fashioning space interrogating architectureâ€™s spatial dimension
fashioning space interrogating architectureâ€™s spatial dimension
Peter Wong School of Architecture UNCCharlotte
ÂŠ 2014 Peter Wong. All rights reserved. Publisher â€“ LuLu. This book is set in various forms of Gill Sans. The work in this publication is made possible with support from the School of Architecture, College of Arts + Architecture at University of North Carolina at Charlotte. http://coaa.uncc.edu/academics/school-of-architecture Inquires about this publication may be directed to Peter Wong, Associate Professor at email@example.com.
Cover Image: Loosian Maquettes. Image this Page (right): Review of Loos Volumetrics. Final Page Images: Student Review of Work.
contents Peter Wong PREAMBLE
James Rodgers SPATIAL AMBIGUITY AS SUSTAINABILITY
Kevin Daly SPATIAL OWNERSHIP
Sean Gillespie DELEUZIAN URBAN SPACE
Daniel McBride WORKING METHOD AND ARCHITECTURAL SPACE
Joseph Burnett MINIMAL EFFORT
William Cordes INTERMEDIARY SPACE AND THE SPACE OF THE MIND
Peter Wong SEEING SPACE
The writing and work in this book were completed as part of an advanced seminar course on the history and theory of space in architecture during the Spring of 2013 at UNCCharlotte’s School of Architecture. The contributors to this volume included students in the upper-level program of the undergraduate curriculum. The premise of the class was to investigate the significance of the three-dimensional tradition of architectural form, taking into account its unique role in shaping space. The course surveyed and questioned how space serves human needs and interests as well as how it functions as a way of forming architecture’s aesthetic practice. Included are six short student essays that explore various topics on the role of space in art and architecture and the means and methods by which contemporary designers are exploring the subject. Seen through the filter of student inquiry, these writings are a measure of the confluence between what is being taught in architecture schools and the impact of how contemporary design practice leads to ideas about space and object-making. The final part of the book presents a display of three-dimensional maquettes of houses by Adolf Loos, considered by many as an architect who explored space in singular and unique ways. These models are presented in reverse format, where the spatial complexity of Loos’s interior space are render as solid form. Peter Wong May 2014
Louis I. Kahn and Isamu Noguchiâ€™s proposal for a playground, New York City, 1960-66.
spatial ambiguity as sustainability
Peering into an image of a wireframe cube, the human mind is capable of a simple, but rather profound spatial acrobatic maneuver. Conceptually “flipping” the image inverts all of its vertices, faces, and edges to produce an entirely new form without editing the image in the slightest. In an axonometric drawing of his 1923 Proun Room, El Lissitzky utilizes this optical illusion to create an incredibly complete depiction of his artwork in a single image. The vertices in this drawing can be viewed as either concave or convex dependent on the viewer’s will for the facets of the room to be walls, floors or ceilings. Lissitzky stated that “the equilibrium I wish to attain in this room must be elementary and capable of change, so that it cannot be disturbed by a telephone or piece of standard office furniture. The room is there for the human being – not the human being for the room… this unity, through an elementary system of arrangement, must always be capable of change as occasion demands. We no longer want the room to be like a coffin for our living body.”1 His intentions for the Proun rooms were to invite change, and challenge the more classical idea that they would have any stable identity. This rejection of any constant other than flux itself is an inherently urban idea, one that allows for architecture to keep pace with the changing environment of the city and be sustainably useful in this way. It appears that the drive of El Lissitzky’s Proun room is to rebel against the traditional use of a museum exhibit as a place to hang one’s images,
ambiguity as sustainability
and in turn for the viewers to stroll through and view these static planes. Instead, he believes the artist should allow for the viewer to construct his own perspective of the space strictly by existing within it: “Room-space is not for the eyes alone; is not a picture, it must be lived in.”2 This gives the viewer a certain authorship, an ability to perceive the space based purely on individual grounds: “If on previous occasions in his march past in front of the picture walls, he was lulled by the painting into a certain passivity, now our design should make the man active. This should be the purpose of the room.”3 Here it becomes clear that the human figure is of utmost importance in this room, and movement is absolutely integral to activating the optical dynamics of the space.“ It should not be a living-room, it is, after all, an exhibition. One keeps on moving around in an exhibition. Thus the room should be so organized that of itself it provides an inducement to walk around in it.”4 While Lissitzky is challenging the static nature of architectural image, he is not so bold to suggest that the parts and pieces of a spatial environment must move physically in order to free the viewer from his “painted coffin.” Rather, his suggestion is much more subtle, utilizing perspective shifts and layered materials to give the inhabitant some personal control over the room. “The open–pattern masking surfaces are pushed up or down by the spectator, who discovers new pictures, or screens what does not interest him.”5 In terms of value over time, these qualities make the Proun room highly sustainable in that there is no singular perspective, message, or image to be taken away from the space. Instead, each viewer constructs the space around himself utilizing the tools and framework El Lissitsky has supplied. Discussing the multiplicity of identity expressed through the Proun room exhibition is closely related to the ancient Greek philosopher Heracleitus’ distinct world view. He wrote in an oracular style, pointing out particular moments of evidence that would suggest finite definition of reality is not entirely possible. His most well known statement, “those who step into the same river have different waters flowing ever upon them,” is an effective description of the way in which time has a constantly changing effect on
our surroundings.6 Other statements of paradoxical fact were perhaps less graceful “Pigs wash themselves in mud, birds in dust or ashes,” “Sea water is the purest and most polluted; for fish, it is drinkable and life-giving; for men, not drinkable and destructive,” but are equally effective in producing the logic of Aristotle, who was active 200 years before Heracleitus, was a firm believer that ambiguity could arise through the ambiguous nature of names but not facts themselves.7 However, Heracleitus’ simple observations of his environment revealed a multitude of contradictions which led him to the conclusion that “It is impossible to touch the same mortal substance twice, but through the rapidity of change they scatter and again combine, or rather, not even ‘again’ or ‘later,’ but the combination and separation are simultaneous.”8 It seems that this logic could be applied to vision as well as touch, and therefore gives strong justification for the sense of temporal change embedded in the Proun room arrangement. Another artist whose work sought to question a more traditional sense of stable reality was Isamu Noguchi, a Japanese-American sculptor. In the 1930s, Noguchi felt unsatisfied with his sculptures at an object scale and ventured into architecture, designing playground equipment and sculptural landscapes: “Isamu submitted drawings for Play Mountain, a playground for Central Park, the first of a series of playground designs, all variations on a pyramidal form with steps, sloping surfaces and nested spaces rising to a narrow ride or summit. Children could sled down its sloping sides in winter or splash in a shallow pool fed by a huge water chute in summer.”9 Noguchi’s playgrounds were an expression of his distaste for playgrounds with strict and defined functions, instead seeking to improve child development by providing them with a freely changing play experience, as a 1952 Art News segment articulated: “A Jungle gym is transformed into an enormous basket that encourages the most complex ascents and all but obviates falls. In other words, the playground, instead of telling the child what to do (swing here, climb there) becomes a place for endless exploration, of endless opportunity for changing play.”10 The sculptor himself stated that a primary
ambiguity as sustainability
goal for his playgrounds was “…to double each function, i.e. no roofs, but a functioning space that is also a roof.”11 His playgrounds were also meant to change seasonally, and were often bowl shaped so that water would collect in summer and the slopes would be covered in snow in winter. A later project, the Playground for Riverside Drive Park in 1960, involved Noguchi pairing with an unusual partner in architect Louis Kahn. Their project statement made their purpose clear: “to establish an area for familiar relaxation and play rather than an area for any specific sport. We have attempted to supply a landscape where children of all ages, their parents, grandparents and other older people can mutually find enjoyment… This building is shaped like a cup, a sun trap for the winter months, a fountain and water area for summer. The service and play rooms are built underneath the ramp and under the open air play and rest area so that the roof has a double function. From this central point radiates the play area with definite but not limiting forms of play.”12 Noguchi felt at home designing within this ambiguity, perhaps because the freedom possessed by a sculptor meant he felt free from the responsibilities that shape an architect’s mindset. Louis Kahn was clearly much less comfortable working this way, although Noguchi described him as the most devoted and interested collaborator he had ever partnered with. A MoMa critic described Kahn’s role in the project as follows: “It is difficult to see the best of Kahn in this project. Free play is not his forte; neither is an architecture undisciplined by those physical and economic demands which delimit human and describe its fate. Kahn free to wander is Kahn prowling around in a world he cannot believe in. But that lunar strangeness is surely there, as well as a scattered assault of Kahn’s geometries upon Noguchi’s Hill.13 While Isamu Noguchi’s architectural sculptures may coincide with and celebrate the world-view proposed by Heracleitus in 500 B.C., the Greek philosopher was not without his opponents. Heracleitus formed his reality in opposition to Parmenides, a similarly oracular philosopher preceding him. Parmenides proposed that the world was highly rational, unified, and free of
paradox. This view necessitates a sense of atemporality, a denial of past and future as only the current instant exists. Parmenides cites the example of light and darkness to illustrate his reality: “But since all things are named Light and Night, and names have been given to each class of things according to the power of one or the other (Light or Night), everything is full equally of Light and invisible Night, as both are equal, because neither of them belongs any share of the other.”14 Reality as described this way is in direct conflict with the design inspiration for Noguchi’s playgrounds as well as El Lissitsky’s Proun rooms. Where Heracleitus was comfortable allowing that contradictions exist within reality, Parmenides seems frightened by the possibility. While the static world Parmenides describes is not inconceivable, it fails to take temporality and change into account. Just as Heracleitus found a nemesis in Parmenides, Isamu Noguchi’s New York playground designs went largely unrealized due to the power of his lifelong opponent, Robert Moses. Moses referred to Noguchi’s playground for the UN headquarters as a “hillside rabbit warren” and dismissed his design innovation as an unnecessary obstacle to massive construction.15 Moses designed and/or approved the design of a plethora of playgrounds, swimming pools, and recreation facilities scattered across New York, but was always opposed to Noguchi’s submissions. While it may seem that this would put Noguchi and Moses’ designs at opposite ends of the permanence spectrum, it is important to note that many of Robert Moses’ pools hosted large spaces that were either gymnasiums or bathhouses dependent on seasonal conditions. Also, Moses’ diving pools often converted to amphitheatres in the off-season.16 Regardless of the classical monumentality of Moses’ designs, it is clear that he shared a mission with Noguchi to achieve sustainability through double-functioning elements. However, the transition between two functions in Moses sponsored parks is much more abrupt pools and baths needing to be drained before the alternate program to take place. Noguchi’s irregular bowl-shaped parks allow for dynamic water level changes, and subsequently a simultaneous interaction between two
ambiguity as sustainability
programs. It seems that simultaneity, rather than simply variety, is critical to designing within Heracleitus’ world view. However, to claim that all can be simultaneous and nothing is stable is still a universal declaration, and inherently paradoxical. If all things are always changing, this is still a sense of permanence through flux. Just as Noguchi’s dual functioning elements may not offer enough flux to be sustainable, a complete lack of constant features may not offer enough stability for design. Overall, the opposing world-views of the ancient Greek philosopher Parmenides and his successor, Heracleitus, offer an intriguing foundation for the discussion of prescribed program that has become so prevalent in contemporary architecture. El Lissitzky’s work in the Proun room arrangements offered architects a basis upon which to question finite spatial reality, and sets the stage for user-defined program. Isamu Noguchi’s playgrounds were designed to facilitate free exploration for children, and their use of double-functioning elements questions a finite definition of particular spaces. Robert Moses also advocated this method as an acquisition of economic sustainability, but still subscribed to Parmenides’ worldview in that the two elements were not allowed to occur in harmony. Noguchi showed an openness to simultaneous and ambiguous definition that made even his close partner Louis Kahn uncomfortable in design. However, it seems imperative that there must be some balance between letting go of definition entirely and prescribing every action within a space.Through this use of ambiguously defined space, buildings can achieve a type of sustainability that allows them to be permanently useful.
Notes 1. Lissitzky, El. “PROUN Space:The Great Berlin Art Exhibition of 1923.”Trans. Eric Dluhosch, in Russia: An Architecture for World Revolution (MIT Press. Cambridge, MA, 1984), 361. 2. Ibid., 361. 3. Ibid., 362. 4. Ibid., 361. 5. Ibid., 363. 6. Cahn, Steven M. Knowledge and Reality. (New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall), 261. 7. Ibid., 262. 8. Ibid., 263. 9. Duus, Masayo. The Life of Isamu Noguchi (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2004.),150. 10. Noguchi, Isamu. A Sculptor’s World (Tokyo:Toppan Printing Company, 1968), 177. 11. Ibid., 177. 12. Ibid., 178. 13. Ibid., 179. 14. Cahn, op. cit., 267. 15. Noguchi, op. cit., 177. 16. Ballon, Hillary. Robert Moses and the Modern City (New York: Queens Museum of Art, 2007), 145.
Gordon Matta Clark, Fake Estates, Little Alley Block 2497, Lot 42, 1974.
spatial ownership gordon Matta-clark’s fake estates Despite his brief career only spanning a decade, Gordon Matta-Clark was an extremely influential figure amongst artists and architects. Trained as an architect at Cornell, he broke from the traditional path of creating and designing buildings, to a master of space creation through subtractions and extractions. Well known are his works Splitting and Conical Intersect, two pieces that demonstrate his skill as an engineer, architect, and artist. His body of work however is diverse and not limited to the manipulation of existing architectures. For example, his communal enterprises such as his cooperative, Food undeniably helped SoHo become what it is today by harboring a place for an artistic community to engage and practice their ideas. His own multiple installations in this community art setting is a testimony to his willingness to experiment with ideas. One of the more obscure and lesser-known projects by Matta-Clark is Reality Properties: Fake Estates. As the subject of this paper, the project was organized around Matta-Clark purchasing of “gutterspace” or surplus land from the City of New York. These parcels of land were small real estate slivers barely occupiable and/or buildable due to their small dimensions and awkward proportions. Some of them were not accessible because they were landlocked in-between adjacent properties. Matta-Clark create a system to document the sites, taking one black and white photograph per parcel – 15 total, all located in Queens or Staten Island), then assembled re-
cords, including: deeds, property rights, basic plans indicating dimensions and locations, etc.This project brings forth a plethora of implications with regard to spatial conditions, the legalities of ownership, the graphic representation of space, the dichotomy between real and abstract space, and the challeng of how we experience and perceive places. For the purposes of this essay I have chosen to focus on the nature of ownership and the way it influences the real and imagined conditions of these properties. To begin, let us consider the question of ownership of space. MattaClark purchased the actual properties to take physical ownership of each. At the same time he created the project Reality Properties: Fake Estates as a way to define their nature and condition as unbuildable lands. This is not an uncommon course of action, and establishes potential monetary value to the plots. This in itself is an abstract process that posits space as having value as a commodity even though the physical boundaries are almost nonexistent. Nevertheless, this is how contemporary society defines and makes economical sense of space as part of our capitalistic system.The spaces that Matta-Clark purchases are therefore established by the rules of society. He is able to do whatever he wishes with them (in the limits of his legal rights). Typically people assert their ownership of space by erecting structures and confirming boundaries. The will to improve or cultivate the property is part of improving it as well as owning it. For the majority of property owners there are the need to alter the original state of the property. These actions are the physical manifestations that confirm or presence and/or occupation of the property. As Hegel stated â€œto appropriate something means basically only to manifest the supremacy of my will in relation to the thing and to demonstrate that the latter does not have being for itself â€Ś This manifestation occurs through my conferring upon the thing an end other than that which it immediately possessed.â€?1 Establishing ownership is the act of giving something usefulness. For Reality Properties, Matta-Clark imposed no sort of physical manifestations of his will on the properties, therefore they had no use value. If a person were to pay attention to the spaces, they
would be unable to tell if the delineated spaces were owned or not because there were no sign of appropriation. Matta-Clark refrained from establishing any sort of use-value upon these properties intentionally. He may well have left them absent to emphasize the fact that they were not conducive for towards harboring any type of use. Beginning in the 1970s, many cities experienced urban renewal projects based on the lessons and theories brought forth by the Modern Movement. One of the tools of urban renewal was the implementation of a regular grid, the embodiment of what often turned out to be a rigid and paralyzing planning theme. Despite the grid’s rational tendencies and ideals, the irregular parcels that Matta-Clark purchased are the result of the inability to create the perfect grid or division of land. These parcels are proof of the difficulties of meeting the exacting standards of rational and logical planning. The regular and repetitive dimension of housing plots by both modern and popular urban practice attempted to create a consistent and equitable division of space for urban and suburban housing. Spaces delineated by property lines were designed with a specific use in mind. Despite this, the grid and its natural adjustments resulted in the creation of irregular, unique and unusable spaces. By virtue of this reading, Matta-Clark’s project, is a testament to the failure of the grid since he exposes how these residual lands are unable to assume any use-value. If he had modified the sites for usefulness, he would have been undermining this message and critique. One interpretation for this position about space includes Matta-Clark’s interest for the “potential to reverse the rampant development of cities by his very refusal to build.”2 Considering this, how do we understand these spaces as unusable and sometimes inaccessible places in the city? According to Henri Lefebvre the ownership of an object is expressed in Reality Properties, is seen as “space is a use value.”3 If this is the instance, then the spaces that Matta-Clark owns are not spaces without “use value” related to their non-use. To understand this one must consider Lefebvre’s broader idea about space. In The Production of Space, Lefebvre establishes a theory about space as he argues for
three types of spaces: 1) spatial practice, 2) representation of space, and 3) representational space. Spatial practice is understood as the perceived space in its material and physical form. A representation of space is understood as conceptual space – e.g., drawings, ideals and thoughts. Lastly, representational space is lived space, real or imagined. This last definition of space is in constant flux and is dialectic in nature.4 For architects, the physical definition of Reality Properties, are categorized as representations of space since they are defined on the notion of the grid overlayed on the physical properties of the earth. Lefebvre’s ideas are telling of the failure of these spaces in that they also operate in the conceptual realm becoming a part of social space. Lefebvre describes this as, ... the architectural and urbanistic space of modernity tends towards a place of confusion and fusion between geometrical and visual. […] A narrow and desiccated rationality of this kind overlooks the core and foundation of space, the total body, the brain, gestures, and so forth. It forgets that space does not consist in the projection of an intellectual representation, does not arise from the visible-readable realm, but that it is first of all heard (listened to) and enacted (through physical gestures and movements.5
These spaces are the epitome of the instrumentalization of space and the complete abstraction of actual space into real estate property and zoning needs. This raises questions about the nature of property and what it means to ‘own’ a space. Legally, Matta-Clark is still sole proprietor of these spaces whether he engages, modifies, or buildings them or not. Laws and legalities aside, we might question wheterh one ‘own’s a space if they do not engage in any sort of exchange with it? In this sense, we consider ownership something meeting more than mere legal and fiscal concerns. Owning property can be regarded as an experiential or phenomenological relationship.
Given these terms one might turn to Maurice Merleau-Ponty and his philosophy about perception and man’s relationship to his environment. For Merleau-Ponty, perception is a vital process through which we understand and apprehend the world: Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things; it’s caught in the fabrics of the world, and its cohesion is that of a thing. But because it moves itself and sees, it holds things in a circle around itself.6 In this instance if Matta-Clark does not engage with his properties and understand them through his perception, he cannot truly know them. It is through the act of placing oneself in a world and understanding things in relation to one’s body that we are able to know the world and make sense of it. It is also debatable to say that to truly own something is to have a complete and thorough understanding of it. Moreover, to own a space would be to know it through the body, through experience. For Matta-Clark, he didn’t get to know the spaces of his properties. He simply documented them with abstract and incomplete methods (photography, plan drawings, etc.). Therefore his ownership of these spaces is incomplete. The question of ownership can also be regarded within another, possibly pertinent framework related to the ancient Roman laws of property. In the Roman legal terms there were several different ways to appropriate objects, including property and space. Of interest to Matta-Clark’s Reality Properties, is occupatio, a Latin term which translates roughly to the idea of ‘seizing.’ In reference to ancient Roman laws as written by W. W. Buckland, “occupatio is said to be applicable to res derelicta, or the abandonment of property. If space was intentionally abandoned by its owner in Reality Properties, without the desire of recovery, then could it be “occupied’ by anyone.”7 In addition, the act of occupatio requires: that the property be deliberately abandoned; that the individual appropriating the property must occupy and have control of it; and that the same individual have the inten-
tion to own the property.Therefore, if one were to abide by the Roman law, then the properties bought by Matta-Clark would be appropriable through occupatio (although it is not completely clear what Matta-Clarkâ€™s intentions were with regards to the properties, it would seem like a plausible outcome that he would have done nothing more with them, thus essentially abandoning them). This once again undermines legal and monetary ownership of a space/ property versus a more practical and experiential type of ownership. Why bother purchasing a space when one can simply inhabit it, and in some instances â€˜ownâ€™ more significantly as the legal proprietor? The city as a whole can also be scrutinized from this critical perspective. Reality Properties is an isolated example of leftover spaces in the city. There are thousands of other gutterspaces strewn all across New York, as well as other large cities in the world. When considering the City as an civilized and organized entity, it can be compared to a proprietor of space. A city, owns spaces (in the legal definition of owning) within its own borders. Some of these spaces are sold to private corporations so they can build various types of buildings and structures, and other spaces are developed by the city itself into different types of public spaces or infrastructures for example. Despite the overwhelming modernist rationalization of the partitioning of land in a city, there always seems to be a vast number of abandoned and forgotten spaces populating every other side street. These spaces are like the parcels that Matta-Clark purchased: completely neglected and unused. The same argument could be applied to the city: the abandoned and neglected spaces could be re-appropriated through occupatio. This may be a somewhat ideal concept, but may have equal validity in practice. Since these spaces are abandoned and no property taxes are accumulating, then perhaps they should be re-appropriated to revive their service as urban space. Such an agreement could be democratically organized, perhaps with no or minimal taxes levied, and in return, the projects could contribute to the advancement of the community.
Through studying and analyzing Gordon Matta-Clarkâ€™s Reality Properties, several interpretations and understandings of property space have been investigated. Each have legitimacy within their individual framework, but it is difficult to find a common ground where they can be judged from a level perspective. The notion of property space is important within the context of todayâ€™s interest in capitalist and materialistic developments in cities. These different interpretations illustrate the fundamental concepts of physical space, imagined boundaries and the limites of our political system. A return to experiential-based knowledge is appealing but sometimes ideal given the representational requirements of modern life. The solutions may be one of a middle position, where the political structures of the built world must be mediated with instinctual and empirical artifacts. That the boundaries and property lines must be simultaneously real and imagined.
Notes 1. Georg Wilhelm Fredrich Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 2. Judith Russi Kirshner and Christian Kravagna, Gordon Matta-Clark (London: Phaidon Press Limited, 2003), 148. 3. Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space, (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 1992), 21. 4. Ibid, 33. 5. Ibid, 200. 6. Maurice Merleau-Ponty, The Primacy of Perception, (Evanston, Northwestern University Press, 1964), 162. 7. W. W. Buckland, A Text-Book Of Roman Law, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1963), 205. Bibliography Lee, Pamela M. Object to Be Destroyed. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2000. Hegel, Georg, Wilhelm, Fredrich. Elements of the Philosophy of Right. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991.
Carlo Rainaldi, Santâ€™Andrea della Valle, Rome, 1663.
deleuzian urban space baroque architectural indeterminance By definition, architects, landscape architects and urban designers operate between an existing and familiar situation and a future unknown. They deal with aspects of change and indeterminacy as a matter of course. This process of creation provides a means for architects to find a balance between prescribing, defining and letting go in the context of the instability of the entire social, political, cultural, and economic situations in which spatial design projects come to be. Today, the intellectual and artistic construction of a new situation, at whatever scale, requires vision from the designer: not just in terms of space, but also in terms of time. This raises the question of how philosophical uncertainty is productively translated into the unstable and changing societal and urban context. Architecture and the Intersection of Philosophy Architecture is a creative projection of making determinate in a certain way, from material and spatial possibilities to temporal places of intersection. But the extent to which architecture embodies a specific moment or expression is a point of contention physically evident since the initiation of modernity. Making use of Gilles Deleuzeâ€™s definition of indeterminacy, this paper is driven by an attempt to situate Peter Eisenmanâ€™s recent work (in particular the Rebstockpark Master Plan) within the trajectory of his theoretical realizations about the nature of architectural meaning. Through
deleuzian urban space
his early theoretical studies manifest in Houses I – IV, Eisenman’s fundamental indeterminacy provides several implications: the open-endedness or incompleteness of phenomena, the communicational nature of objects, and the transactional character of the determinate. The resulting suspension of typical determinations of subjectivity and objectivity situate indeterminacy as the existence of the in-between.
Deleuzian Indeterminacy The first citation of this form of indeterminacy is found in the work of Gilles Deleuze, where the context in which creation must take place is recognized as primarily problematic. Despite the initial statement of context, Deleuze proposes that we must grasp the significant aspects of our changing worlds by expressing them in salient terms, which will inevitably produce change.1 This fundamental combination of analysis and reconfiguration is best represented in the dual functioning of the concept of becoming in Deleuze’s work put forth as an ontological statement in which the real is perpetually differentiated, or in flux. Subsequently, Deleuze adopts creative becoming as the only way to affirm the underlying real processes of constant change behind the veil of static objects. The salient features of the environment will therefore be those in process of becoming. This implies that the creative endeavors combine a passive registering of the elements of context cited as being in a process of change with an active affirmation of the process itself. It is because reality is primarily becoming that a creative affirmation of becoming is also related in a positive manner to the way things are.2 As a consequence of the dual definition of becoming, Deleuze’s influence on architectural form and space extends beyond the limited associations of a philosophy of difference with the nostalgic fragmentation and pluralism of postmodern architecture. Deleuze’s work is informed by and produces a radical modernity that abandons idealism defined by a search for abstract identities such as pure form.3 His ontology of becoming thus rejects
modern progress defined in terms of the move towards ideals or hidden origins. Instead, there is an extrapolation of flux, defined through variations, or more formally differentiations; that is, alteration that elude reference to alternate identities or fixed reference points. However, this ontology and affirmation of becoming allows for determinacy: becoming is not justified on the basis of some original chaos, but on undetermined relations between determined movements or processes. For Deleuze, indeterminacy is the problematic relation of ideas designed as structures of other ideas. For example, in an early morality tale about the despoiling of the Italian Riviera, Italo Calvino dramatizes the clash between the particular and the general in planning and architecture. Clavino Calvino describes the philosophical distance separating a mother and son in their contending concerns about the family plot, which the son naturally desires to develop, and that his mother cherishes due to her personal labor. The difficultly of urban innovation recognized by Calvino involves a structure integrating the ideas of progression and liberty, with the ideas of depletion and identity.4 It is because the relations between these ideas are uncertain and because the ideas themselves change with those relations that the structure itself is problematic in the radical Deleuzian sense of a primary becoming, a dynamic with no external measure or ends. For instance, as identity becomes heavily linked to environment, liberty becomes a less extended and weaker idea; and if we accept Calvinoâ€™s presentation of the paradox, there is no final way of determining which direction these links should or even must necessarily move. 25
Indeterminacy and the Baroque The Deleuzian conception of indeterminacy and becoming is in many ways a perpetuation of a philosophical discontinuity present in the nature of architectural form beginning in the Baroque period. The nature of Baroque architecture produces an indeterminacy that speaks directly to a modernity increasingly independent of the past state of creation. Baroque indeterminacy in relation to Deleuzeâ€™s philosophical perspective operates primarily in
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dialogue with late Sixteenth Century urban space. Within the fabric of cities, baroque indeterminacy operates between the unified space of a building’s interior and the independently acting exterior of the building. In contrast to formal integration of façade with interior seen in the work of Renaissance architects beginning in the Fourteenth Century, “in the hands of the baroque architects the façade became a magnificent show-piece, placed in front of a building without any organic relationship whatever with the interior.”5 This situation of Baroque architecture and the city creates the possibility for a new mode of interdependency characterized as a property of modernity. A baroque modernity is present, occupying the space between the façade, punctuating the space in between the interior and the exterior, “thereby constituting an infinite reception room… a pure interior without exterior” and a homogenous volume thus created, “lined [with] spontaneous folds which are now only those of a soul or a spirit.”6 The church Sant’Andrea della Valle in Rome represents Baroque indeterminacy through a unique circumstance. The design of the church is split between the interior, designed between 1608 and 1623 by Carlo Maderno, and the façade, completed by Carlo Rainaldi between 1656 and 1665. Maderno’s Renaissance interior illustrates what Heinrich Wolfflin refers to as “a completely new conception of space directed towards infinity: form is dissolved in favor of the magic spell of light.”7 The formal conception of the dome perpetuates an idea of infinity in both its height and its facilitation of light to productively activate the occupant’s gaze that is; “at once continuous, mobile and fluttering, that converges or tends toward a summit as its closed interiority.”8 The indeterminacy of expression occurs at the intersection of Maderno’s and Rainaldi’s spatial creations. On one hand, Rainali’s façade continues a formal expression tied to the current course or movement of Baroque church design, while on the other hand is creates a dialectic relationship through its connection to Maderno’s interior. The two stories of the façade and their stratification reference a particular urban condition in Rome, while
responding to the opposition of the interior through the placement of coupled columns embedded in the façade suggesting a perceived as a continuity with the internal structural form.9 Thus the façade’s tendency to be selfreferential is seen to mirror the containment of Maderno’s interior space. The separation of these two elements provides a moment in the Baroque conception of space demonstrating simultaneity between two ubiquitous spatial narratives, yet a trace of indeterminacy is found in the intersection of these two parts. Figure Ground through Contemporary Philosophy” Peter Eisenman follows Deleuze’s definition of the problematic in his large-scale regeneration of the Rebstockpark periphery of Frankfurt. His work picks up on the problematic relation of ideas in order to develop a new way of looking at the relation of architecture to environment: “architecture can propose some kind of event in which interpretation of the environment is problematised…”10 Which involves the realization that certain problems cannot be resolved once and for all – they must become part of the creative process. This process is explicitly Deleuzian in recognizing that the undetermined relation between ideas must be expressed in architecture. So Eisenman borrows Deleuze’s concepts of the fold and the event in order to articulate the key ideas are present in the site, history and future of the Rebstockpark site: “In the idea of the fold, form is seen as continuous but also as articulating a possible new relationship between vertical and horizontal, figure and ground … The new object for Deleuze is no longer concerned with the framing of space, but rather a temporal modulation that implies a continual variation of matter.”11 Eisenman considers the problem of the relation of the ideas of figure and ground in architecture, the interaction between a building’s spatial context (lines of communication and transport, entrances, urban spaces and boundaries) and the building proper. He considers two dominant ways of thinking about the problem as if it were soluble. First, figure ground con-
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textualism assumes “a reversible and interactive relationship between the building blocks and the void between them;” the problem is then strictly one of buildings and spaces.12 The architect determines “in any historical context the latent structures capable of forming a present day urbanism.”13 This postmodern contextualism refuses to countenance an extension of the relationship of figure and ground to social and technological influences that may demand a revolutionary attitude to space. Any problem is resolved through a reuse of historical figure-ground relations in new contexts. New buildings mimic historical forms and repeat historical grids in order to achieve an inoffensive continuity between the past and present and in order to reproduce the successful figure-ground relations from the past. Second, the isolation of the point block or linear slab on a tabula rasa ground liberates figure and ground by creating a discontinuity between them. This is a description of the most excessive form of modernism in architecture, where local environments are cut off from buildings in the name of functionalism and a set of ahistorical aesthetic principles. The modern block, floating on its pilotis over an island of grass and tarmac, is a product of this deliberate detachment of figure and ground. Its value, unlike contextualism, is to respond in a revolutionary fashion to modern problems of ground congestion and pollution. However, according to Eisenman, neither of these approaches explains the true complexity of phenomena. In the context of urban development in Frankfurt, he rehearses the well-known criticism that the isolation of a building leaves its inhabitants detached from a ground that becomes barren. The desolate spaces under and between modern urban developments testify to this false resolution of the figure-ground problem. Yet the postmodern contextual solution is also attacked for its lack of profundity, which can be traced back to its concentration on a limited set of historical structure adopted in new developments. The demand for continuity in structures fails to account for the genuine value of historical forms and plans. In fact, contextual developments suffer from the same problem of isolation of the full-range
of conditions that lead to the success and value of earlier developments, “its nostalgia and kitsch sentimentalism never took account the manifold realities of contemporary life.”14 Postmodern regeneration, according to a sympathetic representation of surface-looks and preservation of important social spaces, rarely recaptures an original energy and social cohesiveness, since their cause is not the space alone. These criticisms highlight the key aspects of Eisenman’s theory. Firstly, the problem-solving theories fail to treat the relation of ‘old to new’ as one of mutual transformation. They concentrate on absolute continuity and severance at the expense of evolution. Secondly, they fail to analyze the relation of figure and ground as ever changing and evolving at a given time. The problem is not that new building creates tensions within urban spaces. Those spaces are constantly prey to a tension between figure and ground because: one, that relation is necessarily difficult and complex; two, the relation takes place within an ever-changing social context. The Rebstockpark Master Plan In response to the barren spaces produced by the modern block, Eisenman undermines the figure ground opposition by blurring the distinction. He uses the practice of folding across and along lines to introduce uncertainty in the boundaries of the Rebstockpark site as well as within the spaces defined by individual buildings. The relation between old and new figures and grounds is made explicit through the new where folds in the plan, façade, and figure-ground relations bring to mind older relations as well as new ones (old and new boundaries of the site are extended within the site proper, for instance). In an article on Eisenman’s use of Deleuze’s concepts of the fold, John Rajchman has focused on the complexity of this effect: Rebstock is folding in three dimensions. Hence one is not just dealing with an urban ‘pattern’; rather, it is the urban ‘fabric’ on which the pattern is imprinted that is folded along this line, thereby becoming more
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complex … The periphery of the plot thus ceases to be its defining edge, and becomes instead one dimension of an uncentered folding movement…15 According to Eisenman, this effect is not one of clear definition; rather, what appears, only does so indistinctly, ... in such a displacement, the new, rather than being understood as fundamentally different to the old, is seen as being merely slightly out of focus in relation to what exists. This out-of-focus condition then, has the possibility of blurring or displacing the whole, that is both old and new.16
Eisenman has put forward a design that avoids the solution of modernist urban discontinuity, whilst also responding to contemporary pressures without turning to the inappropriate nostalgia of postmodern contextualism. His displacement of the figure-ground problem bears witness to the value of an aesthetic developed within a problem, and hence in terms of becoming, rather than as a final response to a problem, in terms of Being or essences. The main concepts of his design (‘uncentered folding movement,’ ‘out-of-focus,’ ‘displacement’) challenge the figure-ground and the past-present distinctions in a productive and forward looking manner. But, beyond this particular instance, Eisenman makes wider claims for his approach in his theoretical text on Rebstock. Having taken a set of ideas that have been treated as independent and having re-introduced them into a problematic structure, his analysis makes three fundamental claims that return to the Deleuzian thesis on an ontology of becoming: 1. Any actual form is changing at any given time, 2. the relation between forms is necessarily difficult and complex, and
3. the relation takes place with a constantly changing context. If these claims are accepted, then it is possible to see the value of an aesthetic that works with them, as opposed to concealing them under illusory solutions. Andrew Benjamin described this position in his introduction of Re:working Eisenman. His analysis is ontological, concerned primarily with Being as opposed to relations between forms: The recasting, the reworking, has a complex temporality in that what the project is – its being as a project – is not reducible to its being at one point in time. What this means is that the reworking sunders the ontology of stasis in terms of the ontology proper to complex repetition; i.e. a giving which in happening again is an original happening. It is thus what that the name identifies is the complex site worked by the two-fold presence of reiteration and distancing.17 Eisenman’s work is not bound to a specific instant in time. Its complex temporality brings past and future together in order to reveal an ontology of becoming where other works depend on an ontology of stasis. For instance, Eisenman’s critique of the modernists’ break with past relations of figure and ground is dependent on an awareness that this past is implicitly part of their timeless present (the modern ‘stasis’ – where time has stopped because the problem has been resolved). But also, an understanding of Being in terms of past, present and future instants is challenged since any ‘being’ brings all three together in active becoming. Eisenman brings the past and the future into play in the present, thereby sowing that they are not merely past and future, gone and yet to come, but ‘happening again.’ ” 18
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Notes 1. Deleuze, Gilles. Difference and Repetition (New York: Columbia UP, 1994), 280. 2. Ibid. 280. 3. Deleuze, Gilles, “L’Immanence: une vie,” in Philosophie, 47, September 1995, 3-7. 4. Calvino, Italo, A Plunge into Real Estate, in Difficult Loves (London: Secker and Warburg, 1983),163-250. 5. Wolfflin, Heinrich, Renaissance and Baroque (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1968), 93. 6. Deleuze, Gilles, The Fold, Leibniz and the Baroque (Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1993), 234. 7. Wolfflin, Heinrich, Renaissance and Baroque (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 1968), 64. 8. Deleuze, The Fold, op. cit., 124. 9. Norburg-Schulz, Christian. Baroque Architecture (New York, Rizzoli, 1979), 64. 10. Eisenman, Peter, Unfolding Events:Frankfurt Rebstock and the Possibility of a New Urbanism. (London: Academy, 1993), 59. 11. Ibid., 59. 12. Ibid., 60. 13. Ibid., 62. 14. Ibid., 63. 15. Rajchman, John. “Perplications,” in Re:working Eisenman (London: Academy, 1993), 114-115. 16. Eisenman, op. cit., 60. 17. Benjamin, Andrew, “Re:working Eisenman: Work and Name,” in Re:working Eisenman (London: Academy, 1993), 9. 18. Williams, James. “Deleuze’s Ontology and Creativity: Becoming in Architecture.” 32
Pli 9 (2000): 200-19. Web. 24 Mar. 2013.
Preston Scott Cohen, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, 2011.
working method and architecture the spaces of preston scott-cohen Throughout the history of architecture, space has been conceived, designed, and represented in a multitude of ways. Orthographic drawings of plans, sections, and elevations, provide some of the most easily comprehendible ways in which spaces are understood due to the fact that these types of drawings are used to make construction drawings. In order to better understand spaces at a three-dimensional level, architects will often use physical models, digital models, axonometric drawings, and perspective drawings. More artistic modes of representation such as paintings and collages are also used in order to understand space on a temporal or experiential level. While any of these various types of methods can be used to understand a particular space, each working method will often produce a certain spatial aesthetic that responds to the particular working method that is being used to design a space. More precisely, the working method that an architect uses to design a space will often influence certain formal and spatial relationships that are present in the design. When one looks at the work of architects such as Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe, it is clear to see how their individual working methods produce distinctive spatial characteristics inherent in each of their respective designs and how the mode of representation amplifies their design intent. In comparison to Le Corbusierâ€™s and Miesâ€™s working method and architecture, Preston Scott Cohenâ€™s distinct working method of using projective geometry to design
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and understand spaces compliments his actual built works.The distortion of space that projective geometry can produce greatly influences the similar distortion of space that occurs in the spaces of Cohen’s work. In order to appropriately see the correlation between Cohen’s architecture and his working method, it is advantageous to critically look at how the working methods and modes of representation used by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe influenced the spatial character of their respective designs. Le Corbusier’s architecture and writing was highly instrumental in the development of Modern architecture. Projects such as Villa Savoye and Villa Stein serve as embodiments of the spatial and aesthetic conditions that Le Corbusier aimed to achieve in Five Points of Architecture, yet they also serve as examples of how Le Corbusier’s architecture relates to Cubism and to his Purist paintings. In their essay Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal, Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky explain how Cubist paintings and Modern architecture possess different qualities of transparency. According to their analysis, Cubist paintings possess phenomenological transparency due to the way in which broken moments of different views of an object are composed so that a greater or more holistic understanding of a form can be recognized. Modern architecture on the other hand, possesses mostly literal transparency due to the physical and transparent property of glass.1 However, Le Corbusier’s architecture possesses qualities of both literal and phenomenological transparency due to the spatial and physical characteristics of his architecture. Villa Savoye exhibits literal transparency as the pilotis pass through the slab and past the ribbon windows that are pulled back from the plane of the curtain wall. Villa Stein shows a degree of phenomenal transparency when “the recessed surface of the ground floor is redefined upon the roof by the two-freestanding walls which terminate the terrace; and the same statement of depth is taken up by the glazed doors in the side walls which act as the conclusions to the fenestration.”2 At Villa Stein, volumes collapse into two-dimensions and then reemerge as three-dimensional forms moments later in the same way in which ob-
jects in Le Corbusier’s painted space are flattened into a two-dimensional plane.3 While Le Corbusier might not have directly used a specific painting to generate the spatial condition of a project, he was highly influenced by his spatial working method that he used in his paintings. By positioning objects in relational depth, Le Corbusier to was essentially attempting “to generate the effects of his paintings in architecture.”4 Mies van der Rohe implemented the use of collages to demonstrate the spatial characteristics of the spaces that he designed. Mies’s architecture can be characterized by a minimal and highly rationalized framework juxtaposed by implied free-flowing spaces. His mantra of “less is more” permeates his architecture from a conceptual idea, to a column detail, and perhaps to a social aspect. In projects such as the Farnsworth House and the design for the Resor House, the degree of minimalism becomes so great that the actual architecture begins to dissipate and all that remains are layered experiential moments of art, nature, and social life. For Mies, the heightened sense of minimalism was a means to enable what he thought modern life should consist of, and in order to represent that idea of overlapping images, the collage was the most appropriate mode of representation due the fact that “Collage is symptomatic of a fundamental crisis of representation, directly presenting fragments of reality rather than representing them.”5 The act of collaging multiple images over each other effectively compliments the layering of social and cultural activities that Mies thought were essential to Modern life. Also, Mies only provides subtitle indications of how space is defined in his collages, yet in most cases he uses a one-point perspective view to express the frontality that is present in his projects.6 His persistence on the representation of frontal spaces forces the image to possess a certain flatness and thus enables the full potential of collaging by being able to differentiate where objects are in space based on principle of overlapping and layering.7 The work that Preston Scott Cohen has produced ranges from the analysis of Italian villas to spatially complex buildings such as the Tel Aviv
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Museum of Art. Whether he is analyzing or designing, Cohen’s working method constantly centers itself around topics of projection while utilizing both drawing and computer modeling to understand spaces that arise from an architectural predicament or from a peculiar contextual problem. The geometric transformations that Cohen uses lay bare the distorted permutations that occur from the theory of translating an object or form from an orthographic view to a perspective. It is in these distortions of space that Cohen finds inspiration and the basis of his actual built forms. Cohen’s interest in projective geometry draws from a wide range of sources including Renaissance linear perspective, the Taylorian perspective apparatus, stereotomy, anamorphosis, and sciagraphy. The understanding of perspectival space was first explored by the work of Leon Battista Alberti. Alberti used linear perspective in order to help painters understand how perspective is linked to the understanding of architectural space. Alberti’s visual pyramid can be described as such:
The first drawing is a frontal view of a rectangular ground plane that recedes to what we would call a vanishing point on a horizon line that lies at infinity…The second drawing is a side elevation of the orthographic relationship between the position of the viewer’s eye (the apex of the visual pyramid), the picture plane (a section through the pyramid), and the ground plane (the base of the pyramid)…Projection lines from the position of the eye to the end points of the line segments on the ground line intersect the picture plane, and these points of intersection are transferred to the first drawing in order to locate the foreshortened depth of the floor tiles in the frontal view of the receding ground plane.8 The importance of Alberti’s visual pyramid is that it begins the discourse of understanding perspective as a geometric logic based on the projection of lines rather than basing perspective on a recorded pictorial
image as seen in methods such as the camera obscura. In 1715, Brook Taylor developed a new drawing system that translated two-dimensional objects into three-dimensions while still basing its fundamental principles on the projection of lines through a picture plane and vanishing at a horizon line.9 The Taylorian perspective apparatus requires two drawings (a plan and a section or elevation) in order to complete the necessary transformations required to project the drawings into a three-dimensional drawing.The drawings are rotated and mirrored about the horizon line and the ground line and undergo a multitude of steps that project lines to a vanishing point that ultimately form a perspective drawing.10 The main difference between the Taylorian perspective apparatus and Alberti’s visual pyramid is that Alberti shows the elevation of the viewer’s eye through the picture plane to the object whereas the Taylorian model flattens this entire process. Cohen’s analysis of the Taylorian perspective apparatus aims to visualize the process of projection through the use of digital modeling. His digital models show the orthographic drawings used to produce the perspective, the perspective itself, the modeled object and the permutations it goes through, and the visualization of the rays of projected lines from the eye point through the picture plane and to the object. The resulting model serves as a holistic understanding of the logic of projective geometry as “Inside and outside, back and front, beginning and end, plane, volume, mass and void appear simultaneously.”11 One can see how the initial plan and section drawings relate to each other to produce a perspective drawing while at the same time recognizing how the lines projected from the eye point to the object give the foundations to construct the perspective. The process that the object goes through in order to create a perspective drawing produces a form that is distorted by the intersections of its subsequent permutations. Due to the amount of information that is in the model, the resultant image exists as a highly distorted form yet also as a highly logical tracery of the processes at work. While Cohen uses the Taylorian model as a form of analysis to under-
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stand projection, one can clearly see how the analysis is translated into both speculative and actual designed projects. In his drawing Rectilinear Spiriculate, Cohen uses the method of the Taylorian perspective apparatus to construct a continually projected drawing based upon a simple cube-like form. Each cube is drawn and then redrawn according to the necessary steps required to draw the perspective and also based upon the geometry of the previous perspective. In some instances, the perspectives of the form appear quite normative yet in some instances the form appears highly distorted due to the iterations of projections and due to the inherent distortions that naturally occur in the process of projection. The Rectilinear Spiriculate drawing comes from set of drawings that Cohen calls “Stereotomic Permutations.” Cohen uses these types of drawings to help find form by assigning different programs to different distorted planes in the perspectives.12 Due to time it takes to manufacture the drawings and the subsequent geometric transformations, Cohen uses digital modeling to rapidly convert two-dimensional drawings into three-dimensions and vice a versa.13 All of these drawings make references to several topics including stereotomy, anamorphosis, and sciagraphy. Stereotomy was a system used by medieval stonemasons to use to cut stones that would then be part of an arched vault, anamorphosis painting allows only one undistorted view of a painting while all other views create a distorted perspective, and sciagraphy is the science of projecting shadows.14 Notions of all three of these projective topics can be seen in “Stereotomic Permutations” and in the spaces that Cohen designs yet only in fragments. The stereotomic quality of the drawings produces multiple pieces that make up a greater whole yet the drawings describe the assembly and intersection of planes rather than “space hollowed out of a mass.”15 The drawings are somewhat anamorphic due to the sciagraphic quality of being projected yet they differ from true anamorphic paintings in that one can never actually occupy the position of the undistorted view; one can only propose where it might occur.16 The resultant quality of the spaces that are produced from the method of “Stereotomic Permutations” are in a state of
constant flux. The anamorphic and sciagraphic nature of the distortions in Cohen’s spaces begin to appear and disappear as one moves through the space. Projective connections between forms seem to align and relate to each other as if they consisted of a greater logic yet suddenly the connections will break down only to be realigned with another form. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art most visibly demonstrates how Cohen uses the formal and spatial characteristics learned from projective geometry to help design a form. The primary predicament of the Tel Aviv Museum is the need to introduce free-flowing neutral exhibition rooms into a triangular site while at the same time providing pleasant natural light.17 Cohen solves this problem by stacking the rectangular exhibition rooms on top of each other and rotating each level to the angles of the triangle.18 Each of the exhibition rooms are then centered around a light well that connects each space from top to bottom. This light well exists as a series of twisted and torqued hyperbolic surfaces that link the changes in the floor slabs and provide a sense of visual connection as framed views are projected out from each of the exhibition spaces, through the light well, and back into one of the exhibition spaces. In a similar way in which Cohen’s speculative drawings remain in a constant state of anamorphosis, the light well contains a similar spatial aesthetic. When moving around the light well through the means of the exhibition spaces, one recognizes the ordered logic of the rooms, yet through the temporal process of moving through space, one recognizes how the distorted planes are derived from the rotation of the rectilinear rooms to fit onto a triangular site. Due to the implied anamorphic effect of never being able to fully reach the pivotal moment when the privileged undistorted view comes into focus, a constant urge to move around the space of the light well comes to play in a similar way in which sculpture is viewed in the round. Also in a similar system of laying bare the processes at work, the exterior skin of the building responds to the rotation of the exhibition rooms and most clearly shows the struggle of “squaring the triangle.”19 The rectilinearity of one of exhibition rooms will emerge through the paneliza-
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tion of the façade, yet as the rooms rotate, the surface is distorted into the same type of hyperbolic surface that is used in the central light well. When looking at Cohen’s architecture, several notions and characteristics of projective geometry and of other perspectival phenomena would be observed. Since the spaces that he designs undergo different types of perspectival distortion, it follows that he would use principles of projective geometry to design, understand, and to represent his work. This link between Cohen’s working method and the actual formal characteristics of his architecture is the same type of link that exists between Le Corbusier’s Cubist paintings and his architecture and Mies’s collages and his architecture. Cohen’s link between his working method and his architecture relates slightly more to Le Corbusier’s link due to the fact that Le Corbusier aimed to use the spatial effects that occurs in his paintings to create a similar condition in his architecture. Cohen aims to generate a spatial condition in his architecture with a similar spatial logic to the Taylorian perspective apparatus. However, the way in which Mies relies on the frontal perspective to suggest a flattening of space promotes the use of layered collages. Similarly, the way in which Cohen relies on distorted perspectival views to suggest an internal break-down and simultaneous reemergence of space promotes the act of design through the understanding of projective geometries such as the Taylorian perspective apparatus. This link that exists between a working method and the physical architecturalized form, as seen in examples such as Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, and Preston Scott Cohen, reveals that the way in which one works influences certain formal characteristics that can manifest into a design. A project that is designed and thought about in one method will differ greatly than one that is designed in a different one. With this being said, when a project is designed with a conscious consideration that the method will produce a certain aesthetic, the act or process by which that method is carried out should be fully recognized in order to compliment and strengthen the design. The design should fully take advantage of the method so that what is
created will be somewhat referential to the process and aesthetics that are characteristic of that method. By understanding the system and steps of the Taylorian perspective apparatus through digital modeling and by using this system to design in a way that produces forms which relate to stereotomy, anamorphosis, sciagraphy, a clear correlation between Cohenâ€™s working method and his architecture can be made. The formal and technical characteristics of Cohenâ€™s understanding of the Taylorian perspective apparatus rely heavily on the acts of rotation, the projection of lines to create a new forms, the intersection and distortion of planes and objects once they have been transformed, and the holistic logic that orders and dictates the process of translation between two-dimensions to three-dimensions. As Cohen designs space, whether through drawing or through digital modeling, the forms he creates are consciously considered to be a product of a process that manipulates an object or space that is, at the same time, part of a greater whole and also fragmented by the operations that formed it. The formal qualities that this object or space possesses can then be characterized by the topics of stereotomy, anamorphosis, and sciagraphy which all have clear relationships to the Taylorian perspective apparatus and the act of projection.
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Notes 1. Rowe, Colin. & Slutzky, Robert. “Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal.” Perspecta, Vol. 8 (1963), 166. 2. Ibid., 168. 3. Mertins, Detlef. Modernity Unbound: Other Histories of Architectural Modernity (London: Architectural Association Publications, 2011), 57. 4. Ibid., 57. 5. Stierli, Martino. “Mies Montage.” AA Files, No. 61, 2010, 64. 6. Ibid., 69. 7. Ibid., 69. 8. Ibid., 56-61. 9. Ibid., 104. 10. Weinstock, Michael “Stereotomic Permutations.” AA Files, No. 31, Summer 1996, 94. 11. Ibid., 94. 12. Cohen, Preston Scott. Contested Symmetries and Other Predicaments in Architecture, 1st ed. (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001), 97-98. 13. Weinstock, Michael “Stereotomic Permutations.” AA Files, No. 31, Summer 1996, 94. 14. Ibid., 94. 15. Kirshner, Shraga. “Requiem To The White Box: The Herta And Paul Amir Building Tel Aviv Museum Of Art.” Architecture of Israel 88, 2012, 74-9. Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals. Web. Accessed 20 Mar. 2013, 23. 16. Ibid., 23. 17. Ibid., 23. 18. Cohen, Preston Scott. Diagram 7 & 8 of the Taylorian Perspective Apparatus. 2001. Drawing from digital model. Contested Symmetries and Other Predicaments in Architecture. 1st. ed. (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001). 19. Cohen, Preston Scott. Rectilinear Spiriculate. 2001. Drawing. Contested Symmetries and Other Predicaments in Architecture. 1st. ed. (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001).
Donald Judd, Untitled, KrĂśller-MĂźller Museum, The Nederlands, 1980.
minimal effort donald judd’s spatial lessons My aphorism is not that form follows function but that it never violates it. Or common sense, for that matter. And there is the relationship, which doesn’t exist now, between art and architecture.1 Donald Judd During the 1960s and ‘70s, a movement was making moves in the art scene dubbed minimalism. The movement focused on providing a concept with the fewest moves possible. Although seemingly unchallenging at the surface level, successful minimalist art tended to challenge the viewer’s understands of site, space, and perception. For Donald Judd, a major component in the art movement, minimalism was a method of addressing a problem of representation of space and the illusionary aspects of that representation that were associated with the practices of painting and sculpture. For Judd, “actual space [was] intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.”2 This realization would lead him to create a series of pieces (most left untitled) that sculpted this “actual space” with box-like creations. These boxes embodied three principles that Judd established throughout his career to create, under his scrutiny, specific objects.3 The proportions of positive/negative space, the development of general/particular scales, and the importance of perception shaped the content of Judd’s work as a Minimalism designer.
The term “minimalism” in architecture is associated to van der Rohe and his “less is more” aphorism.The architecture was reduced, like its artistic counterpart, to the fewest moves possible to accomplish the design. The designs gravitated around hard geometries and clean lines with a fascination with creating negative figures within the composition. An obvious example of this architecture can be observed through the architecture of the contemporary Italian architect, Andrea Oliva.4 His Sulla Morella represents the heart of this minimalism discourse.The edges of his strict geometric box are expressed in stark contrast with the environment in which the house inhabits. Clean white edges are pulled out from the flat landscape and the edge closest to the ground is emphasized by elevating the edge off the ground, allowing for shadow to contrast the site and building.The encompassing box serves as a framework to give dimensions the void located in the interior.
Potent Proportions One description that has been left out of the discussion has been the dominating presence of proportion in minimalism. Judd and many other minimalists in the art world (particularly the work of Sol Lewitt ) suggested proportion was the driving force behind the impact of their creations.5 A level of understanding of proportion is easily achieved in the Sulla Morella with the particular façade divisions and more general masses of the project. More notably perhaps is the distinction Judd makes between a personal proportion and arithmetical proportion where “proportion is obviously a quality of ourselves.”6 This understanding of proportion takes roots in Vitruvius and has earned merit throughout the ages. This personal proportion is difficult to find in Sulla Morella, where geometrical proportions dominate the composition. This follows Judd’s precedent since, “with Donald Judd, the geometric is not only the real – the very opposite of art – but also the an-organic, the soulless – the very opposite of the human. In that sense Donald Judd’s cube is the pure negation of the primeval sculpture: the human body.”7
To compare Oliva to Judd is entirely too simple. Judd’s Untitled (91-149 Menziken) from 1991 creates a similar discussion on proportion. The use of solids and voids with both Oliva and Judd in terms of composition can generate the following critique for both designers: … noted for his ability to divide forms, further heightens the tension between the open and closed volumes with the inclusion of an enclosed, partly hidden space –a motif he has often returned to. Through this resonant play on negative and positive, [he] produces space that is “intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.”8 This critique was originally produced in response to Judd’s specific object but just as easily applied to the Sulla Morella.The similarities in composition carry onto the similarities in material. The perfect plastering of the concrete box in Sulla Morella to the manufactured metal and plastic that create Judd’s Untitled, the human element is erased. More appropriate, perhaps, in Judd’s work, but removing the human element from a work of architecture is no more appropriate than taking the sun from the sky. Perhaps in the young ages of Modernism, the fresh words of Le Corbusier, “a house is a machine for living in,” had some attractiveness. The amazement of technology brought the wishful and utopic ideals of the mechanization of living but as Modernism took its fall, the importance of the human within architecture returned. Within a residential project like Sulla Morella, the program is centered on human habitation. Creating an inhuman object similar to Judd’s box for habitation might have a novel attraction behind the idea but the excitement would surely deteriorate before too long. A possibility to avoid this human detachment would be to describe the materiality of Sulla Morella as a stage for the every changing activity that would occur in the residence; allowing the nature of the residence to index itself onto the materials like grass being beaten down under the frequent steps of travelers in a field.
Dynamic Dichotomy Judd’s boxes displayed more than composition and material. These box works relied heavily on a dichotomy that Judd had set up between the “general and particular.” Art is simultaneously particular and general. This is a real dichotomy. The great thing about proportion, one aspect of art, is that it is both extremes at once. The level of quality of a work can usually be established by the extent of the polarity between its generality and particularity. Or, to state the idea a little too simply, the better the work the more diverse its aspects. The nature of the general aspects and the particular ones changes from artist to artist and especially from time to time, since the changes are due to broad changes in philosophy.9
This dichotomy could be applied with different mediums, with architecture being one of those mediums. The obvious translation of this dichotomy of general and particular into architecture is with scale. Creating a general space in which particular spaces enhance the overall experience. The Bechtler Museum in Charlotte is an excellent precedent to describe this translation from Judd. The Bechtler embodies some of the prior lessons from minimalisms that were observed in Sulla Morella but in a different situation. In the museum, human are the visitor and the artwork is the inhabitant, making for an arguably better demonstration of minimalism. The refined architecture serves as a backdrop to the art, showcasing the works and not so much the architecture. Aside from this programmatic change, the urban context presents some interesting solutions that will be described later, but back to the introduction of Judd’s dichotomy. The general space of the museum is a simple nine square composition.10 The solids and voids align to this dominating grid. Voids are present
on the ground level, creating relief in the urban fabric and opening up the corner. The manufactured aspect of the materials on the exterior fall in line with Judd’s philosophy and practices and the large column further alienates the human’s sense of relatable proportion. The large void at the entrance can be revisited but in a particular interior space on the fourth floor where a proportional void marks the center square. These voids that determine the general shape of the museum find themselves in particular details internally. The ceilings retreat into the upper floors, further metering the gallery spaces. The effects of these internal recessions can also be noted on the general spaces as the large voids bring resolution to the form. Previously, Judd simply stated, “that the better the work the more diverse its aspects.”11 The Bechtler exhibits a diverse array of design choices that differ primarily in scale, perhaps negating the “diverse” modifier. The desire to combine a diverse selection of elements has been expressed in movements such as Eclecticism with a level of success in architecture, more notably the work of Antonio Gaudi. Comparing Gaudi to Judd however would result in a long list of differences. Minimalism leaves the level of diversity to materials and ways of perceiving the work. Judd is interested in creating a space that holds together with its solids and voids, creating a sense of wholeness that is evident in the Bechtler. In the same spirit of the relationship Judd sees between art and architecture, his views of this unity carry into the field or architecture: Everyone agrees that ultimately one essential of art is unity. After that the agreement breaks down. This fact of unity doesn’t seem to say much, which is an ancient characteristic of aesthetics, the most uncertain and least developed branch of philosophy and the most ignored by those it concerns, including myself until now. Barnett Newman told Susanne Langer that aesthetics is for the artist as ornithology is for the birds.12
This call for unity is a common lesson in architectural design classes even remaining mostly consistent through the variety of philosophies professors tend to adhere to. Rem Koolhaas suggests that unity is “impossible” past a certain scale, that building crosses a “critical mass” where unity is unachievable through design. The Bechtler hasn’t reached the critical mass that Koolhaas outlines in Bigness and the Problem of Large so this failure of a singular architectural move can’t be observed in this precedent.13 This critical mass may be unique to architecture, allowing for unity to remain essential to art and smaller works of architecture.Yet Koolhaas does admit that “[t]he impossibility triggers the autonomy of its parts, which is different from fragmentation: the parts remain committed to the whole.”14 The ability for the parts to remain part of the whole agrees with Judd’s minimalism, as is represented in Untitled (Ballantine) from 1993. Six, individually colored boxes make up the composition, separated by identical voids of the same dimensions as the solids. The voids act as if they possess similar physical properties as the boxes, preventing the boxes from touching which forces the boxes to assume autonomy over their own composition. Like the previous Koolhaas statement, though the boxes are isolated they are part of the whole work. The Bechtler Museum has some resemblance of this phenomenon as observed in Untitled due in part to a composition founded on a repeated form (more apparent on the third floor). Each of the Bechtler’s open gallery spaces have the same dimensions but are separated by a varied programmatic square. This repetition of form but diversity in function isolates the open gallery spaces, assuming individual identity while keeping everything identifiable as a singular museum. In this scenario, these particular programmatic “voids” assume the same role as the dimensional voids that define the general form of the museum. Using minimalism to critique the Bechtler Museum allows for a conversation that avoids focus on the dominant entrance. While outlining his Specific Objects manifesto, Judd aligns his Minimalist work along the following principle:
In the three-dimensional work the whole thing is made according to complex purposes, and these are not scattered but asserted by one form.15 With this and prior understanding of three-dimensional work, the Bechtler Museum just might follow the principles of Minimalism as defined by Judd. Programmable Perception There is no form that can be form without meaning, quality and feeling. We even have a feeling about a rock, about anything. It’s a contradiction to make a form that is meaningless. It’s also impossible to express a feeling without a form.16 The Euclidean cubes that comprise the majority of Judd’s portfolio appear at first sight to be devoid of human empathy. Judd was sure to mention that the art materializes as soon as it becomes in view of the participant. Perception is critical in processing the boxes. The dimensionality of the pieces encouraged viewers to walk around the piece. A contemporary of Judd, Robert Morris was also participating in geometrical forms in the Minimalism movement. Morris found the minimal geometries ideal for stripping away assumptions and suggestions from the viewers. Viewers would mentally piece together perceived images of the form and through gestalt, produce a mostly complete idea of the form.17 This same process describes the procedure that occurs while observing Judd’s work, especially his boxes in Marfa, Texas. The concrete boxes were part of Judd’s more mature works which show the evolution of the previous attributes in a larger scale (different context as well, exterior display). This work sets up gateways for viewers to visually experience. The one row (right side of the image) suggests a path
along the closed sides of the boxes. Moving along this path presents other, perpendicular, viewports from the adjacent boxes suggesting an alteration the previously suggested path.This whirlwind of visualizing creates a physical sensation that is attributed to the work. Louis Kahn successfully implemented this whirlwind visualization in his Yale Center for British Art. Like the Bechtler, Kahn places a void on the corner, allowing for the congregation of people in front of the entrance. Entering into the art center, a full height void presents windows into the galleries above. A large skylight illuminates the space, suggesting verticality. Kahnâ€™s signature stairs commands the center and presents an opportunity to reach those higher galleries. A mirrored void occupies the other half of the art center and performs as the other, full height void does. The lines of sight across the voids act just as Juddâ€™s concrete boxes do and circulation becomes an essential element of viewing (interesting to note the difference of scale, art performing like architecture housing art). The reason for this type of behavior can be traced through personal experiences. Art and architecture have been gifted with the ability to evoke thought or emotion through their presence (phenominology proving to be a huge component in this understanding). These thoughts and emotions are driven by personal experiences in similar environments which makes both products (the art center and concrete boxes) successful in their intent to circulate persons around them. Judd confirms this understanding, describing: 54
Emotion or feeling is simply a quick summation of experience, some of which is thought, necessarily quick so that we can act quickly. Itâ€™s not irrational, virtually the opposite. Thought is not strict, isolated and only logical but is continually using its backlog of experience which is called feeling. Otherwise we could never get from A to Z, barely to C, since B would have to be always rechecked.18
Boxed-In Dissecting the boxes, Donald Judd focused on three design elements that are ofter debated in architectural discourse. The scale of his works allowed for a thorough investigation of these elements which will benefit the evolution of architectural form throughout the years. The process of reduction in Judd’s specific objects allows for an easy analysis of proportion, scale, and perception that can readily be applied to architectural critique and design. Judd mentioned that there is a relationship laying in waiting between art and architecture. With his declaration of the creation of “specific objects,” Judd distiguishes his works as neither painting or sculpture. In other words that he is no longer an artist but has become a ‘free’ or ‘fine’ designer. Perhaps this break from artist to designer is the most significant transformation for Judd and his work.
Notes 1. Donald Judd, “Art and Architecture,” Res. Anthropology and Aesthetics, No. 7/8, Spring/Fall 1984. Originally presented as a lecture at Yale University October 20, 1983. 2. Donald Judd, “Specific Objects,” essay from 1964 first published in Arts Yearbook 8, 1965. 3. “Specific objects” refers to the works of Judd, neither paintings nor sculpture. 4. For work by Olieva see: http://www.cittaarchitettura.it/andrea_oliva/index.htm (accessed April 20, 2013). 5. Sol LeWitt’s Serial Object #1 (1966-68) for reference. 6. Judd, “Art and Architecture,” op. cit. 7. Stefan Beyst, Donald Judd’s Design: A Turning Point in the History of Sculpture? (2004), http://d-sites.net/english/judd.htm (accessed March 31, 2013). 8. Phillips, Untitled (91-149 Menziken), 1991. 9. Donald Judd, Art and Architecture (Yale University School of Art, 1983). 10. The nine square is violated on the top floor to create an overhang over the main entrance. 11. “exhibits”? Museums? Exhibits? 12. Judd, “Art and Architecture,” op. cit. 13. Rem Koolhaas, “BIGNESS and the Problem of Large,” S, M, L, XL, (New York: Monacelli Press, 1995), 494-516. 14. Judd, “Specific Objects,” op. cit., 4. 15. Judd, “Art and Architecture,” op. cit. 16. Robert Morris, Notes on Sculpture, (1966). 17. Judd, “Art and Architecture,” op. cit. 18. Beyst, op. cit. 56
Bibliography Fogle, Douglas. “Pause, Relflect.” New York Times, 2012. http://tmagazine. blogs.nytimes.com/2012/11/14/pause-reflect-luisa-lambri-on-donaldjudd/?ref=donaldjudd (accessed March 30, 2013). Judd, Donald. Complete Writings 1959-1975 (Halifax, Nova Scotia: The Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design Co-published by New York University Press, 2005). Searle, Adrian. “Box Clever.” The Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/culture/2004/feb/03/1 (accessed March 30, 2013).
Dan Flavin, Untitled, Chinati Foundation, Marfa, TX, 1996.
intermediary space and the space of the mind While sitting in class last semester, I began to sketch plan views of the living room of my apartment. In this series, a path of projected light led from a point near the edge of the room onto the wall opposite its origin. In the space between the source and the destination, I placed an array of objects of varying size and location. The manipulation of forces in this projection’s environment results in an alteration to the form that the lit space takes. Shadows cast accordingly presented themselves as muddled or precise. They trace the lines that lead back to their beginning, tangential to those pieces in between. The drawings established a set of relationships with a field of those characters – the source, the screen, and that which lies between. In this light one may imagine the process by which the situation described above was composed as a narrative. Within that narrative the “intermediary” likely provides the most dynamic account. An “intermediary” is a specific vernacular through which one may investigate architectural relationships. The idea spans a spectrum of identities that embody, literally or otherwise, that which is in between. This syntax can serve to show how representation is an allegorical tool of mediation between the parties involved in the making of ideas. In practice this essay is an exercise through which I intend to provide one rationale for the processes through which I derive architectural ideas
through a collection of written vignettes and noted observations. This investigation began to gather momentum after I became acquainted with the work of Josiah McElheny. Josiah McElheny is a contemporary artist based in New York. He is particular to glass blowing and other media concerning glass. His pieces are often mirrored once formed. The breadth of his work displays a thematic consistency: McElheny is concerned with the representation of space at a variety of scales.Two of his more recent exhibitions, “Some Pictures of the Infinite” and “A Space for an Island Universe,” explore the representation of space at the scale of the universe1. Both of these exhibitions were on display in the ICA during my studio field trip to Boston in the fall. His argument here is that the processes by which the universe functions are too large in terms of both time and sheer size to be communicated through more conventional means. To that end, these exhibits display a tendency to gravitate towards the role that temporality plays in space. McElheny’s previous work is derived from a more intimate or human scale. Here, is interested in how such variety affects the roles and positions of the authors and occupants of space. There is a slight yet substantial distinction between the two: though both characters experience the spaces they reside within, the author is inherently self-aware. This role is steeped in the cognition that architecture requires to exist. Another exhibition of McElheny’s that was on display in the ICA was his “The Past was a Mirage I’d Left Far Behind.”1 The exhibition encompasses the room following a hall of his earlier work – his equivalent of diagram models. In this room, three installations of boxes are set up to function as screens for projectors. Each box, while of an orientation unique to itself, consists of a number of panels that frame the volume through which the projected light is led. Each plane is mirrored on each of its surfaces. The result of this articulation is twofold: when viewed from the side, the profile of the mirrored volume in hidden; the viewer’s perception of the space of the room is confused by the manipulation of its reflection. The second interpretation of the volume comes with the inclusion of the projected light
into the box. Each of the three boxes operates in tandem with a projector that displays a set of abstract films into their volumes. The films have been appropriated from other authors, who are not cited. While the films are without a narrative or definitive topic, they each provide a subject of focus. This subject is of a generally more visceral or macabre demeanor. For example, one film documented the process by which a pig is butchered. The camera does not move, and the body of the pig is progressively lessened and lessened as two butchers hurriedly do their knife-work around it. The interpretation of the exhibition is dependent upon how one is required to view this projection. As the digitalized film is projected into the mirrored volume, its “screen” expands into a theoretical infinity vertically and laterally. To view the box at an angle is to avoid standing in the way of the projection, but this only permits the viewer with the partial context of the screen. To stand in between the projector and the mirrored box is to occlude a portion of the film from the screen (effectively projecting it onto oneself) and replace it with an individual’s silhouette. This act is a rudimentary form of authorship. Similar as well to the project on which it is dependent, the film has been appropriated from its original context as well. Having actively engaged both the screen and the projection, one may see the reiteration of his or her silhouette recede into the distance of the composition. After a certain number of reflections, the silhouette becomes the dominant figure and eventually the entire screen. Having previously considered authorship and the corruption of projected space, I made a connection between my diagrams of “intermediary” conditions and the Josiah McElheny exhibition after my second visit to the ICA. The observation concerns the objects that lie in between. What if they could think? Those cognizant objects are an author. The individual is intrinsically linked to the space within which it is defined by and subsequently defines. Dan Flavin was a Modern artist who probably remembered most for his work with fluorescent lighting. Flavin used standard lengths and colors
of tubes arranged by a variety of methods. Some pieces were site specific and to be taken as stand-alone units while some are either meant or able to be viewed as a part of a series. Some of his constructs were mounted on walls like paintings and others straddled corners and doorways to collect the edge of the space of the room into the total work. Something that is consistent within his body of work – which could be said is reflective of his own life – is its reliance on dialectical processes. Consider architectural design within the parameters of argument. A dialectic is a particular form of argument in which either idea cannot stand without the opposition provided by the other. That is to say, for example, that “good” cannot be realistically defined without a reciprocal definition of “that which is not good.” This is the lens through which both Flavin and his work should be observed. The Hegelian Dialectic is comprised of three entities rather than two. The two poles result in the creation of the third place, known as the “synthesis.” A “synthesis” in itself establishes a new dichotomy, and this process continues into infinity – an assertion that in Hegel’s mind constituted as a perfection. An author is a “synthesis” in this regard. An author is the catalyst, result, and continuation manifest of each work he or she has produced. Flavin was raised Catholic by his father, though he ultimately separated from the church by the time that he was an adult.2 Biographers of the artist speculate that he maintained a particular resentment and subsequent thematic concentration towards religious establishment for some time after. They argue that Flavin’s work is of an inherently religious articulation; his lighting constructs are physically simple and straightforward objects but are interpreted to hold significant allegory and spiritual symbolism. This reading was seemingly much to Flavin’s irritation. In a journal concerning a particular exhibition of his, he wrote that “it is what it is, and it ain’t nothing else.”3 While this declaration is given with a weight that one might deem “enough”, the establishment of controversy by his critics is fairly reasonable. Flavin’s work often seems to lead a double life. Simple objects though they certainly are, his work makes formal allusions to either other artists or other sources
of influence. He references Occom’s Razor and Alexander (“Sandy”) Calder, among others.4 This duality is reiterated even in the way that these pieces are represented through written word. Most of Dan Flavin’s installations go under the name of “Untitled”, followed by a subtitle in parentheses. These subtitles betray the notion that these pieces are simply objects to be seen void of context.The inclination that more conceptual framework that would otherwise be unseen in established through the name alone. Regardless, Flavin found himself comfortable in his own niche of phenomenological investigations. When alluding specifically to religious or spiritual readings of a piece, light is often a catalyst for conversation. The way in which light is a physical reality yet not totally tangible is in some respects metaphorical. To this end, one may remember to Plato’s allegory of the cave. What exactly is the role of the fire? Flavin leads back to the cave, where fire serves as the means of light and therefore, communication and knowledge. It serves as the medium through which ideas are formed and “reality” is made. In discussing mediation and the communication of ideas, one may think of Christopher Hitchens. Christopher Hitchens was a contemporary English-American author and orator most noted for his aggressive demeanor and controversial political and philosophical ideologies. He wrote in Letters to a Young Contrarian, responding to the assertion that heated debate is a thing harmful and unproductive, that “heat is not the antithesis of light but rather the source of it.” He continued, “We know as a law of physics that heat is the chief, is not the only, source of light. Reducing the sun to room temperature would decrease light to nothing at all, as well as generating a definite chill.”5 The author brings to mind again the role that argumentation plays in the making of ideas. “In life we make progress by conflict and in mental life by argument and disputation.”6 Verbal language serves as the tool of mediation in Hitchens’ theater. He argued that an honest disputation of claims was necessary to derive opinions worthy of being held. Spoken language and written language are both individual facets of an over arching medium. They each present their own interesting ambigui-
ties. Concerning the conversation between the two-dimensional and threedimensional representations of space, one must keep in mind that ideas are not made in English. They are not firstly spoken or firstly drawn; finite language does not bind them, as it is not a prerequisite for cognition. A process of translations exists between that which is thought and that which is shown to. This process continues redirected as the two-dimensional distillation of thought is seen or understood by those other than its author who may come in contact with it. Simon Unwin is another individual who comes to mind when considering the roles of intermediaries. Unwin writes in Analyzing Architecture that “place is where the mind touches the world.”7 The passage that this quote is taken from deals specifically with the association of architecture with the idea of place. Discovering this passage was one of the first duties imparted upon us in first year studio. In a lecture later that school year, he similarly noted that architecture is where “this becomes this” - the distinction being drawn between an image of a beach and the same image with a person superimposed into the background. This is an example of an often-made distinction between “space” and “place”; the separation here is analogous to the difference between “house” and “home”, respectively. The assertion being made is that architecture is both inherently spatial and inherently cerebral. While space may or may not exist without one to acknowledge it, architecture is a product of the mind. Simon Unwin displays a keen interest in “that which lies between” in a physically direct sense. He wrote a book on the role of the doorway, and recently launched a collective project on Facebook titled “The In-Between.” This forum covers topics ranging from the transitional spaces and doorways to the procession that precedes arrival and the temporally corrupt nature of mass transit following the Industrial Revolution. The latter notion is an inclusion of my own. Unwin uses the forum as a method of compiling and critiquing spatial ideas within an appropriately conducive circumstance. It is worth noting that the use of “forum” here is in itself a corruption of the word to fit a digital space.
In taking liberties with language, one could say that a two-dimensional representation may very well be simultaneously manifest in three dimensions. This is an abuse of terminology with a legitimate physical citation. To say in this sense that something is “two-dimensional” may be to accuse it of being overly simplistic, idealized, or lacking in clarity or sincerity. While this is a corruption of proper language, it does illustrate a point that carries over. Two-dimensional representation allows for a degree of ambiguity that is not as easily achievable through the manipulation of three-dimensional space. There is a like distinction between the “two-dimensional” and “three-dimensional” concerning both architecture and writing. The distinction has to do with the measure and application of control. An essay is often analogous to a set of orthographics in the sense that neither has been tested in the field. The readability and strength of an argument is subject to the analysis of those who did not author it. This caliber of argument is to be learned from and revised in later editions. Its purpose is clarity; as orthographics arise out of a tradition of construction documentation, written word is another distilled communication of ideas. The result should be able to stand up. Three-dimensional representation in either of these fields is in some respect an acknowledgement of the limited breadth of one’s perception. The argument for this separation of methodologies can be supported by the modern revisal of the notion of information. The very idea of information as a way to categorize thought or the communication of thought is a result of the enlightenment. The word itself is of both French and Latin origin.8 One may categorize two avenues of information to provide a scaffold for this conversation.The categories, being either structural or cognitive, are roughly a reiteration of Platonic form. Ideals define the physical reality in spite of an inherent and inescapable cognitive dissonance.9 A built structure will perform according to the degree to which it is able to respond to the set of forces that are present upon it within its environment. The performance of the Farnsworth House is indicative of how successful Modernism
was at addressing both the site and occupant. It’s a beautiful diagram that nobody wants to live in. Because of its articulation it is perhaps equally effective as a diagram of the way Mies van der Rohe was thinking.10 Architectural ideas are not static. Authors adjust their opinions and post-rationalize their previous works. Josiah McElheny concerns himself with the comprehension of a scale that is inherently incomprehensible. Dan Flavin is the diagram of a motif: the divide and subsequent bridge between the secular and religious. Both Hitchens and Unwin embody their respective arguments in and of themselves. One may find difficult in accepting the colloquial definitions of “poeticism” or its supposed tangent “elegance.” I find a correlation between poetry and the aesthetic of intent. Elegance may approach the path of either the most succinct or the most verbose response. To that end, the condition of relationship between the author and his or her body of work is an intensely definitive one.
Notes 1. Browne, Alix. â€œThe Big Picture.â€? New York Times November 28, 2008, MM64. Web. 26 Mar. 2013. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/28/magazine/28Style-t. html?fta=y&_r=0. 2. Govan, Michael, and Tiffany Bell. Dan Flavin: A Retrospective, 1st Ed. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2004), 147. 3. Ibid., 156. 4. Ibid., 172. 5. Hitchens, Christopher. Letters to a Young Contrarian (New York: Basic Books, 2005), 20. 6. Ibid., 92. 7. Unwin, Simon. Analyzing Architecture, 3rd Ed. (London: Routledge, 2009), 32. 8. Borgmann, Albert. Holding on to Reality, 1st Ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.),19. 9. Ibid., 19. 10. Unwin, Simon. Twenty Buildings Every Architect Should Understand, 1st Ed. (London: Routledge, 2010), 63-79.
Rachel Whiteread, Untitled (Stair), 2001.
The Viennese architect, Adolf Loos (1870-1933) once wrote, The best draftsman can be a bad architect; the best architect can be a bad draftsman. The moment one chooses to be an architect, graphic talent is demanded.1 Like his many circular and aphoristic writings, Loos reflects on the culture of the architect’s practice, and specifically, on the “pretty drawings” that proliferated professional activities in Vienna in the early 1900s. Secessionist architects like Otto Wagner and Josef Hoffman generated great enthusiasm and fanfare with their talented drafting and drawing skills. Still embraced by architects today (think digital models that come close to an image of the real) it was a known fact that fanciful presentations go far in moving a client (or an idea for that matter) toward the more difficult task of building. On the flipside, Loos warned of the potential dangers in the artistry of architectural promotion. As a draftsman that didn’t sharpen his pencil often, what left Loos’s drawing board was seldom pretty. He did not create realistic perspectives, colorful renderings, or fanciful collages. In fact, much of what survives of Loos’s graphic work was created for the builder, the woodworker or the metalsmith, not the client or architectural press. Structural plans, large scale details in a rather crude drawing style were the principle means
by which Loos chose to explore and understand his work. Of the drawings published, we have a sense of an architect working more like an engineer or cabinetmaker than as an artist. Loos’s drawings always appear in service to the actual building as opposed to the stand alone artistic representation. However, upon seeing his completed buildings, particularly his houses, we are left with the impression of an architect experimenting with space and material that is altogether absent in his drawings. A large portion of Loos’s career consists of house and housing projects. Some were realized as renovations, others as new structures and a large portion of his designs were unbuilt. What typifies his body of work from the early 1920s until his death in 1933 is the radical use of space, a trait that even the most skillful delineator cannot capture. Many of his houses incorporate varying levels where the compression and release of spatial pressure are manipulated to create moods that were: transitional, central, centrifugal, intimate, etc. The sequence and social conditions – greetings by a caretaker, preparing oneself for the warm and protective seclusion of the interior, or the formal and informal nature of family gathering – were accounted for in the physiognomy of Loos’s spatial domestics. Loos’s use of the raumplan (space plan or “plan of volumes” coined by his associate Heinrich Kulka) was unique in that the building section could be adjusted incrementally as oppose to modularly – e.g., double or triple height spaces merely by omitting floor levels/stories as in Le Corbusier’s stacking of the plan libre. No other architecture is as spatially rich as Loos’s residential work. Design lives in the section where fashioning three rooms at once is a factor of adjusting both floor and ceiling levels for a single room that subsequently demands altering the volumes of the rooms above and below. Much of this complexity is not easily understood. With today’s preference for highly articulated perspective renderings or metrical informaton intended to quantify space and/or spatial use, the Loos interior (particularly in his unbuilt work) is not immediately satisfying. One must wade through
plain orthgraphic drawings that survive of his work. The often banal nature of reading plan to section and section to elevation is requiste in unlocking the secrets of the Loosian interior. A “part to whole” understanding of these drawings requires the practice of reading these corresponding views to forge a comprehensive mental picture of space. An alignment between stairs in section and plan become the measure by which we see the subtle, shifting of floor levels – where landings become entire rooms, and where the intentionality of the program is revealed. Social Use of Space The arrangement of Loos’s rooms reflect codes and etiquettes of the social structure of the times. Many of these houses were serviced by domestic help, therefore the arrangement of interior spaces reflect strict lines of public and private. Shared arrangements from the earliest houses to the more recent demonstrate a regard for the entry sequence. Foyer spaces were often small and not very grand. These opened onto larger, light-filled rooms for dispensing heavy outerware and jackets. The equipment in these spaces tell the story of intimate domestic rituals matched to the architecture – e.g., the removal of damp coats to be hung on brass metal hooks, built-in mirror glass so that one could check their appearance before engaging the pleasantries of social exchange with hosts, etc. Often there were simple porcelain sinks to wash-up at, plumbing fixtures that Loos favored and openly exhibited in these introductory spaces of the house.2 Loos often drew up designs for Jewish patrons who were part of the middle and rising class of merchant families looking to own residences in the growing single-family neighborhoods outside city centers. Often there were parlors and platforms in these houses for family members who played musical instruments or engaged in special communal activites. Dedicated alcoves for pianos (e.g., the Strasser House) or seating and storage areas for cello instruments (e.g., Moller House) helped provide the correct unfolding of spaces but also a feeling for the theatrical and acoustical value of Loos’s
rooms. In the Haberfeld Country House and Fleischner House in Haifa in northern Israel (both unrealized but similar in their spatial layouts), there is a special raised podium, with stairs ascending at its edges. This plith presents itself to the main living area of the house. One could imagine the use of this podium as a stage element, with performers coming and going theatrically by way of the stair. A dramatic performance-like space can be seen in the unbuilt Josephine Baker House planned for Paris in 1926. In this instance, the performative volume is manifest as a swimming tank, conceptualized as a space within the volume of the house. Planned as an aquatic theatre for Josephine to entertain guests, patrons could see their host as they entered from street level via a grand stair, then engage a system of narrow galleries wrapping the pool’s mid-section with underwater viewing portals.These galleries would have led to a cylindrical cafe where guests would meet Josephine, then move to the third level for dining and conversation. In this example, the theatrical volume of space (the pool) is the dominant factor of the architecture, a place where Josephine could exercise feminine control of the domestic environment.
Loos Maquettes The three-dimensional maquettes presented on the following pages investigate 17 of Loos’s most radical domestic works. Students of the course inverted (space into form) beginning at the entry and moving to the most public areas of these houses. Three-dimensional computer models were created by first drawing conventional plans and sections then using the orthographic model to construct a separate volumetric solid. The resulting form (after clearling away the digital formwork) were 3D printed on a power prototyping machine. In the spirit of Rachel Whiteread’s inversion of form into readible space, the resulting objects reveal themselves as volumetric imprints exposing the limits of Loos’s room arrangements. These castings allow a chance for us to inspect closely the balance of habitable mass against slim surface features.
Along the faces of these models exist the texture of interior walls and ceiling soffits. Windows, doors and other openings understood in relief are oriented outwards, pushing their way out of the void. Each of the maquettes describe a volumetric sequence. Connecting these connected spaces in the raumplan is typically achieved via an ascending stair.Voids and incisions in the resulting form denote space that would be occupied by floors and walls. Windows and doors are seen as surface reliefs and indicate apertures where inside and outside thresholds occur. The notable features of these collection of volumes (unlike the plain drawings that generated them) illuminate how Loos tailored each space according to the correct height to plan ratio in much the same way a tailormade suit is fitted to the body. Also, from beneath these models, we see how stair space is thrust from below into destination volumes explaining how Loos created dramatic vertical thresholds, introducing space in dynamic ways as inhabitants moved up and through the building. Loos interiors are complex as demonstrated in these small analytical maquettes. In addition to resulting spatial calculus, material choices along with textiles coverings and furniture placement may also be important for a richer reading of the formal and social nature of Loosian architecture. For the moment we will contemplate the neutrality of these white objects in preparation for more colorful interpretations and research.
Notes 1. Adolf Loos, â€œArchitecture (1910)â€?, trans. H. F. Mallgrave, Midgard, vol. 1, no. 1, 1987, 51. 2. The expression of these utilitarian objects were part of Loosâ€™s manifesto (and favorite subjects of his early essays) in which the conveniences and modern features of a house should be a part of everyday life. He was particularly appreciative of English and American plumbing.
Collection of Loos Spatial Maquettes.
1912 | Scheu House One of Loosâ€™s new houses during his early career. The design incorporates a piano noble level with public rooms that circle a main stair hall. All upper rooms have external terraces that provide light and air.
1916 | Mandl House Renovation of a small suburban villa. The entry hall and mezzanine are redone by Loos to provide one of the first renditions of raumplan space. Particular attention to the greeting room hall, winding stair and internal balcony overlooking the hall provide an exciting entry sequence.
1918 | Strasser House Renovation of a large villa in the suburbs of Vienna. Loos creates a meandering series of entry and vestibule spaces that lead to the the living and dining levels, with further accommodations for an ingelnook and music room elevated in an alcove.
1919 | Konstandt House A strong symmetrical house though the entry is on the weak axis and the procession through the main hall is a grand yet fragmented journey. The journey continues about the main living space as it spirals up into a linear gallery for art and finishes off the public sequence in a library.
1921 | Public Housing (Siedlung) in Vienna Unbuilt rowhouse-type worker housing featuring modest living spaces but large garden plots on site for the owners to grow vegetables. This is the design written about in his 1926 essay, â€œDie Moderne Siedlung.â€?
1922 | Haberfeld Country House One of the few houses that Loos designed with a pitched roof. This unique project is similar to the Scheu House with its elevated terrace and interior volumes. It also anticipates, but on a smaller scale, the Fleischner House in Israel designed at the end of Loosâ€™s career.
1922 | Rufer House Consider the first raumplan house by Loos. It features a four-square organizational structure by way of a large centrally placed column (rendered as a square vertical hole in the model above). The dining room is a third of a level above the music/living room, placed in such a way that anticipates many of the later raumplan layouts. The house has a wonderful, ritualistic entry sequence.
1923 | Moissi House An unrealized project for the actor Alexander Moissi on the vacation beaches of Lido Island outside of Venice. Loos employed a typical sectional organization of seaside dwellings (living areas above sleeping quarters) in order to take advantage of breezes and views.The house features a lyrical exterior stair that provides access to a roof terrace that over looks the ocean. This model documents this exterior space as it winds and wraps the building ending in a roof-top terrace with views of the Adriatic. In most scenarios this was the primary sequence into the house.
1924 | Plesch House A villa project for the French countryside in Croissy, this house features a very powerful axial relationship between its three cascading terraces against a relatively asymmetrical relationship of spaces on the interior. The sectional relationship between the office and entrance hall is particularly daring.
1925 | Rosenberg House Planned for Paris near Loosâ€™s Tristan Tzara house (next page), this project features an irregular terrace that functions to marry a rhomboid-shaped lot with the regular geometry of the house. The interior relationship between the dining and living area is similar to the Rufer House. A separate stair leading from the dining area to a secluded garden completes the sequence.
1925 | House for Tristan Tzara Loos designed and built this house in Paris for the famous Dadaist poet. A very large house which features a piano noble level two levels off the main street, a very theatrically-inspired living room scheme, a rooftop terrace, and a separate studio to the rear.The family vs. servant circulation is very distinct. This model details the 4-level public stair sequence.
1926 | Josephine Baker House This unbuilt Parisian townhouse for the famous 1920s African-American entertainer is a small version of the nightclubs she entertained in. It features a large interior swimming pool (modeled here as a void) and a grand central stair case leading to a salon. The galleries that wrap the pool function as viewing corridors into the pool. The elongated four-square organization of the plan creates four distinct living zones.The Baker House would have been one of the largest raumplan houses.
1928 | Moller House Built in the suburbs of Vienna, this house features a strong axis between the dining and living/music space. The dining area is elevated with a small set of foldable stairs so that guest could decend into the music area after the a meal. A large bay window doubles at entry canopy as well as central observation point between interior and exterior of the house.
1928 | MĂźller House Completed on the outskirts of Prague, this house is one of the most sophisticated of the raumplan house organizations. It has a beautiful entry sequence, and features a ladyâ€™s boudoir that serves as the central control point when entering the living and dining areas. A very complex and strangely voyeuristic house.
1929 | Cube (Dice) House Project for a very modest house. Features saddlebag spaces spinning off above the main living room. Classic four-square organization of the raumplan with centralized column support.
1930 | Detached House Project The unusual two-zoned plan of this house results in a dominate interior wall that its owners must pass along, through, and around. A very modest and economical rendition of the raumplan.
1931 | Fleischner House Project for a terraced raumplan house in Haifa, Israel. It features a large, meandering terrace that connects the main living areas of the house with stairs leading from it to the surrounding landscape. It also includes a stair that wraps one corner of the building, creating a theatrical podium-like space on the interior. This same arrangement of space can be see deployed in the 1922 Haberfeld Country House.
Appreciation and thanks to the following individuals for their contributions to the ideas, writing and making activities seen in this small volume of work. Without their interests, patience, and insights this text would not be possible. Students Veronica Bowers Corinne Bridges Joseph Burnett James Caldwell Ryan Coleman Jacob Coltrane William Cordes Kevin Daly Gina DeMatteo Sean Gillespie Cortney Hathaway Yiran Hu Julie Jernigan Brian Jones Daniel McBride Monica Ramirez James Rodgers Alberto Torres James Wilson Matthew Wilson 3d Modelling Support Ryan Buyssens Instructor Peter Wong Associate Professor
Writing and analytical work on the theme of architectural space from an advanced seminar course in the School of Architecture at UNCCharlott...
Published on May 27, 2014
Writing and analytical work on the theme of architectural space from an advanced seminar course in the School of Architecture at UNCCharlott...