Rambert, F. (ed.) 2010. Claude Parent: L’oeuvre construite, l’oeuvre graphique. Paris, France: Orléans X, p. 110. Fig. 29: Décor pour la pièce de théâtre les Oiseaux, Claude Parent 1961. Here: p. 17back. Décor pour la pièce de théâtre les Oiseaux. In: Migayrou, F., and Rambert, F. (ed.) 2010. Claude Parent: L’oeuvre construite, l’oeuvre graphique. Paris, France: Orléans X, p. 118. Fig. 30: Seuil de rétablissement, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1966. Here: p. 19back. Seuil de rétablissement. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 31: New Babylon, Constant 1963. Here: p. 20-back. Paris, 1963-1964. In: Siglio Books 2015. Extrapolations and interpolations: Maps that chart the Unexpected. [online]. Available: [accessed: 31.08.2015] Fig. 32: Habitable Circulation, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1966. Here: p. 20-back. Circulation Habitable. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 33: Paris Spatial, Yona Friedman 1960. Here: p. 20-back. Paris Spatial. In: Máčel, O., and van Schaik, M. 2005. Exit Utopia: Architectural Provocations 1956-1976. Munich/Berlin/London/New York: Prestel, p. 22. Fig. 34: Suspending City, Paul Maymont 1960. Here: p. 21-back. Vertical City. In: Busbea, L. 2007. Topologies: The Urban Utopia in France, 1960-1970. Cambridge Massachusetts, USA: The MIT Press, p. 123. Fig. 35: Paris Sous la Seine, Paul Maymont 1960. Here: p. 21-back. Paris Sous la Seine. In: Busbea, L. 2007. Topologies: The Urban Utopia in France, 1960-1970. Cambridge Massachusetts, USA: The MIT Press, p. 125. Fig. 36: Cover of Bertaux’s The Mutation of Mankind, 1964. Here: p. 22-back. Source: Price Minister 2015. [online]. Available: mfp/34345/la-mutation-humaine-pierre-bertaux#pid=72964295 [accessed: 31.08.2015] Fig. 37: Électricité, Man Ray 1931. Here: p. 23-back. Électricité. In: Tyradellis, D. 1999. Der Kosmos: die neue Wahrnehmung des Menschen. In: Der neue Mensch: Obsessionen des 20. Jahrhunderts, pp.

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174-203. Ostfildern-Ruit, Germany: Cantz, p. 174. Fig. 38: Still from Pillow Talk, directed by Michael Gordon 1959. Here: p. 23-back. Pillow Talk. In: Diller, E., and Scofidio, R. 1994. Flesh: Architectural Probes. New York, USA: Princeton Architectural Press, p. 151. Fig. 39: Still from Powers of 10, Charles and Ray Eames 1977. Here: p. 24-back. In: Eames, C., and Eames, R. 1977. Powers of 10. [online]. Available: https:/ / [accessed: 09.07.2015] Fig. 40: Mystery Spot, undated. Here: p. 26-back. Mystery Spot. Source: Now Voyager. [online]. Available: http:/ / [accessed: 05.07.2015] Fig. 41: Biotechnical Motion Study, Frederick Kiesler. Here: p. 26-back. Biotechnical Motion Study. In: Phillips, S. 2010. Toward a Research Practice: Frederick Kiesler’s Design-Correlation Laboratory. In: Grey Room, No. 38, pp. 90–120. Cambridge Massachusetts, USA: The MIT Press, p. 103. Fig. 42: Pendular Destabiliser No.1, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1968. Here: p. 27back. Pendular Destabiliser No.1. In: Schweder, A. 2012. Performance Architecture. In: Le Journal Spéciale’Z, No 4, pp.102-129. Paris, France: École Speciale d’Architecture, p. 102. Fig. 43: Human Centrifuge, undated. Here: p. 28-back. Große Menschenzentrifuge. In: Müller, B. 1967. Die gesamte Luftfahrt- und Raumflugmedizin. Düsseldorf, Germany: Droste Verlag, p. 193. Fig. 44: Gravity-Zero Simulator, undated. Here: p. 29-back. Schwerkraft-Null Simulator. In: Müller, B. 1967. Die gesamte Luftfahrt- und Raumflugmedizin. Düsseldorf, Germany: Droste Verlag, p. 256. Fig. 45, 46: Pendular Destabiliser No.1, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1968. Here: p. 29-back. Instabilisateur Pendulaire No.1. In: Migayrou, F., and Rambert, F. (ed.) 2010. Claude Parent: L’oeuvre construite, l’oeuvre graphique. Paris, France: Orléans X, p. 194. Fig. 47: Still from Woman with Left Cereballer Lesion, Kurt Goldstein, undated. Here: p. 32-back. Filmstill aus Woman with Left Cereballer Lesion. Geroulanos, S., and Meyers, T. 2014. Experimente im Individuum: Kurt Goldstein und die Frage des Organismus. Berlin, Germany: August Verlag Berlin, p. 73.

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Fig. 48-50: Bunker Archaeology, Paul Virilio 1991. Here: p. 34-back. In: Virilio, P. 1992. Bunkerarchäologie. München/Wien, Germany/Austria: Carl Hanser Verlag, pp. 207, 96, 178 [respectively]. Fig. 51-53: Bunker Archaeology, Paul Virilio 1991. Here: p. 36-back. In: Virilio, P. 1992. Bunkerarchäologie. München/Wien, Germany/Austria: Carl Hanser Verlag, pp. 131, 176, 177 [respectively]. Fig. 54: Kinaesphaere, Rudolf v. Laban, undated. Here: p. 37-back. Untitled. In: Laban, R. 2010. Choreutik: Grundlagen der Raumharmonielehre des Tanzes. Wilhelmshaven, Germany: Florian Noetzel Verlag, pp. 142-3. Fig. 55: Sketches of the Scales, Rudolf v. Laban, undated. Here: p. 37-back. Sketches of the Scales. In: Dobbels, D., and Louppe, L. 1994. Traces of Dance. Paris, France: Editions Dis Voir, p. 80. Fig. 56: Antonio Sant’Elia, 1914. Here: p. 38-back. Antonio Sant’Elia, 1914. In: Conrads, U. (ed.) 2013. Programme und Manifeste zur Architektur des 20. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, Germany: Bauverlag, p. 35. Fig. 57: Les Vagues, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1966. Here: p. 38-back. Les Vagues. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 58: Still from L’architecture d’aujourd’hui, Le Corbusier and Chenal 1929. In: Jeanerette, C. E., and Chenal, P. 1929. L’architecture d’aujourd’hui. [online]. Available: [accessed: 25.08.2015] Fig. 59: Cover Flesh, Diller and Scofidio 1994. Here: p. 41-back. In: Diller, E., and Scofidio, R. 1994. Flesh: Architectural Probes. New York, USA: Princeton Architectural Press. Fig. 60: The Necker Cube, undated. Here: p. 49-back. The Necker cube: a wire frame cube with no depth cues. In: Wikipedia 2015. Necker Cube. [online] [accessed: 31.08.2015] Fig. 61: Landing Techniques, undated. Here: p. 50-back. Studie der Landungstechnick nach Lomanco. In: Müller, B. 1967. Die gesamte Luftfahrt- und Raumflugmedizin. Düsseldorf, Germany: Droste Verlag, p. 420. Fig. 62: Chloé Parent in the Parent’s House, undated. Here: p. 53-back. Chloé Parent dans l’espace. In: Migayrou, F., and Rambert, F. (ed.) 2010.

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Claude Parent: L’oeuvre construite, l’oeuvre graphique. Paris, France: Orléans X, p. 17. Fig. 63: Slope Variables, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1966. Here: p. 56-back. Untitled. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 64: The Oblique Plane, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1966. Here: p. 57-back. Untitled. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 65: The Oblique Function, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1966. Here: p. 57-back. Untitled. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Fig. 66: Grotte Miraculeuse a Lourdes, Charles Merceau, undated. Here: p. 59-back. Grotte Miraculeuse a Lourdes. In: St. John, B. 2012. The Story of Saint Bernadette and Lourdes. [online]. Available: 2012/07/the-story-of-saint-bernadette-and-lourdes-part-ii-the-spring-ofmiracles-is-discovered/ [accessed: 17.08.2015] Fig. 67: Saint Bernadette du Banlay, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1962-3. Intérieur. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Here: p. 59-back. Fig. 68: Saint Bernadette du Banlay, Claude Parent and Paul Virilio 1962-3. Untitled. In: Parent, C., and Virilio, P. 1997. Architecture Principe: 1966 and 1996. Paris, France: Les Éditions de L’imprimeur, unpaged. Here: p. 60-back. Fig. 69: Exhibitions, Claude Parent 1969-75. Here: p. 61-back. Affiche de l’expostion à la Maison de la culture de Chalon-Sur-Sâone, 1973. Affiche de l’expostion à l’Ecole nationale superiore d’Architecture Bruxellas, 1970. Affiche de l’expostion au centre culturel de Toulose, 1972. Affiche de l’expostion au Théâtre municipal de Caen, 1975. Affiche de l’expostion à la Maison de la culture de Never, 1971. Affiche de l’expostion à la Maison de la culture de Saint Etienne, 1971. Affiche de l’expostion Espace architecurale, 1969. Affiche de l’expostion au cabinet des estampes de la Bibliothéque de France, 1972. [collage]. In: Migayrou, F., and Rambert, F. (ed.) 2010. Claude Parent: L’oeuvre construite, l’oeuvre graphique. Paris, France: Orléans X, p. 169. Fig. 70: Maison Soultrait, Claude Parent 1956-58. Here: p. 63-back. Maison Soultrait. In: Migayrou, F., and Rambert, F. (ed.) 2010. Claude Parent: L’oeuvre construite, l’oeuvre graphique. Paris, France: Orléans X, p. 132.

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This thesis was written with great pleasure and joy, which was mostly due to the support of my supervisors; Dr. Joachim Krausse continuously challenged my ideas and acquainted me with the most exciting references, and Dr. Rebekka Ladewig was an inexhaustible source of motivation and inspiration. Furthermore, I am thankful to the very curious Petar Petričević for encouraging and listening to me always, Passakorn Chantanakorn for his thoughtful advice on layout and design, Jonathan James for proofreading and giving gorgeous remarks, and to the optimistic Kathrin Kolleck from the Bauhaus Foundation Library. Lastly, for the care and confidence I am enormously grateful to Friederike Augustin and Omar Moretti.

DECLARATION Herewith I declare that I have prepared this Master thesis independently, that it has not been submitted in the same or similar wording as an examination paper in another course of study, and that I have not used any other aids and sources than the ones indicated. I have marked any quotations given in the thesis in their original or similar wording as a quotation.

Place, date – Dessau, 02.09.2015

Signature – ......................................................


a neurological explanation of Parent and Virilio's "The Oblique Function".

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