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Architectural Theory Diary

Kevin B Kuriakose s1116013 Year 2013-14


Origins: Mythos and the Primitive Hut Hermeneutics: Hermeneutical Circle Metaphor: Prevalence of Metaphors Body: An Organic Metaphor Contents

Gender: Suppressed, Repressed and Replaced Object: Architecture and Commodity Fetishism Time: Visions of the Future Critique: Utopia as Primordial Critique of the Present


Origins: Mythos and the Primitive Hut In the mid-eighteenth century, Marc-Antoine Laugier in his Essay sur l’Architecture (1753) revised the origin story of architecture through the eyes of mythos (myth). Even though Laugier, like Vitruvius, postulates the primitive hut as the origin of architecture he envisions a completely different conceptual and mythical scenario of a golden age.1 Vitruvius rationalises the early man as a savage wild beast that slowly evolves into a social, civilized being while Laugier pictures man to be a wandering solitary nomad who is one with nature, one that lacks nothing and wants nothing.2 He only realises the fearsome power of nature when he stays too long on a soothing carpet of grass and it starts to get uncomfortably hot.3 Thus began man’s quest, to find shelter from the elements of nature, to find a stasis of sorts. This quest for stasis, eventually leads to the birth of the primitive hut which man assembles from assembling fallen branches he found in nature.4 Laugier institutes the hut as essential model or natural architecture that supplements nature and hence is a technology that replaces natural life by literally becoming found in nature.5 Both origin stories strive to explain the birth of the primitive hut and the social origins of humankind emerging from nature and becoming social beings. What is really interesting is the fact that Laugier uses Ovid’s myth of the golden age to help us question and speculate the possible origins of architecture among other things. A myth essentially is a fictional narrative that is in a state of constant flux being interpreted and reinterpreted according to different circumstances.6 In today’s world that seeks to rationalise and quantify everything, the use of mythos, whether it is to provoke one to rationally reflect on reality or to raise questions in philosophical debate, it clearly is an important tool in architectural discourse. The use of fictional or speculative narratives in architecture is wide ranging as it leaves it open for multiple interpretations. It could be used as a thought provoking tool for critique or even being used as tool for design in the studio. 1 Colman, S, ‘Drawing the line between technology and nature in architectural theory: Blade Runner’s Critique of the Intention of the Primitive Hut’, Architectural Theory Review, vol.6, no. 1 (2009), pp. 158-159 2 Wittman R. ‘The Hut and the Altar: Architectural Origins and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century France’, Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture, vol. 36 (2007), pp. 237-238 3 Ibid pg. 238 4 Colman, S, ‘Drawing the line between technology and nature in architectural theory: Blade Runner’s Critique of the Intention of the Primitive Hut’, Architectural Theory Review, vol.6, no. 1 (2009), pg. 159 5 Ibid pg. 159 6 Orfanos S. D., ‘Mythos and Logos’, Psychoanalytic Dialogues: The International Journal of Relational Perspectives, vol. 16, no. 4, pg. 481


Hermeneutics: Hermeneutical Circle The process of my design, in the beginning was unclear, only existing in outline, and gradually through the introduction of precedents, parameters and restrictions it slowly emerges as a parti, an initial metaphorical projection, a projection of a pre-understanding.1 In this case the parti, based on previous design experience and precedents, was simply to organise a hospice around a central courtyard. Throughout the design there was a constant dialogue, an interplay between the parts and the whole, each affecting the other in various ways. Interpretation of the parts modify the initial projection and in turn plays back to modify the interpretation of parts.2 For example the changing of the arrangement of walls within the private cells has a substantial effect on the organisation of the whole proposal. Only by reflecting, revising and reinterpreting the design changes at both the level of the whole and the part, one is able to draw out the implication of earlier moves and create new problems to be described and solved.3 The process of design continues to progress and clarify as the design is continually revised in the light of the interpretation and the increasing development and understanding of the parts.4 By this cyclical reflective process the whole gradually emerges. Retrospectively this fluid and repetitive process of ever-changing reflection, revisions, false starts and especially backtracking was often frustrating and arduous, until one came to terms with the fact that the process of design evolves in cycles following the universal dynamics of the hermeneutical circle.5

1 Coyne R., Snodgrass A. and Martin D., Metaphor in the Design Studio, Journal of Architectural Education (1984- ), Vol. 48, No. 2 (Nov., 1994), pg. 118 2 Snodgrass, A. and R. Coyne, “Architectural hermeneutics�, Interpretation in Architecture: Design as a Way of Thinking, (London: Routledge, 2006), pg. 46 3 Ibid, pg. 45 4 Ibid, pg. 37 5 Ibid, pg. 46


Metaphor: Prevalence of Metaphors A metaphor is understanding and experiencing one kind of thing in terms of another.1 It can not only be seen as a way of decoding and interpreting architecture but also as a way of generating, articulating and creating connections during design. The essence of metaphor permeates the world of architecture at every level, from the critique of the built environment to the very process of design. Through metaphoric projection we are able understand a relatively abstract or inherently unstructured subject matter in terms of a more concrete or at least more highly structured subject matter.2 Thus new metaphors can create an entirely new conceptual system that radically changes the way we perceive something.3 Metaphorical projection has played a key role in the formation of architectural identity. It is one of the fundamental means by which we project structure, make new connection and remould our experience.4 Let us take a look at various 20th century propositions have applied metaphors to describe the abstract concept of the house: that house is a machine (Functionalism), that it is an ocean liner (International Style), that it is a prosthetic device (Archigram), that a house is a mollusc shell (Organic Architecture).5 Each of these provocative architectural metaphors have acted as a stimulus to us reimagining and reinterpret the idea the house in completely new way. By layering architectural metaphors we are able to perceive even more sophisticated, philosophical and complex meaning to architecture. As Ricoeur rightly underlines metaphors increase our perception of reality by shattering our sense of reality and that reality goes through phases of metamorphosis through metaphors.6

1 Lakoff G., Johnson M., Metaphors we live by, (Chicago, 2003), pg. 5 2 Fez-Barringten, B., Architecture: The Making of Metaphors, (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2012), pg. 2 3 Ayiran, N. ‘The role of metaphors in the formation of architectural identity’, A|Z ITU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture, Vol. 9, No.2 (2012), pg. 2 4 Lakoff G., Johnson M., Metaphors we live by, (Chicago, 2003), pg.168 5 Seligmann K. and Seligmann C., ‘Architecture and Language: Notes on a Metaphor’, JAE, Vol. 30, No. 4 (1977), pp. 23 6 Ayiran, N. ‘The role of metaphors in the formation of architectural identity’, A|Z ITU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture, Vol. 9, No. 2 (2012), pg. 2


Body: An Organic Metaphor When we design or represent our design in the studio the presence of a human figure is crucial as it not only gives us a sense of scale but creates an immediate association between the observer and the projected space. Despite the constant presence of the human figure when we design, we seldom consciously incorporate the human figure into the elements of architecture by simile and metaphor.1 Throughout history, the human body, its parts, form and proportions have been profoundly, spiritually, symbolically linked to various elements of architecture.2 Even architectural terms such as front, from the Latin frons meaning forehead and the façade from face suggests how architecture is interpreted through human form.3 Renaissance drawings of Francesco di Giorgio Martini illustrates how the human body provides order to city plans, to the arrangement of buildings and facades.4 In these drawings the corporeal arrangement and the proportion is the primary concern as opposed to the drawings we usually do in the studios where the human body is used for scale and to depict how the buildings affect and accommodate human sensibilities and actions.5 Another more recent example of the body being used metaphorically is by Leon Krier (1984) in his battle against, the metaphoric and anthropomorphised, deleterious modernist city and it’s poorly organised body, patched up by mechanistic and functionalistic prostheses.6 The cosmological isomorphism of Giorgio and the symbolic imagery of Krier are just two of the many ways in which the organic, mutable, metaphor of the body can be used in the realm of architecture rather than just limited to a representational squiggle to depict scale.

1 Frascari, M., ‘The Body and Architecture in the Drawings of Carlo Scarpa’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 14 (1987), pg. 123 2 Anderson, A., ‘On the Human Figure in Architectural Representation’, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 55, No. 4 (2002), pg. 238 3 Onians, J., ‘Architecture, Metaphor and the Mind’, Architectural History, Vol. 35 (1992), pg. 194 4 Anderson, A., ‘On the Human Figure in Architectural Representation’, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 55, No. 4 (2002), pg. 239 5 Ibid, pg. 243 6 Frascari, M., ‘The Body and Architecture in the Drawings of Carlo Scarpa’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 14 (1987), pg. 123


Gender: Suppressed, Repressed and Replaced ‘We can say that the architecture that we would like to be poetry should be called harmonious, like the beautiful face of a woman’ -Carlo Scarpa (quoted in Dal Co 1985: 283) In the previous diary entry the role and incorporation of the body as an analogue and metaphor in architecture was briefly discussed. It is interesting to note that, it is male anthropomorphism that has dominated the system of architecture ever since Vitruvius.1 In Antonio Filarete’s Treatise on Architecture, the gender of the body and its sexual function, in this case the act of giving birth, are exchanged in a move of transsexuality whereby man’s procreative fantasy is enacted.2 He uses the metaphor of the building as a living man and he incorporates the role of the architect as the creator, the mother that metaphorically gives birth to the building.3 By this act of metaphorical projection, a woman’s unique quality, of reproduction, is project onto the male body thereby supressing and repressing her whole sexual body.4 As mentioned before Di Giorgio Martini used the analogy of the human body to give order to city plans.5 Di Giorgio urges one to place the piazza in the middle and the centre of the city just as the navel is to man’s body, so common place can serve the other places organised around it.6 This analogy would have worked quite effortlessly if the female body was taken as the symbolic reference, yet again he insists that the man’s navel is transformed through transsexual operation into the city’s metaphorical womb that provides nourishment to the entire city.7 Through architectural transsexual operation, man as the architect, feminizes himself and tries to exert complete dominance over the act of conception, nourishment and reproduction and thereby tries to completely repress, suppress and replace the figure of a woman from architecture.8

1 Agrest, D., ‘Architecture from without: Body, Logic, and Sex’, Assemblage, No. 7 (Oct., 1988), pg. 29 2 Ibid, pg. 33 3 Ibid, pg. 34 4 Ibid, pg. 33 5 Anderson, A., ‘On the Human Figure in Architectural Representation’, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 55, No. 4 (2002), pg. 238 6 Agrest, D., ‘Architecture from without: Body, Logic, and Sex’, Assemblage, No. 7 (Oct., 1988), pg. 35 7 Ibid, pg. 35 8 Ibid, pg. 36


Object: Architecture and Commodity Fetishism Origin of the word fetish: early 17th century (originally denoting an object used by the peoples of West Africa as an amulet or charm): from French fétiche, from Portuguese feitiço ‘charm, sorcery’ (originally an adjective meaning ‘made by art’), from Latin facticius.1 Origin of the word Commodity: late Middle English (in the sense ‘beneficial, useful’): from French commodieux or Medieval Latin commodiosus, based on Latin commodus ‘convenient’.2 ‘So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, as soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.’3 We live in a world governed by commodities and lives driven by desire to own more commodities and to such a point that the objects we possess tend to be part or even an extension of our personal identity. The theory of commodity fetishism, propounded by Karl Marx can be applied to buildings, as they too are considered as commodities, and even though complex social relations and process are necessary for its creation.4 These complex relationships involved in the creation of buildings are often overlooked as they are not always visible or understandable and we tend to treat commodities as simply items money.5 Architects have tended to fetishize their creation, separating their designs and ideas from the societies involved in their creation and imbibing their said creations with autonomous and apparently magical powers.6 Even leading architects themselves have become commoditized as starchitects and they are known for creating objects of desire that attract huge public attention, yet ignoring the complicated and often harsh social world involved in the creation of these buildings.7 Even as architecture students, we find it very difficult to visualize the often exploitative and hazardous process which have gone into production of the built environment we surround ourselves with.8 ‘Everything has a price’ has become a generally accepted truism and by ignoring the hidden sphere of production we are seeing buildings reduced to just quotidian commodities worth a certain amount of money, joining the ranks of other fetishized consumer objects.9 1 Fetish in Oxford Online (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/fetish) 2 Commodious in Oxford Online (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/commodious) 3 Marx, K. ‘The fetishism of commodities’ [1856], in Selected Writings, 2nd ed., ed. by McLellan, (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 472 4 Dickens, P., Architecture as commodity fetishism. Some cautionary comments on ‘Green Design’, Housing Studies, Vol. 8 No.2 (1993), pg. 148 5 Ibid, pg. 148 6 Ibid, pg. 148 7 Ots, E. Decoding Theoryspeak: An illustrated guide to architectural theory, (New York, 2010), pg. 152 8 Dickens, P., Architecture as commodity fetishism. Some cautionary comments on ‘Green Design’, Housing Studies, Vol. 8 No.2 (1993), pg. 148 9 Ots, E. Decoding Theoryspeak: An illustrated guide to architectural theory, (New York, 2010), pg. 101


Time: Visions of the Future The discussions of time have always featured in philosophy and every culture has a different approach to the notion of time.1 For example in Hinduism, Kala is the tyrannical deity of time, death and destruction.2 Time in Hinduism and Vedic scriptures is cyclical, always in an endless cycle of birth, destruction and rebirth.3 Contrastingly modern society, tends to view time as a linear entity, which can be represented as a vector leading from the past to the future, moving from one sequential event to another.4 The use of a straight line to explain the enigma of time is to illustrate its linear nature has become part of the rational way of thinking about time. One of the by-products of the linear view of time is the fact that we are constantly looking into and predicting the future. The modern age man discovered a tangible form of the future in nineteenth century literature where writers such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells present possible prospects of the future in the framework of scientific-technological development.5 A similar trend can be observed in the field of architecture. The volume of conceptual, speculative and fictional architecture that present possible prospects of architectural development in the time ahead is growing.6 Groups like Archizoom and Superstudio not only holds up a mirror to the future but also provide a critique on the state of the art in architectural practice and society.7

1 Somogyvári, M., ‘Time and Responsibility’, World Futures:The Journal of Global Education, Vol. 65 No. 5-6 (2009), pg. 342 2 Dalal, R., Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide, (Penguin Books India, 2011), pg. 185 3 Panikkar, R., Toward a Typology of Time and Temporality in the Ancient Indian Tradition, Philosophy East and West, Vol. 24, No. 2 (1974), pg. 162 4 Somogyvári, M., ‘Time and Responsibility’, World Futures:The Journal of Global Education, Vol. 65 No. 5-6 (2009), pg. 345 5 Ibid, pg. 345 6 Ots, E. Decoding Theoryspeak: An illustrated guide to architectural theory, (New York, 2010), pg. 101 7 Ibid, pg. 101


Critique: Utopia as Primordial Critique of the Present Despite utopia being defined as an impossible, unrealistic and naive speculation, modern architecture has been under its spell since inception and was thought to be an important tool in bringing about change and reform.1 Yet Paul Ricoeur contends that the perceived function of utopia has evolved from change to the world of critique.2 Andrea Branzi states that the utopia we use is not a prefiguration of a different model of the system but is a critical hypothesis related to the system itself.3 By looking at the mass imagery of No stop city, one sees the urban fabric being transformed into a continuous strip saturated with mass consumption symbols, devoid of architectural identity, almost prison like as it stripped of any relationship with the exterior. 4 The drawings could be interpreted as a series of modernist counter utopic depictions that acts as a critique of the existing social and architectural order.5 The drawings with its relentless homogenous repetition is somehow reminiscent of many things from factories, offices, markets, parks and actual social housing schemes, an American suburb or a sea of apartment blocks devoid of ‘place’.6 Discarding the principle of tabula rasa, Archizoom tries to understand and represent the existing city as a condition produced by capital and mass production and as a radical critique of the current system of architecture and contemporary society. 7 Inclusion and exclusion being part of the same construct, No stop City acts as a critique of not only what it includes but also what it omits. For example it makes one contemplate on the importance of architectural quality, space and place in relation to the existing city as well as the future of architecture.

1 Stierli, M., ‘Building No Place’, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 67, No. 1, pp. 8 2 Ashcroft B., ‘Critical utopias’, Textual Practice, (2007), 419 3 Archizoom Associati, ‘City, assembly-line of social issues: ideology and theory of the metropolis’, Casabella, No. 350-351 1970, pg. 157 4 Picon, A., ‘Learning from Utopia’, Journal of Architectural Education, (2013), pg. 19 5 Ibid. pg. 19 6 Altürk, E., ‘Architectural representation as a medium of critical agencies’, The Journal of Architecture, (2008), pg. 143 7 Rouillard, D., ‘Superarchitecture’, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 67: No. 1 (2013), pg. 120


Bibliography Origins: Mythos and the Primitive Hut Colman, S, ‘Drawing the line between technology and nature in architectural theory: Blade Runner’s Critique of the Intention of the Primitive Hut’, Architectural Theory Review, vol.6, no. 1 (2009), pp. 156-174 Orfanos S. D., ‘Mythos and Logos’, Psychoanalytic Dialogues: The International Journal of Relational Perspectives, vol. 16, no. 4, pp. 481499 Wittman R. ‘The Hut and the Altar: Architectural Origins and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century France’, Studies in Eighteenth Century Culture, vol. 36 (2007), pp. 235-259

Hermeneutics: Hermeneutical Circle Coyne R., Snodgrass A. and Martin D., ‘Metaphor in the Design Studio’, Journal of Architectural Education (1984- ), Vol. 48, No. 2 (Nov., 1994), pp. 113-125 Snodgrass, A. and R. Coyne, “Architectural hermeneutics”, Interpretation in Architecture: Design as a Way of Thinking, (London: Routledge, 2006), pg. 29-55

Metaphor: Prevalence of Metaphors Ayiran, N. ‘The role of metaphors in the formation of architectural identity’, A |Z ITU Journal of the Faculty of Architecture, Vol. 9, No. 2 (2012), pp. 2-21 Fez-Barringten, B., Architecture: The Making of Metaphors, (Newcastle upon Tyne, 2012), pp. 2-14 Lakoff G., Johnson M., Metaphors we live by, (Chicago, 2003), pg. 5 Seligmann K. and Seligmann C., ‘Architecture and Language: Notes on a Metaphor’, JAE, Vol. 30, No. 4 (1977), pp. 23-27


Bibliography Body: An Organic Metaphor Anderson, A., ‘On the Human Figure in Architectural Representation’, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 55, No. 4 (2002), pp. 238-246 Frascari, M., ‘The Body and Architecture in the Drawings of Carlo Scarpa’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 14 (1987), pp. 123-14 Onians, J., ‘Architecture, Metaphor and the Mind’, Architectural History, Vol. 35 (1992), pp. 192-207

Gender: Suppressed, Repressed and Replaced Agrest, D., ‘Architecture from without: Body, Logic, and Sex’, Assemblage, No. 7 (Oct., 1988), pp. 28-41 Anderson, A., ‘On the Human Figure in Architectural Representation’, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 55, No. 4 (2002), pg. 238

Object: Architecture and Commodity Fetishism Dickens, P., Architecture as commodity fetishism. Some cautionary comments on ‘Green Design’, Housing Studies, Vol. 8 No.2 (1993), pp. 148-15 Marx, K. ‘The fetishism of commodities’ [1856], in Selected Writings, 2nd ed., ed. by McLellan, (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003), pp. 472-482 Ots, E. Decoding Theoryspeak: An illustrated guide to architectural theory, (New York, 2010), pp. 101, 152 Fetish in Oxford Online (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/fetish) Commodious in Oxford Online (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/commodious)


Bibliography Time: Visions of the Future Dalal, R., Hinduism: An Alphabetical Guide, (Penguin Books India, 2011), pg. 185 Ots, E. Decoding Theoryspeak: An illustrated guide to architectural theory, (New York, 2010), pg. 101 Panikkar, R., Toward a Typology of Time and Temporality in the Ancient Indian Tradition Philosophy East and West, Vol. 24, No. 2, Time and Temporality (1974), pp. 161-164 pg 162 Somogyvári, M., ‘Time and Responsibility’, World Futures:The Journal of Global Education, Vol. 65 No. 5-6 (2009), pp. 342-355

Critique: Utopia as Primordial Critique of the Present Altürk, E., ‘Architectural representation as a medium of critical agencies’, The Journal of Architecture, (2008), pp. 133-152 Archizoom Associati, ‘City, assembly-line of social issues: ideology and theory of the metropolis’, Casabella, No. 350-351 1970, pp. 156-74. Ashcroft B., Critical utopias, Textual Practice, (2007), 411-431 Picon, A., Learning from Utopia, Journal of Architectural Education, (2013), pp. 17-23 Rouillard, D., Superarchitecture, Journal of Architectural Education, (2013), pp. 119-121 Stierli, M., Building No Place, Journal of Architectural Education, (2013), pp. 8-16


Sources of Illustrations Origins: Mythos and the Primitive Hut Vitruvio Adam. Adam cast out from the Garden of Eden, Filarete, c. 1461. (http://periferiadomestica.tumblr.com/page/100)

Metaphor: Prevalence of Metaphors Archigram, Walking City (http://archipressone.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/archigramw.gif)

Body: An Organic Metaphor Leon Krier. The Reconstruction of the City Frascari, M., ‘The Body and Architecture in the Drawings of Carlo Scarpa’, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 14 (1987), pg. 123 The body in the facade of a church, Francesco di Giorgio Martini, c. 1492 (The Dancing Column, MIT Press) Anderson, A., ‘On the Human Figure in Architectural Representation’, Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 55, No. 4 (2002), pg. 240

Object: Architecture and Commodity Fetishism Brand Logos http://bagdc1kpomieczynska.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/logos-all.jpg

Critique: Utopia as Primordial Critique of the Present No-Stop City Residential Park Climatic Universal System Author(s): Archizoom Associates, Design Quarterly, No. 78/79, Conceptual Architecture (1970), pp. 18, 19 Archizoom Associates, http://25.media.tumblr.com/8c96a20f59319f09fd3c4ed15f527649/tumblr_mkuk5vL82Z1rqitrqo1_r1_1280.jpg


Architectural Theory Diary