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Laura Edwards

Unit 15

Student No. 000683528 Diploma Architecture



METHODOLOGY STATEMENT 1.0 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 6.0 7.0 8.0

Thesis Subject Definition Research Methods Avoiding Irrationalty Systems of Inquiry Format Notes Bibliography

1 2 2 4 6 7 8 9

The Avant-garde The Positive and the

13 21 25 29 35

THESIS 1.0 1.1 Negative 1.2 2.0 3.0 4.0 5.0 5.1 6.0 7.0

It Takes Two Definitions Building Vs Architecture Rationality in Architectural History Human Irrationality Insanity Piranesi’s Prisons Irrational Theory in Art

40 56 65 67 73 86

7.1 Auto-destructive Art 8.0 Theory in Architecture 9.0 Case Study I Coop Himmelblau 10.0 The Architect’s Role 11.0 Case Study II Slave City, Atelier Van Lieshout 12.0 SWAT Analysis 13.0 Current Irrationality in Architecture 14.0 Future Irrationality in Architecture 15.0 The Avant-garde 15.1 Communicating Theories 15.2 The Halo Effect 15.3 Irrational Real Utopias 15.4 A Fine Line 15.5 The Architectural Institution 15.6 Thesis Format 15.7 Hypothesis 15.8 Misgivings Notes

92 103 118 121 130 132 133 139 140 141 142 143 144 145 147 148 151 157



1.0 Argument Can irrationality be used consciously in a positive way to stimulate creativity in society through architecture? This thesis argues that irrationality can be a proxy for creativity. When injected into the architectural design process, it is in my opinion that the resulting architecture will almost always be exciting, fascinating and inspirational. The architecture created may be fragmented, disjointed, ambiguous, disorientating, perhaps even disturbing, and often a combination of the aforementioned. Counter intuitively however, a basis of rationality needs to exist for irrationality to be powerful and positive. In considering this argument I will be critically engaging with multiple psychoanalytical and architectural design case studies, both built and unbuilt, actual an hypothetical, in which irrationality has played a major part, discussing both the irrational and rational areas of the projects. To form a basis for the argument I will discuss rationality in architecture and the origins of irrationality within ourselves in order to form a solid understanding of irrationality. 1



When dealing with the definition of irrationality a number of alternatives exist in the work of psychoanalysists, psychiatrists and philosophers such as Freud, Laing and Nietzsche, (especially when debating the position of insanity). I will primarily be dealing with the contemporary normative conceptions as defined by the Oxford dictionary but, in order to be inclusive of alternate views, I will also discuss the arguments of the above. 3.0

Research Methods

Irrationality in its purest form is objective in the way that it can, along with its components, be defined and identified in a dictionary definitive logic. However, in practice, irrationality rarely presents itself as a singular factor. It often arises with elements of rationality and is subjected to a plethora of variants before being secreted from its source. In my view, extracting irrationality from matter or thought would reduce our own understanding of it’s origins and hence its importance. To understand irrationality fully, we must also consider the context in which it took place, its source 2

and any evidence of rationality previous or subsequent. Therefore analysis of the case studies within this thesis will be undertaken under the ontological assumption that irrationality in the design process and irrationality itself is nuanced by the complexity of social relations and personal character(s) of the designer(s), rather than limited to being objectively measured. Similarly, the design process cannot be regarded as consisting primarily of objectified elements and observable, measurable facts. Therefore, an effort will be made to avoid simplification of the social phenomena of the design process. This inquiry allows access into the inherent complexity of irrationality, with a view to extracting design opportunities through: a SWOT analysis following mixed-method design and literature case study reviews; analysis of appropriate artwork; an interrogation into society’s inherent irrationality; and a projection of future opportunities based on currently developing technologies and research. It is important to carry out the case study in a mixed-method in order to include some quantitive analysis in an otherwise qualitative study.



Avoiding Irrationality

Amongst the titles in the bibliography it is likely that some if not many of the literature, films and art works were chosen on merit of the author, director or artist’s name. Judging a piece of work positively solely on a name is a common irrational trait known as The Halo Effect. A test carried out by two psychologists in 1982 revealed that, when twelve published articles were sent to the very same journals that first published them, all but one of the articles were rejected with only three having being recognised as already being published. The only variable to the articles was the author’s names – These had been replaced with unknown authors when previously they had been the names of members of the top ten most prestigious psychology departments in the US, such as Harvard or Princeton. The reasons given for the rejection of the remaining eight articles that were not recognised was that they did not merit publication.1 This is a shocking example of the Halo Effect and shows why I cannot rule out the presence of this irrationality in my research. The Halo Effect may have occurred in several areas up to the writing of this thesis. For example, as the above illustrates, in the publication or production of the literature, film or art work; 4

or perhaps in the recommendation of sources by my tutor (as my superior, I am likely to not question them); and in my own research selection. It would be ignorant to rule out my own and other people’s inherent irrationality during the research and writing of this thesis. Therefore, research will be undertaken with the epistemological assumption that elements of irrationality will have, directly or indirectly, affected my research. However, to limit the irrational potential, I will endeavour to be cautious and selective, basing choices on recommendations from sources who have read or seen the digital or physical material themselves; and/or material that has good reviews on online polls (although not void of irrationality, a high average review should reduce the risk); and/or material that is from a proven source. In addition I will refrain from carrying out research when in a condition that may have an effect on my irrational behaviour or thought processes such as when intoxicated, stressed or ill. When critically discussing built architecture, a rational and logical approach would be to base the point of view from 5

personal, first hand experience. However, where this is not possible, I will use the point of views of several sources that have co-existed in the same space as the case study subject for triangulation. 5.0

System of Inquiry

To establish a system of inquiry for the thesis research I must consider the various paradigms within the multiple frameworks. For example, as the subject of this thesis limits the amount of possible alternate research methods, a continuum framework would not be appropriate due to the spread of objective and subjective paradigms within multiple systems of inquiry. A dichotomous framework could work under a qualitative or subjective paradigm, however, it is perhaps too simplistic and the terminology places too much emphasis on the level of tactics – particularly a qualitative paradigm. An emancipatory paradigm2 within an alternative framework, however, is perhaps the most appropriate system of inquiry for this thesis as it takes account of the ontological and epistemological assumptions that are pertinent to the subject of irrationality 6


I have chosen the word ‘and’ due to

and its position within a design process as well as society.

its frequent occurrence and largely central position in sentences in order to break up the text systematically, in a fragmented manner. However, due to its very frequent occurrence I have decided to only start a new page every third incidence in order to maintain an affordable print cost.

Emancipatory research recognises that multiple realities exist, but also stresses the role that social, political, cultural, ethnic and gender issues play in the social construction of reality. An acknowledgment of the interactive dynamics between researcher and participant – or in this case, material – is also present, as well as highlighting the historical and social context of the research. 6.0 Format In order to strengthen my argument I will draw parallels between the format of the written thesis and the SWOT analysis of my case studies, through the inclusion of irrational methods such as overlaying random images on the text, breaking up the mass of the text at the occurrence of every third ‘and’.i


7.0 Notes Peters, D. K., & Ceci, S. J. (1982). Peer-review practices of learned journals: the fate of published articles submitted again. The Behavioral and Brain Sciences (5), 187-255. 2 Groat, L., & Wang, D. (2002). Architectural Research Methods. New York : John Wiley & Sons Ltd. 1


8.0 Bibliography Works cited are referenced in the notes. The following are sources that have been particularly useful in the construction of the methodology statement. Gray, C., & Malins, J. (2004). Visualising Research: A Guide to the Research Process in Art and Design. London: Ashgate Publishing Limited. Groat, L., & Wang, D. (2002). Architectural Research Methods. New York : John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Harrison, C., & Wood, P. (Eds.). (2003). Art in Theory 19002000: An anthology of Changing Ideas. Oxford: Blackwell.



“We are tired of

Palladio and other historical masks. Because with

architecture, we don’t want
 to exclude everything that is disquieting.

We want architecture that has more. Architecture that bleeds, that exhausts, that whirls,
 and even breaks.

Architecture that lights up, stings, rips, and tears under stress.

Architecture has to be cavernous, fiery, smooth, hard, angular, brutal, round, delicate, colorful, obscene, lustful, dreamy, attracting, repelling, wet, dry, and throbbing.

Alive or dead.

If cold, then cold as a block of ice.
 If hot, then hot as a blazing wing.
 Architecture must blaze.” 1 11


Fragment 1.0: The Avant-garde Irrationality has been a subject of discussion in architecture for over half a century. Beginning as an extension of modernism, a call for humanization of architecture was brought to attention when, in 1949, Giedion suggested, through a critical discussion on Alvar Alto’s work, that rationality had caused an alienation between architecture and society and it was now time for irrationality to be reintroduced in order to re-establish the human connection through fragmentation.2 I put forward that Geidon’s mission in architectural irrationality has, on the whole, not been achieved in the way it was intended. For the most part, only those who have the time, money and


status have the capacity to inject irrationality into the architectural design process, and even then, the end result is generally void of humanistic relation. It is evident that these architects of our time, the Hadids, Gehrys and Liebskinds of the world seek fame and


Fig 1 Weisman Art Museum, Frank Gehry Source: pnp/highsm/04800/04873v.jpg Accessed: 08.04.13


stature: Pushing the aesthetic envelope to relive the ‘Bilbao Effect;’ Creating a mega-brand in a western world of consumerists. I doubt there can be many, if any, comparisons drawn between the work of Alto and today’s ‘Starchitects,’ as the media have named them. For the most part, irrationality lives in the form and aesthetic of these buildings.3 In my view, the endeavour for good has been lost, or is used as a guise and


irrationality once again corrupts through consumerism. How can architecture be once again humanised through irrationality and used to inspire society to be creative and honest? The answer is surely not in designing for the space-squeezing, penny-pinching developer, of whom there are many, but – as architecture and


design critic Aaron Betsky suggested in a recent lecture – creating architecture for architecture’s sake4 Then again, as the saying goes, ‘beggars can’t be choosers,’ and with the recent economic turndown crippling many businesses, who are we to judge? Hadid, Gehry and Libeskind have, however, seemingly cruised on through, continuing to erect several avant-garde buildings and


appearing in the press in recent years. This raises the question of what is it that makes their architecture so appealing to feepaying clients and the general public? How does this reflect the values of society and how can those values be called into question (if indeed they need to be)? Fragment 1.1: The Positive and the Negative Generally the term ‘irrational’ has negative connotations brought about by the results of irrational behaviour, while ‘rational’, being the opposite, is a positive term. But how can the two terms be so distinctly separated? This would imply that to be completely rational is to be completely good and


all decisions rationally would lead to goals being reached, so long as other people’s decisions and other contextual circumstances don’t interfere. However, by removing the irrational part of the subconscious, we would therefore making decisions without the involvement of feelings, intoxication, or any other contributing factors, they would likely have no capacity for the appreciation of art and be incapable of loving, as the Kurt Wimmer directed, sci-fi film Equilibrium explores. Of course this isn’t possible or in fact desirable. For example, artistic movements such as Surrealism emerged, for the most part, as a reaction against pure logic and


Fig 2 Equilibrium Film Still Source: http://2.bp.blogspot. com/-r5vwK5HLGF8/UENq4jr201I/ AAAAAAAAAjA/je27QKaAcUQ/ s1600/Screen+Shot+2012-0902+at+15.08.39+(2).png Accessed: 08.04.13


reason, associating rationality with contemporary social problems at the time.5 In contrast to most art forms, however, it is impossible for architectural design – without an element of reason – to create a safe, habitable physical form. However, perhaps the architecture does not necessarily need to be habitable, or even built to have an impact on the values and qualities of society. I will explore this theory in greater detail later on in the thesis. To this extent I will be considering rationality both as a difficult paradigm and as vital tool for architectural design reinvention. According to the philosopher Zizek6 reality is created as a product of fictitious interpretations of other people’s rational thought rather than lived and


experienced. Therefore ‘real’ reality can only occur when rationality ceases to function. Counter-intuitively, however, in order to enter the realms of irrationality, architecture must critically engage with rationality itself and attempt to unpack rationality from within. Fragment 1.2: It Takes Two Irrationality is one of the most distinctive qualitative traits of the subconscious and is one of the main features setting the human species apart from all other living creatures. It is what makes us interesting and


unpredictable, creative and imaginative. Therefore, given the above, it seems that rationality and irrationality must paradoxically exist harmoniously for inspiring architecture to emerge. In considering this argument I will be critically engaging with several case studies, both built and


unbuilt, possible and hypothetical, in which irrationality has played a major part, discussing both the irrational and rational areas of the projects within their context, design, form, use, etc. To form a basis for the argument I will discuss both rationality in architecture and


perhaps more importantly irrationality, within ourselves. This will provide a platform from which to critically engage with irrationality in architecture within a social context.


Fragment 2.0: Definitions When dealing with the definition of irrationality a number of alternatives exist in the work of psychoanalysists, psychiatrists and philosophers such as Freud, Laing and Nietzsche, (especially when debating the position of insanity). I am primarily dealing with the contemporary normative conceptions as defined by the Oxford dictionary but, in order to acknowledge alternate views, I will also be inclusive of the main opposing arguments. The dictionary definitions for both rationality and


irrationality are as follows: Rational (adjective) 1.

“Based on or in accordance with reason or logic; able to think sensibly or logically; and endowed with the capacity to reason.


Mathematics (of a number, quantity, or expression) expressible, or containing quantities, which are expressible as a ratio of whole numbers.7”

Within the thesis when rationality is referenced I will be referring to the primary definition of reason and logic. Irrational (Adjective) 1.


“Not logical or reasonable; and

Fig 3 & 4 Synmap Definitions SynMap uses lexical database from WordNet 3.1 © 2006 Princeton University

not endowed with the power of reason.


Mathematics (of a number, quantity, or expression) not expressible as a ratio of two integers, and having an infinite and non-recurring expansion when expressed as a decimal. Examples of irrational numbers are the number π and


the square root of 2.8”

Again, when irrationality is referenced I will be referring to the primary definition of illogical and not reasonable. However, these terms are quite subjective, especially where a decision may sit somewhere in the middle between reasonable and unreasonable: One person’s view may differ from another’s. Also, in a “catch 22” situation there may be no reasonable choice rendering the logical decision the lesser of two evils, but again, this is subjective to an individual’s views. The views in this thesis are my own but I will try to be sympathetic to other opinions at the same time.


Fragment 3.0: Building Vs Architecture In The Pleasure of Architecture Bernard Tschumi claimed that architecture is set apart from ‘building’ as it is fundamentally useless by nature. He demands a “glorification of architectural uselessness in which the chaos of sensuality and


the order of purity combine to form structures that evoke the space in which they are built.9” Therefore we can deduce that Tschumi’s definition of a ‘building’ is a structure with a program and use, something that is built for purpose such as factories, airports, train stations, offices, houses, hospitals etc., in fact the majority of built forms, whilst architecture resides mainly in follies and installations, much like those in Tschumi’s own Parc de la Villette in Paris. If a ‘building’ is something that has been designed within the paradigms of “form follows function” then that means, in Tschumi’s view, that architecture born from the Enlightenment, Rationalist, Modernist and


Functionalist movements was not architecture at all. Where as more recent movements like Deconstructivist and Postmodernist, which follow a mantra of “function follows form” therefore are much more architecturally orientated. However, Tschumi also argued that it is too often assumed that architecture is created from the knowledge of form whereas it is in fact born from the form of knowledge.10 An architectural design process is not about how the structure is put together, but rather the knowledge learned from the site – its history, context, culture – and the story of its inhabitants. The latter has little to do with a building and


isn’t necessary to create one. In fact it is more time consuming and expensive to include these areas in the design process and therefore fundamentally irrational when creating a factor or warehouse, for example. To summarise, Tschumi implies that ‘architecture’ and


‘building’ can exist cohesively or separately, but only together when irrationality is incorporated into the design process.


Fragment 4.0: Rationality in Architectural History In understanding and evaluating irrationality in architecture we must first understand it without. Otherwise it is akin to being asked to determine whether a cake is better for the incorporation of chocolate chips without first tasting the original base mix. During the Enlightenment period in the 18th Century (Neoclassicism, to be precise), for example,i it was believed that intellectually, architecture should be based in science rather than on traditions and values. Jean-NicolasLouis Durand (1760-1834), an author, architect and


By no means by beginning with the Enlightenment am I insinuating that rational architecture started there. Since the very first semblances of architecture emerged rationality has played a major part: Irrationality in architecture is a luxury that very probably could not be afforded at the beginnings of civilization. However, the Enlightenment has been identified as an important turning point in architectural history towards modernism,12 which in turn is largely recognized for the introduction of the irrationality in architecture that we see today,13 and therefore is a good starting point for this discussion. i

teacher at le École Polytechnique, was a strong advocate for structural rationalism (as the movement has retrospectively been termed) and an important figure. He worked with the architect Étienne-Louis Boullée (1728–99) for periods, who is regarded as a visionary and influential French neoclassical architect. He developed a distinctive abstract geometric style characterized by geometric shapes, repetition, symmetry and


lack of ornament. Although all of these characteristics are rational, and the ideology of science in architecture is a typically rational subject, Boullée’s other fascination was in the huge scale of his geometric designs, which is unnecessary and therefore irrational. Non-the-less, this still had reason and


Fig 5 Newton memorial, Etienne-louis boullee Source: http://4.bp.blogspot. com/-V6vFUkVuteU/UDQS6uPn5_I/ AAAAAAAAD1c/y5ijPsD7r48/s1600/ Etienne-Louis+Boullée,+Cenotaph+to +Sir+Isaac+Newton,+ca.+1784.jpg Accessed: 08.03.13


logic behind it: Boullée believed a dramatic scale would make architecture expressive of its purpose, which gave rise to the term “architecture parlante” or “talking architecture” – A phrase familiar to the students of the École des Beaux-Arts.11 Structural Rationalism continued through the 19th century and by the 20th century architects emerged such as Auguste Perret, a specialist in reinforced concrete and the Italian Gruppo 7 who wrote: “The hallmark of the earlier avant-gardei was a contrived impetus and


Avant-garde was the term commonly used for modernism at the time.15 i

a vain, destructive fury, mingling good and bad elements: the hallmark of today’s youth is a desire for lucidity and wisdom... This must be clear...we do not intend to break with tradition... The new architecture, the true architecture, should be the result of a close association between logic and




Of course logic is rationality and hence what they are actually saying here is that real, true architecture is rational. It is interesting that they used the terms ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ which is very ambiguous. Do they mean logical and


illogical perhaps? In the late 1960’s Neo-Rationalism materialized as an extension of the Enlightenment and was influenced greatly by the work of architectural historian Manfred Tafuri16 Neorationalists mocked modernists, declaring that “Classicism is not a Style,” and favoring classical architecture – with its pragmatic ratios, symmetry and


geometry – and conventional urbanism. Modernists, on the other hand rejected the scientific certainty of Enlightenment and the tradition of Neo-rationalist thinking, believing that new technologies brought about the need for new styles of architecture. For example Le Corbusier made comparisons between automobiles and


buildings, seeing the former as machines for travelling in and the latter as “machines for living in.” Following the machine analogy, ‘pure’ and geometric forms and


materiality were emphasized. Rationality here prevails through the technological comparisons: systematically planned architecture in form and program; devoid of decoration and ornamentation; and letting the clean materials and


Fig 6 Villa Savoye, Le Corbusier Source: http://4.bp.blogspot. com/-tYFJYg6bGTY/TbSDa0NGp4I/ AAAAAAAAAAw/xdHtZNsuIKI/s1600/ villa+savoye-le+corbusier.jpg Accessed: 08.03.13


linear lines stand out.17 The majority of both Le Corbusier and Mies Van Der Rohe’s buildings, especially those built in the time of high-modernism, can also be described as Functionalist, which follows the principle that architecture should be purely designed through its purpose, with nothing added that isn’t necessary. Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye is thought of as a shining example of a Functionalist house. Both architects are credited for proving Louis Sullivan’s belief that if “form follows function,” then beauty will naturally prevail.i 18 Functionalism would perhaps be the most rational of the above architectural styles if it weren’t for aforementioned belief in an inevitable beauty arriving from a method of design that is completely detached from aesthetics. Beauty itself cannot be rational for it is not quantifiable – unless measured within parameters that are universally accepted as ‘beautiful’ such as perhaps the golden ratio (or rectangle), for example – but for the most part it is subjective to opinion. On the other hand, all of the above architectural styles seek aesthetically pleasing results in their designs through simple geometry, symmetry, traditional values or a combination of all three. 52

I acknowledge that the historic styles and progressions discussed have been grossly generalized but I believe it is necessary to demonstrate an overall understanding of rationality in architectural history while leaving enough space to effectively discuss the major subject of the thesis directly. i

But this is where the other styles differ from Functionalism: It is not irrational to actively seek beauty if it is pleasing to the general eye, as this is logical in helping to achieve positive criticism and happy clients.


Fragment 5.0: Human Irrationality Stuart Sutherland, columnist, professor of psychology and author of the iconoclastic book Irrationality argued that irrational behaviour is more prolific than rational behaviour. He goes on to back his theory up with a plethora of psychological experiments and


accounts revealing that even the most astute of men can frequently make irrational decisions. However, a rational mind has long been considered desirable by people such as the 19th century biologist Thomas Huxley, who is purported to have said “If some great Power would agree to make me always think what is true and do what is right, on condition of being turned into a sort of clock, and wound up every morning before I got out of bed, I should instantly close with the offer.� 19 Sutherland provides insight into the many ways people are inherently irrational and


in doing so provides a platform of knowledge and words of advice from which the reader can choose whether to attempt to recognise and avoid irrational behaviour in the future. He also states that Aristotle believed a person could learn to be spontaneously rational if they persistently made rational decisions as long as they already have a level of rationality to build from. However, in opposition to the beliefs of Aristotle and


Huxley, I question whether it is be desirable or, for that mater, beneficial to be completely rational, especially in terms of a creative capacity. When it comes to design and creativity it is in my opinion that some of the most interesting projects come from impulsive moments or events. Such as in the awardwinning work of Wolf Prix and


Hemult Swiczinsky in their partnership Coop Himmelblaui who have, for the past 30 or so years, developed a design synthesis involving surrealist concepts to create that instance of creativity which they have termed the ‘psychogram.’ 20 I will discuss the work of Coop Himmelblau in depth as a case study later.

In the mid 1990s, after almost thirsty years in practice under the name Coop Himmelblau the firm began to use a variation on that name, Coop Himmelb(l)au. Within this thesis, the firm is consistently referred to under the original name.

In addition to the ‘psychogram’ it may be possible that irrationality can be used positively in a number of ways within the creative design process. By carrying out case studies of particularly exemplar projects including the work of Coop Himmelblau, I hope to discover these and interpret them as formulae for meaningful, inspiring, chaotic architecture.

Fig 7 New Urban Entertainment Center, Mexico Coop Himmelb(l)au Copyright Gerald Zugmann Source: at/architecture/projects/new-urbanentertainment-center/ Accessed: 08.04.13

I agree with Sutherland when he declares that “The bad effects of irrationality occur mainly when major decisions are being taken: mistakes made by engineers are revealed in accidents and those by doctors in avoidable deaths.” 21 But it puts forward the tumultuous question of whether the decisions of the architect are important enough to potentially be dangerous. Of course it depends on the context of the decision – if it relates to the structure or anything that effect the safety of the architecture’s users then an irrational 60



decision can definitely be dangerous. But if the decision is made within the realms of the conceptual design then an irrational decision is unlikely to be dangerous, but that is not to say it would necessarily result in a positive outcome. In the final chapter of Irrationality Sutherland identifies five general reasons why people are irrational. The first three are only speculative but the last two are known factors. I won’t go into these in detail, but I feel it is important to have an overall idea of the causes of irrationality in order to be able to make informed judgements on where irrationality in design may stem from within the context of the later case studies. 1.


Evolution: innate instinct, strong emotions and

See the photos on the following page for an interesting example of cause 3. i

a willingness for conformity. For example, the risk of embarrassment and desire for group co-operation.


Cognitive errors of neural network systems are thought to be responsible for the halo effect whereby, for example, a person’s judgement of someone is distorted by their most obvious characteristic: salient properties trigger the strongest neuron reactions, which, due to neurons firing simultaneously, overshadow lesser characteristics.


Mental laziness or ‘heuristics’: making decisions with little thought or taking shortcuts through logical thinking.i


Failure to use elementary probability theory and statistics due to ignorance.


Self-serving Bias: the desire to be right or the wish to support one’s self-esteem.

Of course, all of the above are subconscious factors, implying that we do not have the capacity to be irrational consciously, 63


Fig 8 Source: http://1.bp.blogspot. com/-sBvMFmh66yA/TbF11pxDImI/ AAAAAAAAEoM/Q841U8LsGMM/s1600/ funny-fail-construction-design-5.jpg Accessed: 07.03.2013 Fig 9 Source: http://1.bp.blogspot. com/-6eR-NP-xO3I/TahmWmxU7qI/ AAAAAAAAEfo/cuE4OeiIE9Y/s1600/ Bad-Architecture-008.jpg Accessed: 07.03.2013

or perhaps that we do not wish to be knowingly irrational therefore it is not considered a factor. Sutherland doesn’t include here the effects of stress, intoxication or mental disorder in the above, but I would speculate that this is because these factors only amplify the effects of the five root causes. Fragment 5.1: Insanity As a side note on the topic of causal irrationality through mental disorders, R. D. Liang – a psychiatrist influenced by existential philosophy – opposed the orthodox thinking of insanity, believing that it is simply “A perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world.” 22 He saw society and


its normative preconceptions of rational behaviour to be fundamentally broken and completely irrational. Insanity – for example in the case of schizophrenia – he argued, was a normal, rational reaction to societies pressures. As interesting as this theory is, it is only that – a theory – and therefore cannot be used as a persuasive, justified argument within the thesis.


Fragment 6.0: Piranesi’s Prisons Possibly the most notable example of irrationality historically in architecture can be found in the fourteen etchings of Piranesi’s Prisons, which were published in 1750. I wish to briefly examine these works due to their significant influence Surrealism, and


therefore ultimately in the prevailing Deconstructivist architectural style of today, both of which I will be discussing later. In Architecture and Utopia, the historian Manfredo Tafuri recalls how the rational excesses of Piranesi’s prisons took Laugier’s theoretical proposals of “order and tumult” to the extreme. Treating classical elements as fragmented and



See Slave City case study.

decaying symbols, he argues that Piranesi’s architecture battled against itself, in that the obsessive rationality of building types was “sadistically” carried to the extremes of irrationality,23 which is comparable to the psychological irrationality of Atelier Van Lieshout’s 2005 project Slave City.i



Fig 10 Piranesi’s Prison Etching Source: look/wp-content/uploads/2009/09/ piranesi.jpg Accessed: 07.03.2013

The psychological irrationality of Piranesi’s prisons is evident in the sense of paranoia and sadism indicated by the watching towers figures in the background and the large torture chamber type machinery in the foreground. Also the apparent scale of the architecture hints at the control of a large power, yet the arrangement and


aesthetic of the classical architectural elements reflect a dark, disorientating labyrinth and a sense of being trapped in a large, open space.


Fragment 7.0: Irrational Theory in Art Movements and styles in architecture are intrinsically linked to changes in attitudes and


thinking and important events effecting society and usually manifests itself in art movements prior to appearing in the built form. That is to say that art influences architecture more than the other way around. This is probably due to the availability and


opportunity of art as a canvas (pun intended) to freely explore ideas. Architecture requires much more resources and is bound by a significant amount of ‘red tape’ in western society. Having said that, architecture is also a proxy for both artistic and self-reflective reaction due to its highly public, physical prominence, especially in densely populated cities, creating a cycle of cause and


effect – Continually questioning and reacting against itself, art and society. Arguably the most self-aware artistic movements in terms of irrationality are Dada and


Surrealism, although arguably Dada was more fundamentally orientated around social and political satire and “Detournment” than irrationality.24 Never the less, Tristan Tzara’s (a central figure in the founding of Dada) 1918 Dada Manifesto declares “Logic is always false. It draws the superficial threads of concepts and


words towards illusory conclusions and centres.” 25 He believed, like many Dada theorists, that any rational system of thought arriving at a penultimate conclusion was not substantial. The Dada way was to, instead, be strictly relative and non-specific in an attempt to tap into irrational egotistical impulses, which was believed by Nietszche to be of human nature. “If I shout: Ideal, Ideal, Ideal, Knowledge, Knowledge, Knowledge, Boomboom, Boomboom, Boomboom I have rexorded fairly accurately Progress, Law, Morals…in order, finally, to say that … everyone has danced according to his own personal boomboom…” 26 The work of both Nietszche and


Freud was a source of inspiration to Dada and Surrealist participants. Freud’s theory on the dangers of suppressing irrational components of the personality was particularly of interest to the Berlin Dadaist’s who were facing a time of great street violence over the divide of the city.27 Although Surrealist theory was based on Freud, the movement was established in Paris where Freudian texts weren’t translated until 1922. It wasn’t until Max Ernst (a German who had been studying Freud’s work in depth for a decade) joined the surrealist group the very same year that Freudian theory really became a strong focal point for the movement. His work Pieta or Revolution by Night, painted in 1993 draws on Freud’s emphasis on dreams.28 The painting depicts an image of the Ernst held by his father in a likeness to the traditional Christian image of Mary holding Jesus Christ. Ernst’s father was a strict Catholic who was purported to have criticized his work, and the painting is often assumed to be a depiction of Ernst’s desire to restore their difficult relationship.29 Another interpretation is that, given the grey colour of the painted Ernst, this father has turned him to stone.30 However, in similarity to dreams, a definitive analysis cannot be drawn. Some of Freud’s fundamental principles of ‘dream work’ are 81

Fig 11 Pieta or Revolution by Night, Max Ernst 1993 copyright ADAGP Source: artworks/ernst-pieta-or-revolution-bynight-t03252 Accessed: 05.03.2013


demonstrated in this painting, for example, the process of ‘displacement’ and


‘condensation’ whereby the dreamer’s deepest and true desires and anxieties are manifested in the images conjured up by the subconscious. Surrealists, influenced by Freud’s theories on the unconscious and


Nietszche’s on insanity, believed that within every person lay their ‘true’ insane, other self. Author of the first Surrealist Manifesto31 and the reputed book Mémoires (along with Guy Debord who was later to become the leader of the Situationists International), Andre Breton also created a collective text entitled The Possessions, in which he attempted to simulate states of psychosis. He was an avid collector of work created by psychotic artists and believed that to find the inner insane ‘other’ was to be truly expressive. However, he didn’t cope very well when various friends, colleagues and


muses went insane and is purported to have been deeply unnerved.32 Fragment 7.1: Auto-destructive Art A perhaps lesser know art movement is auto-destructive art, which was first publically demonstrated by Gustav Metzger on the evening of June 22nd 1960, which involved his slow reveal through the application of acid to a suspended sheet of nylon. He used this method to carry a three-fold message: firstly that society was placing too much faith on mechanical and mechanically produced objects, which would inevitably degrade (what might he have thought of society today?); secondly as a message against consumerism and


Fig 12 First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art, Gustav Metzger 1960 copyright Gustav Metzger Source: art/artworks/metzger-recreation-offirst-public-demonstration-of-autodestructive-art-t12156 Accessed: 05.03.2013


capitalism; and lastly emphasising people’s apparent fascination with destruction and self-destruction.33 In contrast to some of today’s auto-destructive art – like those exhibited at the Flux Factory studios, New York in honour of Metzger, and


Fig 13 Life-size Wax Candle Sculpture, Urs Fischer Source: wp-content/uploads/2011/06/8q8.jpg Accessed: 10.12.2012


in fact of Metzger’s own later work – this first public demonstration exhibited the action of destruction as paradoxically being the art, rather than creating art that gradually destroys itself. Before the acid was applied it was merely a canvas and afterwards, a glass screen and a few scraps of nylon. Irrationality is inherent here in both the intentional creation of self-destructive mechanisms, and,


in the case of Metzger’s nylon demonstration, in the choice of materials to create art. The mechanical art forms must, however, be logically thought out in order for them to function as the artist intended, and therefore requires both rationality and irrationality for the desired outcome. The interesting feature in auto-destructive art to me is the use of irrationality to capture the audience’s attention and


draw it towards irrationality in society, which is so normative that one might say it is disguised as rationality. This suggests that once a type of irrational behaviour becomes the norm, it is no longer seen to be irrational because it is socially acceptable, which is a good example of the evolution theory, specifically the willingness to conform. Fragment 8.0: Theory in Architecture In the late 1960s French philosopher Jacques Derrida (19302004) developed a form of semiotic analysis to expose the flaws and disjointed nature of thought, which he named Deconstruction.34 By the 1980’s a new movement in architecture was appearing in retaliation against Modernism and as a branch of Postmoderism, which was given the same name. Bernard Tschumi saw this as a (some may say convenient) opportunity to strengthen the significance of his work through Derrida’s public support and


set about forming a relationship with him. However, after a rift between Tschumi and Peter Eisenman over who was the first to get Derrida’s input and support on their work (in relation to the Parc de La Villette competition), it became clear that the architectural and


philosophical relationship had ulterior motives that were possibly more to do with politics than the subject of Derrida’s work.35 Besides the aforementioned potential distraction architecture creates from the subject theory, there are other factors that make a direct translation of theory to architecture problematic in practice. For example, the structure of the built architecture has to remain solid and safe, for obvious reasons, and in this respect the areas in which the theory was applicable and


could be tested are reduced to the layout, function and form. Secondly, theory is much more open to criticism when translated to a public, built form and any differences between the philosopher and


the architect, such as motive, interests or views, could negatively impact on the theorist’s work. Lastly, theories that do not directly involve an area of architecture cannot therefore be tested through architecture. In the case of Deconstruction, architecture could only act as a metaphor in relation to Derrida’s theory. In Tschumi’s Manifestos he tells of his ambitions to create an architecture that entices and encourages madness or at least creates an environment in which madness can prevail, pushing humanity to the limits of unreason.36 However, in the follies of Parc de La Villette we can see only signifiers of the ideas Tschumi conveys, not a result of the ideas. For example, a leaning wall hints to an idea of unease and volatility; a spiral staircase leads to nowhere; reinforcement bars neatly extend from columns perhaps intending to look incomplete; and


Fig 14 Parc de La Villette, Bernard Tschumi Source: Photo Copyright Carolyn Garden Fig 15 Parc de La Villette, Bernard Tschumi Source: Photo Copyright Fizza Esmail

the vibrant red colour would echo of violence and blood, except if it weren’t for the clean and complete finish that is instead in the likeness of a toy.37 The distinction between irrational theories and


their associated built architecture appears to be a common recurrence for theories in architecture. Buildings that elude to communicate the idea of incompleteness, disjunction and dysfunction, are in fact whole, connected and useful. This is where the fundamental nature of architecture and


the social paradigms the architect wishes to convey become paradoxical, suggesting that such irrational theories can only be truly illustrated through drawn, written or cinematographic projects. However, a real phenomenological experience of the architecture and therefore penultimate outcome of the theory cannot then be observed fully. Then again, regardless of the clear social barriers that make it impossible, perhaps we are happy to merely allude to a theory rather than physically prove it as the result could be dangerous to an architect’s reputation and so it is perhaps safer to be ambiguous. Furthermore, Mark Wigley remarks that Deconstructivism is often misinterpreted as a literal translation of the word itself rather than the theory behind the title, leading to projects that physically and


literally fragment and destruct the architecture as opposed to embodying the ideas of flaws in the architectural constitution without destroying the architecture itself.38 Fragment 9.0: Case Study I - Coop Himmelblau As referred to in a previous fragment, Coop Himmelblau place a great emphasis on the importance of their initial design sketches, which are sometimes done with their eyes closed.39 They reject the traditional method of orthographic projection, which is not sympathetic to the realization of a three-dimensional fragmented form, preferring to rely on the ambiguity of a cubist-like abstract sketch as an architectural design tool. Their early exploratory work of the 1960s has been accredited by critics such as Michael Sorkin to the tumultuous events of the times, including the anti-authoritarian music of The Rolling Stones.40 This was later confirmed by Wolf Prix in his 1995 essay Rolling the Sky: On the Rolling Stones and the Connection of Architecture and


Rock and Roll: “Coop Himmelblau was founded in 1968. That was the year in which not only architecture, but everything exploded: art, science, technology, education, philosophy and music.� 41 Sorkin also made insightful comparisons between the techniques Coop Himmelblau use in their work and



Exquisite Corpse was also used as a

drawing game in a similar vein to the written method.43

those of the surrealist parlour game “exquisite corpse,” derived from Dada ideologies of “automatism,” in which someone would write a sentence or a phrase on a piece of paper, fold the paper so the writing is hidden, past it on and repeat creating a nonsensical and disjointed passage.i Since the participants had no reference point from which to write, the idea was to write the first thing that naturally came into their heads: an automation involving little or no thought and


rational.42 The “phychogram” is similarly used as a method to capture the pure, subconscious desire of the architect in an attempt to “shorten the actual process of design, to condense it. […] We try to define the feeling, the emotion that the space is later to radiate. And the suddenly we have a drawing, sometimes on a sheet of paper, sometimes on the table.44” Coop Himmelblau believe that the quicker a psychogram sketch or model is created the better, likening it to “coming close to the centre of an explosion.45” This implies a great significance and importance on a moment of creativity and


Fig 16 Rooftop Remodeling Falkestrasse Phychogram, Coop Himmelblau Source: at/architecture/projects/rooftopremodeling-falkestrasse Accessed: 18.01.13



Fig 17 Rooftop Remodeling Falkestrasse, Coop Himmelblau 1988 Copyright Coop Himmelb(l)au Source: at/architecture/projects/rooftopremodeling-falkestrasse Accessed: 18.01.13

suggests that pure creativity occurs as an event, a moment in time when the mind and hand join with the spirit. Anthony Vidler, although agreeing with the connection between Surrealism and the automatic gesture of the physchogram production, argues that its reason is not to record the undefined or haphazard emotion of the architect, but rather to use the tension that is evoked by the speed of a quick sketch to create an organic and



Fig 18 Blazing Wing, Coop Himmelblau 1980 Copyright Coop Himmelb(l)au Source: at/architecture/projects/the-blazingwing/ Accessed: 18.01.13

amorphous yet human form.46 If this is the case Coop Himmelblau are less concerned with the theory in the irrational subconscious of surrealism and Dada and instead use it as a rational method to use the unconscious movements of the hand to create a style of aesthetic. However, many of their early work, such as Blazing Wing – an installation in 1980 consisting of a giant steel “wing”, suspended above buildings and


set on fire as a public demonstration of their opposition to the uptight architecture of the 1970’s (see the quote at the introduction to this thesis) – prove Coop Himmelblau’s interest in current issues and passion for change. Furthermore, many if not most of both their early and current work could not be described as organic in form, they are fractured, turbulent and


chaotic, in likeness to Tschumi’s follies of Parc de La Villette and the early drawings of Daniel Libeskind and Zaha Hadid. This argument aside, I wonder what is the true nature of the psychogram? Any architect has had many influences and



Fig 19 Micromegas “Dream Calculus,” Daniel Libeskind Copyright Daniel Libeskind Source: projects/micromegas/images Accessed: 18.01.13

gained a wealth of knowledge leading up to the instance in which the psychogram has been produced. It seems absurd to suggest that they can put all of that out of their mind or even that the hand can resist the urge to habitually draw learned shapes and gestures, no matter how quickly they draw. In fact, the urgency of the drawing is more likely to cause what is known as the “Availability Effect” whereby a person unconsciously draws knowledge from the most recent or recurrent things they observed, heard or learned no matter if it is relevant or not to the present task or question.47 In the case of the architect, this is likely to arise from his or her own architectural style. For example in the psychogram for Coop Himmelblau’s 1998 Rooftop Remodeling Falkestrasse for a Law firm office in Vienna, the architects state, “We envisioned a lightning bolt reversed and a taut arc […] - an element of our architecture that since 1980 has progressively become more important.48” They acknowledge that the prominent arc in their psychogram is a common feature of their architecture. Furthermore, part of the site address is Falkestrasse (Falcon Street), which they deny gave any inspiration to the apparent bird-like shape of the overall sketch, yet would be a further example of the “Availability Effect”. However, this form of irrationality is not likely to hinder the design, quite the 115

opposite: successful architects, like Coop Himmelblau, will have a proven style and


knowledge of form and therefore unconsciously recalling these can only be a strength.


Approximated judgement based on

perceived importance of irrational and rational identifiers.

Irrational Identifiers: Psychogram, program is fitted to form, context is largely dismissed, and much more time and expertise required to engineer and build. Rational Identifiers: Program, use and function, structure.

Estimated Irrational Toxicity Rating i: 60% 117

Fragment 10.0: The Architect’s Role As deduced earlier, irrationality is best used within a conceptual design context to prevent dangerous side effects. Furthermore, in reference to the work of the aforementioned Coop Himmelblau, it might in fact be favorable for the architectural designer to have little or no prior knowledge of structure in order to free the conceptual design up to very few pre-conceived structural constraints. Allowing engineers with a vast knowledge of structure to interpret the design into a buildable project. Robin Evans discusses this in The Projective Cast, using an example of an engineer of Zaha Hadid, Peter Rice, who admitted to prefer “working with designers who had no pretentions to structural knowledge, because the real challenge was left entirely in his hands,49” to support his argument. However, unless the designer is willing to allow the engineer to ‘value engineer’ their concept design, thus risking the loss of the original conceptual idea, it becomes a long, arduous and expensive task even for the most innovative engineer to carry out. The results, however – even after a marathon of rationalization – should still carry the original irrational, creative input and ideas. 118

Fragment 11.0: Case Study II – Slave City, Atelier Van Lieshout Architectural projects do not necessarily have to be built to carry a social or political message. The dystopian 2005 project Slave City by Atelier Van Lieshout (AVL), for example, uses irrationality in a method comparative to Dada “Detournment,” with sustainability as the subject or satire. In contrast to the work of Coop Himmelblau, however, AVL use irrationality in a negative way here in order to shock society and


condemn sustainability. Slave City is described as a “cradle to cradle” project, which is 100% sustainable: it produces all of its own food and energy; maintains a population of 200,000 inhabitants; and as an added bonus produces approximately €7 billion net profit per annum. The catch is that values, morals, food, energy, management and


Fig 20 Slave City Drawing, Atelier Van Lieshout Source: http://4.bp.blogspot. com/_plvVpdUiOq4/Saz_E1TKS0I/ AAAAAAAAABU/59Yb5WA8QRM/ s400/01.jpg Accessed: 18.01.13


market as we know them in today’s society are all inversed: “stupid� or useless people are recycled as food and biogas energy; workers are paid in privileges such as visits to brothels; and inhabitants are allocated specific amounts of time for different daily activities.50 Every detail has been rationally designed to form the perfect zero-energy city. The project is in fact so rational that it has disregarded any moral or ethical objections and


come full circle into deep irrationality of the malevolent variety – akin to a Nazi concentration camp. Like Auschwitz, the buildings, machinery and social structure in Slave City are all designed with the highest possible amount of rationality. The use and social hierarchy dictates the level of aesthetic design. For example, the call centre worker’s brothel is a simple wooden shed structure, whilst the university lecture’s brothel has more luxurious aesthetics and



Fig 21 Star Brothel for Males, Slave City, Atelier Van Lieshout Source: http://landlab.files.wordpress. com/2009/04/star-brothel-for-males. jpg Accessed: 18.01.13 Fig 22 Brothel for Call Centre Males, Slave City, Atelier Van Lieshout Source: http://www.archdaily. com/30114/slave-city-atelier-vanlieshout/mini-modular-brothel-2x2x5/ Accessed: 18.01.13



Fig 23 Crockery showing images of city activities, Slave City, Atelier Van Lieshout Source: http://smellslikeart.files. Accessed: 18.01.13


Judged by the morals and ethics of

contemporary Western Society. ii

Approximated judgement based on

perceived importance of irrational and rational identifiers.

amenities. Every building and structure has a useful purpose within the context of the city. The use, however, is where the irrationality lies: machines to enslave and destroy humans. Although Slave City is not an example of a project in which irrationality has been used positively to provoke or emphasise creativity, it does question the potential effect of hypothetical projects. It is evident that a major contributor in communicating an idea or to create a catalyst for the questioning of current affairs is the shock factor, which is achieved through the uncanny, or goes against the norm.

Irrational Identifiersi: Use and function, malevolence, cannibalism, murder. Rational Identifiers: Structure, economy, sustainability.

Estimated Irrational Toxicity Ratingii: 90% 129

Fragment 12.0: SWAT Analysis


• •

Irrational design tools such as the psychogram allow the design process to be quick and efficient. Projects are highly creatively driven. More significant projects can be created from the rationalisation of an irrational design concept than the other way around. Irrationality is most effective when used in hypothetical theory driven projects, enabling theories to be well communicated.



The following SWAT analysis is based mostly on the consideration of the irrationality within the Coop Himmelblau case study as it is most appropriate for the subject of this thesis.

• •

Expensive and difficult to engineer and build. Site constraints are not taken into account until later in the desgin process, leading to more difficult projects to realise. It may be difficult for an architect or any designer with construction or project site knowledge to be able to carry out an intuition orientated design excercise such as a psychogram without any conscious influences.

When used in the design process there is an opportunity to create inspirational, passionate, provokative architecture. To humanise architecture, thereby making inhabitants and users more psychologically comfortable. Irrationality for the use of communicating important theories and ideas to society, architects and designers. There may be an opportunity to explore the realms of the innate creativity of the architect through irrational psychological methods.



When irrationality is prevailent in the use or function it may result in a sadistic/masochistic architecture. It is likely that the realised built architecture may not sit well in it’s context. The role of the architect may be passed on to the engineer, demoting the architect to a simple artist. Furthermore, provocing creativity in society might have additional negative implications on the architectural profession. i.e. oversaturation or the use of architects for design may be viewed as unecessary. If both of these threats occur, the architectural profession will die. 131

Fragment 13.0: Current Irrationality in Architecture Through the examples discussed we can establish that irrationality in architecture can currently reside in any, all or a combination of the following categories: • • • • • • • • •


Design Process Uses/functions Program Materiality Form Narrative Context/urbanism Sustainability Build cost

Fragment 14.0: Future Irrationality in Architecture The current prominent drivers in society are technology and sustainability with special interest in space travel/habitats (i.e. Foster & Partner’s moon dust 3D printing research60). Using the analysis of current irrationality in architecture, we can make speculate as to how future developments may bring about new incidences of irrationality: 1.

Architecture present in fully immersive augmented and virtual reality (i.e. gaming) may bring about a new way to build irrational unbuildable architecture. An augmented reality technology capable of interpreting a person’s thoughts and


visions could make it possible for any imaginable space to materialise in a virtual world. Perhaps, as space on Earth becomes too over-crowded, people can choose to live in a virtual world on a permanent/semi-permanent basis with the possibility to change their environment with a single thought or memory.i


The unethical and inhumane nature of Slave City by Atelier Van Lieshout could possibly become easily overlooked with the arrival of ‘synthetic’ human biotechnology as moral boundaries between human and inhuman become blurred.


Large-scale 3D printing may make it possible for almost anyone, architecturally trained or not, insane or sane, to create architecture, leading to many irrational outcomes whether intentional or not. Open-source 3D software may give access to anyone and



Similar to the concepts cinematically

explored within Paul Verhoeven’s 1990 film Total Recall and Christopher Nolan’s 2010 film Inception.

virtual creations could readily be turned into full-scale 3D printed matter, which increases the potential creation of irrational architecture.


Anti-gravitational simulators may render currently rational architectural programmes irrational and dysfunctional. However, where architecture is created within antigravity paradigms and constraints, the opposite is true as the layouts of architectural programmes are drastically reconfigured.


Biotechnology may enable architectural materials to become ever changing and


growing. Purpose-built architecture becomes impossible in the case of this particular technology, and frequent users of the architecture built with it may be constantly disorientated, perhaps even trapped.


Sustainable dystopias: As the climate changes, paranoia takes hold of society. Experimental sustainable communities are born and high levels of paranoia surpass moral judgement and


call for unsurpassed levels of rationality, rendering the likes of AVL’s Slave City a convincing model for sustainable living. Furthermore, ownership of resources could reach a point where rifts between countries turn into a, paradoxically unsustainable and irrational, full-scale world war.




Fragment 15.0: The Avant-garde Early on in the thesis I discussed the percieved irrationality in the work of well-known, consumerist architects and suggested the possibility of a desire for public appeal as the driving force for the fragmented style of their work rather than the communication of theories, which is seen as a more valiant driver. So what is it that makes the work of such architects so attractive to certain audiences, for example, architects, artists and the public. Particularly the avant-garde and creative programmes of museums etc.? It is obvious that clients, users and city planners will want ‘iconic’ buildings: Clients as a symbol of power; users as a building that is ‘out of the norm’ or - if they work in the building - for egotistical pride; and city planners and councils to enhance the status of their area and increase tourism. For architects and artists, perhaps the fascination stems from awe since few have the status and resources available to afford the cost of irrational design in built architecture. 139

Fragment 15.1: Communicating Theories As discussed previously, behavioral irrationality that is prevalent in society is largely ‘the norm’ and, due to the willingness to conform, has become acceptable and of little interest to the masses. Therefore, to effectively communicate an idea of society’s irrationality, architecture must use extremely exaggerated forms of the same, or interpretations of, otherwise the architecture will not be “different” enough to make the idea eye-catching and clear enough to inspire self-reflection. Or maybe not – perhaps the same level of irrationality is enough when the use of irrationality in the context of architecture is not “the norm.” In either case it shows that architecture has to be ever evolving in order to be effective in communication theory.


Fragment 15.2: The Halo Effect In some cases of the built form in today’s western world, the design and building process is put on a pedestal of irrationality: an air of distorted and delusional optimism is bestowed upon it by one or several invested parties, usually involving the architect if not caused by the architect – namely in the event of the aforementioned ‘Halo effect.’62 For example, faith in the architect can be bestowed without rational grounds in a way that leads the client to irrationally believe that the project will succeed, and no act of god, man or spirit will prevent the architect’s vision becoming reality. Of course this is unrealistic, however, as Sutherland discusses in Irrationality, it is also a common trait of human thought. I propose that society accepts its disorganised, dysfunctional and irrational ways as part of what make humans ‘human’, and in doing so, learns to recognise falsely bestowed faith and misguiding, bedazzling aesthetics, resulting in better judgement, more realistic views, less disappointment (thus more enjoyment) and better, more meaningful architecture.


Fragment 15.3: Irrational Real Utopias In the last chapter of Architecture and Utopia, Manfredo Tafuri writes of “architecture obliged to return to pure architecture, to form without utopia; in the best cases to sublime uselessness.63” Of course this is not meant in the literal sense, but it does raise the question of the quest to utopia through architecture: Is it not a paradox? U-topia literally translates to not-place – how can architecture exist without a context? Perhaps, therefore, utopia can never exist: It is a place of dreams that has no place in a rational reality. In fact, if utopia can’t exist in the rational sense, can it emerge in an irrational reality? That is to say, can it exist in part if society was able to embrace the irrationality within itself as both individuals and as a whole?


Fragment 15.4: A Fine Line Architecture is created by and inhabited by ourselves and, in many ways, therefore considered as an extension of ourselves. If we were able to eradicate all the irrational areas of our minds we would be left with only the conscious and a bank of memories and learned knowledge, which would likely translate to an architecture devoid of decoration, intrigue and interest and composed of only the necessary elements, much like the discourse of both ‘functionalism’ and ‘rationalism’ in architecture. Even though we may try to suppress it, irrationality is an innate human characteristic.64 Freud may have detested humans because of it, and his nephew, Bernays may have used it against society for the growth of materialism and wealth,65 but I propose, that when used honestly and in a playful manner in architectural design, these two fundamental characteristics can make the difference between good and evil. It is a fine line, but perhaps if it can be defined by its motive towards a more creatively engaged society and ordered through rationality, irrationality may prevail.


Fragment 15.5: The Architectural Institution Do architects who wish to use creatively design necessarily need to be taught structure? Perhaps they are in fact restricted by their knowledge as discussed previously. Maybe it is a case of the “Jack of all trades, master of none� educational approach that holds the profession back. Would a separate architectural governing board, recognising architectural designers who practice architectural theory in design, entice more architects to practice in creative theory and provide the education with which to do so?


Fragment 15.6: Thesis Format If the thesis was written or formatted in a highly irrational way, for example white text on white paper, microscopic font sizes or printed on highly chemically reactive matter etc., it would be indecipherable and consequently unbeneficial. Much like with architecture, the level of irrationality needs to be balanced by a measure of rationality for the thesis content and ideas to be communicated effectively whilst still being creative. However, producing the thesis in this way then becomes more time-consuming and expensive than a straightforward, rational version, which is yet another parallel to irrational architecture. In addition, the thesis fragments reflect the many branches of irrationality in architecture and how there are many forms of irrationality that lead to potentially differing outputs, as well as the physical fragmentation that irrationality can cause in architecture. However, even though the content may be fragmented, the argument is maintained as a whole. I have also fragmented the text through the use of image overlays in the style of Guy Debord and Andre Breton’s book Memores. However, wishing to preserve the work of my fellow 145

academics, I have not included the destructive sandpaper cover.


Fragment 15.7: Hypothesis Therefore, I conclude that irrationality is a proxy for creating engaging, delirious, disorienting, uncanny, ecstatic, intuitive, unrepressive, emancipatory, immersive, honest architecture, that in turn has the capacity to enhance the realms of creativity in individuals and hence create a richness in society when integrated with an element of rationality.


Fragment 15.8: Misgivings If the thesis study would have allowed a greater word count, I would have liked to consider irrationality in art, literature and film (including architecture within film space) more widely in order to form a greater understanding of the connections within architecture and identify ideas that might be of use to architectural design. I would also have liked to discuss irrationality in technology, religion and addiction as an expansion of irrationality in society, which may have brought to light further opportunities for architectural theory, as well as carry out more case studies to support my theory.






2. 3.


5. 6.

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Oxford English Dictionary (2nd Edition ed.). (1989). Oxford: Clarendon Press. 8. Oxford English Dictionary (2nd Edition ed.). (1989). Oxford: Clarendon Press. 9. Tschumi, B. (1978). The Pleasure of Architecture. The MIT Press. 10. Tschumi, B. (1978). The Pleasure of Architecture. The MIT Press.

14. Frampton, K. (2007). Modern Architecture: A Critical History (Fourth Edition ed.). New York: Thames & Hudson. 15. Orton, F., & Pollock, G. (1996). Avantgardes and Partisans Reviewed. Manchester: Manchester University Press. 16. Lefaivre, L., & Tzonis, A. (2004). The

11. Lefaivre, L., & Tzonis, A. (2004). The Emergence of Modern Architecture: A Documentary History from 1000 to 1810. London: Routledge. 12. Lefaivre, L., & Tzonis, A. (2004). The Emergence of Modern Architecture: A Documentary History from 1000 to 1810. London: Routledge. 13. Venturi, R. (2002). Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (2nd Edition ed.). New York: The Museum of Modern Art.

Emergence of Modern Architecture: A Documentary History from 1000 to 1810. London: Routledge. 17. Lefaivre, L., & Tzonis, A. (2004). The Emergence of Modern Architecture: A Documentary History from 1000 to 1810. London: Routledge. 18. Frampton, K. (2007). Modern Architecture: A Critical History (Fourth Edition ed.). New York: Thames & Hudson. 19. Sutherland, S. (2007). Irrationality. London: Pinter & Martin Ltd.


20. Prix, W. D. (2005). Get Off My Cloud: Wolf D. Prix, CoopHimmelb(L)au Texts 1968-2005. Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz Verlag. 21. Sutherland, S. (2007). Irrationality. London: Pinter & Martin Ltd. 22. Translated from: Timișoara, T. F.-H. (1984). Studii de literatură română și 23.


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comparată. Tafuri, M. (1975). Architecture and Utopia: Design and Capitalist Development. Cambridge: The MIT Press. Hopkins, D. (2004). Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. Translated From: Tzara, T. (1918). Dada Sete Manifestos. Paris: Hiena Editora. Translated From: Tzara, T. (1918). Dada Sete Manifestos. Paris: Hiena Editora.

27. Hopkins, D. (2004). Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. 28. Hopkins, D. (2004). Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. 29. TATE Modern. (n.d.). Pieta or Revolution by Night. Retrieved 03 01, 2013 from TATE: artworks/ernst-pieta-or-revolution-bynight-t03252 30. Hopkins, D. (2004). Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. 31. Breton, A. (1962). Manifestes Du Surrealisme. Paris: Jean-Jacques Pauvert. 32. Hopkins, D. (2004). Dada and Surrealism: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford.


33. Recreation of First Public Demonstration of Auto-Destructive Art. (n.d.). Retrieved 03 01, 2013 from TATE: http://www. 34. Wigley, M. (1995). The Architecture of Deconstruction: Derrida’s Haut. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 35. Evans, R. (1995). The Projective Cast: Architecture and its Three Geometries. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 36. Evans, R. (1995). The Projective Cast: Architecture and its Three Geometries. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 37. Evans, R. (1995). The Projective Cast: Architecture and its Three Geometries. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

38. Wigley, M. (1995). The Architecture of Deconstruction: Derrida’s Haut. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 39. Prix, W. (1990). On The Edge. AD (Deconstruction III), 55-71. 40. Sorkin, M. (1991). Exquisite Corpse: Writings on Buildings. New York: Verso. 41. Prix, W. D. (2005). Get Off My Cloud:



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46. Vidler, A. (1992). The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 47. Sutherland, S. (2007). Irrationality. London: Pinter & Martin Ltd. 48. Himmelblau, C. (n.d.). Rooftop Remodelling Falkestrasse - Coop Himmelblau. Retrieved 03 01, 2013 from Coop Himmelblau: rooftop-remodeling-falkestrasse/ 49. Evans, R. (1995). The Projective Cast: Architecture and its Three Geometries. Cambridge: The MIT Press. 50. Various. (2008). Atelier Van Lieshout: Stadt Der Sklaven (Slave City). (M. Folkwang, Ed.) Cologne: Dumont Buchverlag.

51. Quirk, V. (2013, 01 31). Foster + Partners To 3D Print Structures on the Moon. Retrieved 02 02, 2013 from ArchDaily: http://www.archdaily. com/326429/foster-partners-to-3d-printstructures-on-the-moon/ 52. Virilio, P., & Lotringer, S. (2008). Pure War: Twenty-Five Years Later. Los 53. 54.

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Angeles: Simotext(e). Sutherland, S. (2007). Irrationality. London: Pinter & Martin Ltd. Tafuri, M. (1975). Architecture and Utopia: Design and Capitalist Development. Cambridge: The MIT Press. Curtis, A. (Director). (2002). Century of The Self [Motion Picture]. Curtis, A. (Director). (2002). Century of The Self [Motion Picture].




Works cited are referenced in the notes. The following are sources that have been particularly useful in the construction of the argument for the thesis. Auschwitz: Inside the Nazi State (2005). [Motion Picture]. Belsey, C. (2002). Poststructuralism: A Very Short Introduction. OUP Oxford. Bess, P. H. (1988). Deconstruction: A Brief Critique of a Critical Theory. Inland Architect , 32 (1), 75-81. Buñuel, L., Dalí, S. (Writers), & Buñuel, L. (Director). (1930). L’Age d”Or [Motion Picture]. Butler, C. (2002). Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford Paperbacks. Carpo, M. (2004). Post-hype Digital Architecture: From Irrational Exhuberance to Irrational Despondancy. Grey Room , 14, 102-115. Colletti, M. (2010). Exuberance. AD , 80 (2), 6-104. Cruz, M., & Pike, S. (2008). Neoplasmatic Design. London: John Wiley & Sons. Dalí, S., Buñuel, L. (Writers), & Buñuel, L. (Director). (1929). Un Chien Andalou [Motion Picture]. 157

Elleh, N. (1990). Deconstruction: An Architectural Cliche for Protest? Crit , 24, 32-35. Enrich, V. (n.d.). Surrealist Architecture Designs by Victor Enrich. Retrieved 2012 йил 10-12 from Emorfes: http:// Fine, C. (2007). A Mind of it’s Own: How Your Brain Distorts and Deceives. London: Icon Books Ltd. Firozt, N. D. (1954). Oscar Niemeyer: “The Irrational Element” in his Architecture. Critical Appreciation. Metron , 52, 5-10. Foucault, M. (2001). Madness and Civilization: A History of Insanity in the Age of Reason. London: Routledge. Garcia, M. (Ed.). (2010). The Diagrams of Architecture. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Harrison, C., & Wood, P. (Eds.). (2003). Art in Theory 19002000: An anthology of Changing Ideas. Oxford: Blackwell. Hatton, B. (1988). ‘Decon’ Talks at the Tate. Progressive Architecture , 69 (5), 22. Herrington, S. (2010). The Aftertaste of Derrida. Al: Architecture & Ideas , 10, 4-27. Holl, S. (2006). Special Issue: Architects Offices. A & U , 1 (424), 12-156. 158

Ivan, G. (1953). Formulary for a New Urbanism. International Situationniste (1). Jameson, F. (n.d.). Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Jencks, C. (1977). Irrational Rationalists - The Rats Since 1960 (1). A & U , 4 (76), 110-112. Jencks, C. (1977). Irrational Rationalists - The Rats Since 1960 (2). A & U , 5 (77), 77-88. Jencks, C., & FAT. (2011). Radical Postmodernism. AD , 81 (5), 5-135. Jones, P. B. (1995). Irrational Theatre: Architects: Hans Scharoun. Architectural Review , 197 (1176), 68-73. Kocur, Z., & Leung, S. (Eds.). (2005). Theory in Contemporary Art Since 1985. Oxford: Blackwell. Kruft, H.-W. (1994). A History of Architectural Theory: From Vitruvius to the Present. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Machabert, D. (1993). Special Issue: Demarches de Projet (Approaches to Projects). Techniques & Architecture , 406, 31-118. Mlodinow, L. (2009). The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives. London: The Penguin Group. 159

Pope, R. (2005). Creativity: Theory, History, Practice. New York: Rouledge. Rees, L. (2011 йил 17-02). Rudolf Höss - Commandant of Auschwitz. Retrieved 2013 йил 02-01 from BBC: http://www. auschwitz_01.shtml Salingaros, N. A. (2004). Anti-architecture and Deconstruction. Solingen: Umbau-Verlag. Schmidt, P., & Eno, B. (n.d.). Oblique. Retrieved 2012 йил 1312 from Stoney: Sontag, S. (2009). Against Interpretation and Other Essays. London: Penguin Classics. Spiller, N., & Armstrong, R. (2011). Protocell Architecture. London: John Wiley & Sons. Stuart, M. (Director). (1971). Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory [Motion Picture]. Sykes, A. K. (Ed.). (2010). Constructing a New Agenda: Architectural Theory 1993-2009. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. Thurston, B. C. (2003). Module: Handbook for Architects and Architectural Students. 2: Irrational-rational Architecture (Art an Act of Deed). Uerikon: Editions BTC d’Architecture. 160

Tschumi, B. (1996). Architecture and Disjunction. The MIT Press. Tschumi, B. (1981). The Manhattan Transcripts. London: Architectural Design. Vilder, A. (2001). Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture. Cambridge: The MIT Press. Wan, J. (Director). (2004). Saw [Motion Picture]. Williams, A. (2010). Profile: Peter Eisenman. Blueprint , 297, 36-42. Woods, L. (2009 йил 23-03). Zaha Hadid’s Drawings 1. Retrieved 2012 йил 13-12 from Lebbeus Woods: http:// Young, J. E. (2000). At Memory’s Edge: After-images of the Holocaust in Contemporary Art and Architecture. New Haven: Yale University Press.


IRRATIONAL ARCHITECTURE Can irrationality be used consciously in a positive way to stimulate creativity in society through architecture?

This thesis argues that irrationality can be a proxy for creativity. When injected into the architectural design process, it is in my opinion that the resulting architecture will almost always be exciting, fascinating and inspirational.

The architecture created may be

fragmented, disjointed, ambiguous, disorientating, perhaps even disturbing, and often a combination of the aforementioned.

Diploma Architecture Thesis  

Irrational Architecture

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