Archive for October, 2009

A.E. Balakian – Breton and the Surrealist Mind – The influences of Freud and Hegel
The article discusses Freud and Hegel’s contributions to the rise of surrealism out of Dada and what they contributed to them.
Freud’s work in psychoanalysis was a key contributor to surrealist thought. Andre Breton was an avid fan of Freud and sought to marry Freudian philosophies with surrealism. Breton wanted to combine the experiences of the dream state and reality to create a surreal existence, or as he called it an absolute reality. The various dream states were seen to be able to become complimentary to the waking life of reality transforming how we experience reality. Aside from dream analysis and incorporation into reality, the surrealists were also interested in automatic writing, letting the subconscious lead writing (or drawing), enabling it to marry the subconscious and the waking, leading to an art or writing that was pleasing to the senses. the third major influence of Freudism was the intentional simulation of states of mental abnormality. They used this simulation to delve into the states of man’s mind and experience. Through these experiments they sought to bring in the full range of human mental experience into their work. Unlike Freud, the surrealists sought not to interpret the mind but to colonize it.
Hegel’s contribution was most felt as the surrealists sought to combine their need for long range knowledge and the short range goal of expression. The surrealists used Hegel’s thoughts to help them define the relationship between object and subject. In other words they were seeking a unity between their contradictions.
Both Hegel and Freud served as guiding forces to the Surrealists, providing a starting point for them to derive their ideas as they sought to overcome and redefine the realities of life.

A. Breton – What is Surrealism: The Road to the Absolute
Breton goes about defining what surrealism is and what it is trying to accomplish. The basic definition he provides for surrealism is: “pure psychic automatism”, or as he expounds on it, thought in the absence of conscious controls. Breton describes how autonomous writing is done. He sees surrealism as a way to escape the restrictions of rational thought that are holding down the experience of reality and merge dream and reality into absolute reality.

Surrealism is an interesting concept. While it may be an interesting endeavor to try to delve into the subconscious and combine it with reality, I think that trying to remove the limits of rational thought that the Surrealists sought to remove may lead to interesting discoveries, but as a way of life and experience it may not work in a world that runs on rationality as it would be hard to integrate the two realities. This is not to say that surrealist methods can not be utilized in architecture or design, but I do not think that they should be the sole reliant factor, as rationality is needed in all projects.

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Villa Savoye – Form

My paper of Form in the Villa Savoye: Villa Savoye form

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Vidler The Building in Pain: The body and Architecture in Post-Modern Culture; Martinetti: The Foundation and Manifesto of Futurism (1908)

Vidler: The long history of humanism in architecture is changing, no longer based on the human ideal or vitruvian proportions, the post-modern seeks to dismember the body and seek a new form that rather than being limited by the body, embraces “all of human existence.” This transformation, as Vidler puts it, has occurred in three stages, which he attributes to historical periods for the sake of chronological clarity: the building as body, the building as representing a bodily state or state of mind based on sensation, and finally the environment as whole endowed with bodily (organic) characteristics. The building as body ties into the Vitruvian concepts of ideal proportion and man as the ideal basis for that proportion. This ideal dominated architecture well into the 19th century. this concept began to be challenged by the Baroque and the concept of the sublime. Baroque sought to redefine the body through seeking a different clarity. The sublime especially sought to change things by evoking sensation, particularly for architecture, sensations of awe and wonder, bordering on our subconscious fears and desires. This evolved into the post-modern and modern concepts of the building as organism. The building was anthropomorphized. A new definition of body came to exist, one that was outside of simple proportions and or feeling. This new body was a part of its environment and reacted to and from outside and inside stimuli. The building began to BE, the building took this being and placed it onto those occupying it. Buildings could turn the user’s own body inside out. the body of the post-modern building placed not only physical but psychical effects and affects on the user. There is also an uncannyness about the post-modern building body, as Vidler puts it in Freudian terms. There is a return of the body and ideas which were repressed, animism, magic, totemism and the like recur putting material reality into question. Secondly, there is a return of the infantile complexes which had been repressed, taking us back to a blurring of psychical reality. Vidler ends his discussion with a look at where the body is in relation to the environment. Taking from Sartre we learn that the body exists because of the environment in which it inhabits, therefore it is a part of it and the individuality brings it back to those instruments that define and create the environment. The body exists because there is a world. Taking these thoughts we are placed into the final issue of the post-modern building-body relationship: suppressed terror. The building embodies the body and as such the bodies desires, fears and potentials. The building is an extension of the individuals occupying it, it is to serve them. Buildings can use their bodily presence to become what we want them to, places of comfort, discomfort, life or death, however, while buildings can hint at these things, only we can make a building become an instrument.

Martinetti: Martinetti outlines the futurist manifesto, primarily concerned with speed, struggle and danger that the future is bringing during this time (1908). He celebrates the products of industrialization and technological progression as triumphs and things of beauty. The old establishments are dead, the future awaits. Museums, libraries and academies are graveyards of vain efforts. Futurism is a defiance of their past clinging ideals. For Martinetti, the future (technological) is what we should cling to, discarding the past.

Thoughts: Vidler’s thoughts are interesting and well laid out. I think that what he says does make sense but I think that there is a meshing of all of the three stages of body in (most) buildings. Buildings can certainly elicit feeling and emotion, or they can disrupt the spaces of occupation, throwing a body out of place. I think his exploration of the suppressed meaning behind a building’s body relationship is an interesting angle and could use further delving into.
Martinetti writes very poetically, bringing his enthusiasm of futurism’s prospects to life through his words. However, he seems to miss the negative aspects of technological drive, perhaps this can be forgiven him due to the time period (hindsight is our advantage here).

I think that the drive and excitement for the potential of futurism and the modern led to a period of throwing away (or separation of) the past in art and architecture. This meant the body shed it’s human proportions and restrictions while new technology spurred new forms. Philosophical and psychological theories of the day were incorporated into new ways of comprehending building and architecture’s role in interpreting the world. While this period experienced some measure of accomplishment, it is of note that post-modernism focused on incorporating the gains of modernism with the lessons of the past. While some post-modern ideals appear to reject modernism, I do not think that is the case, they have simply removed themselves from the modernist trajectory and reincorporated what was felt to be missing, the human side of things, or the uncanny as Freud put it and Vidler re-emphasized.

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Form Readings Responses

FORM – Reading Responses

Tuesday September 29 – Natural Form

Grosz – In-Between: The Natural in Architecture
The in-between is not a space in the common sense. It is an area of negotiation and transformation between identities. This space is the at the fringes of an identity where it becomes undone, but at the same time it creates a condition where an external identity starts to become internalized, or in other words where identities meet and inform one another, an act of becoming as Grosz puts it. This dualism is about renegotiation and redefinition. In architecture this is presented in the form of nature and culture, or rather the natural versus the culturally created (i.e. technology). There is a renegotiation between these forces where architecture attempts to act as facilitator. This renegotiation takes place over time and thus there is a temporal aspect to the in-between that relies on the possibilities of futurity. neither of the identities involved in this dualism are limiting but rather can be generators and dynamic forces acting on each other.

Foucault – 28 March 1979 (Fr. the Birth of Bio-Politics
Foucault discusses the economic man in this lecture. He discusses Adam Smith’s concept of the blind sovereign who allows the market to be free. Basically he comes to the point that economics cannot be applied to every situation, but in terms of governance can be used as a guide but cannot be used as the rationality for governance.

While Foucault’s ideas of the economic man can be used to explain the markets and the drive to consume, I’m not really sure how to fit it into a discussion of form. Perhaps, it can be related to the theoretical form of things created by man’s economic activity. The inter-relationships created by a market economy and neo-liberalism.
Grosz’s ideas on the other hand bring to mind the way that architectural forms can inform us about how a space is to be negotiated and what feedback we get from the experiences of traversing that space. As we travel through spaces, the material forms can force us into specific negotiations as an intention of the architect. These negotiations create a dialogue between the building (or object) and the user (one occupying). This dialogue serves to redefine what is thought about and experienced while allowing for a renegotiation of the space due to a different understanding gained from the initial negotiation.

Friday October 2 – Le Corbusier and Form

Tafuri – Critique of Architectural Ideology
Tafuri’s argument basically comes down to the idea that modern architecture fails for the same reasons modern art (and its associated movements) fails, it comes down to the ideology that supports it. the idealogical underpinnings are not enduring enough to sustain themselves. Their emphasis on geometries and purity of space is an antithesis and a contradiction to the dynamism of reality and therefore the modern fails.

Tuesday October 6 – Typology and Morphology

Vidler – The Third Typology
Vidler’s third typology revolves around the city and its relationship both to the past and its constituent elements. The first two typologies are the primitive hut, or man’s development of architecture to protect against nature and its evolution toward the second typology which is characterized by the elements of architecture becoming mass produced, leading to a focus on the method of production. The classification of the form is provided by the city. The third typology lies within the city, The city and the third typology as an extension must be seen as a whole, past-present relationships and evolutions must be considered as they inform the form, meaning there is a temporal aspect to consider. This new typology is critical of the modern movement. It draws from the 18th c city to rebuke the tenant of the modern. There must be a continuity of urban fabric rather than the fragmentation of the modern. The role of social meaning must be de-unitized and the city and typology must be reasserted to bring back the critical role of architecture in an endless cycle of production and consumption.

Weinstock – Metabolism and Morphology
Morphology and metabolism are separate. Morphologies, such as those in cities are metaphors, they do not have the same relationship as those found in nature. The processing of materials and energy is what links morphology and metabolism. Metabolism defines the relationship of individuals and populations to their local environment and natural forms. This metabolism relies on energy. Morphology acts as a transport network for the transfer of this energy. Size or scale is an important factor in metabolism. We can look to the natural world and find relationships that explain these relationships between morphology and metabolism, for example, plants with large surface areas can photosynthesize more light and therefore increase their size and metabolism, creating a balance of structure and surface area that finds an equilibrium and optimal balance. This can be seen in buildings with the balance of windows to structure. Geometry is used to create spaces that can flow into one another, thus increasing metabolism within the space. The morphology of these spaces contributes to the success of the space.

Foucault – The Discourse on Nature
Language is an important part of our natural history and cannot be separated from it. It contains a system of arrangement of knowledge, ordering this knowledge so as to make it representable via a system of names. This knowledge and language allow for man to perceive and describe spaces. Nature is dynamic, but at the same time presents us with situations and objects that are similar, thus with the benefit of language, we can classify new things in reference to prior representations and experiences.

Friday October 9 – Freespace and politics

Lebbeus Woods – Anarchitecture: Architecture is a Political Act
Woods’ premise of freespace is that it is an undefined space whose function is defined by the user. It cannot be prescribed and is therefore quite difficult to create.

The idea of creating freespace is a powerful one. Allowing the user to define the space leads to a space that can truly be called the users. However there is quite a bit of difficulty in creating this space. How does one create a space without defining what it is, this is the issue i have with freespace, I am not sure that it can be truly designed, but rather it must likely be appropriated by the user.

Tuesday October 20 – Postmodern Form

Venturi – Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture
Complex and contradictory architecture is based on the richness and ambiguity of modern experience. It must be complex and contradictory in its inclusion of traditional elements while aiming for vitality and validity. There must be a richness of meaning over the clarity of that meaning, there is a special obligation toward the whole, truth or implications must be in its totality. Rationalism proves inadequate in times of upheaval, equilibrium must be created out of opposites. Forcing simplicity in architecture will lead to oversimplification. This oversimplification cannot be applied to the abstractness of living. Blatant simplicity also leads to boredom in design. Complex programs are necessary to address not only problems that may arise, but to address the inherent ambiguity of visual perception and exploit it. Ambiguity relates to form and content as manifestations of program and structure. incorporating ambiguity in architecture of complexity and contradiction promotes richness of meaning over clarity.

Eisenman – Post Functionalism
Modern architecture has an obsession with functionalism. The way forward lies in the past. Form and function can both be preserved while focussing on the humanist tradition, this is because form (type) and function are both invested with humanist ideals of man’s relationship to his object world. Industrialization has disrupted this balance. Neo-Functionalism idealized technology. it continued the tradition of creating architecture that constituted form-giving, thus making it an extension, albeit a late one, of humanism. Modernism dichotomy of form and function is a cultural phenomenon, it is simply indicative of a changed attitude toward the artifacts of the physical world. The complex contradictions inherent in functionalism make a form of neo-functionalism necessary to any new theoretical dialectic. This new theoretical base changes the humanist balance of form and function to a dialectical relationship within the evolution of form itself. This dialectic described as the potential co-existence within any form of 2 tendencies: to presume form to be a recognizable transformation from some pre-existent geometric or platonic solid and to see form as something simplified from some pre-existent set of non-specific spatial entities. Together these tendencies constitute the essences of the new modern dialectic -they suggest that the theoretical assumptions of functionalism are in fact cultural rather than universal and therefore Post-functionalism is a term of absence.

Friday October 23 – Topologies, Fold, De-from, Surface

Eisenman – The End of The Classical: The End of the Beginning, The End of the End
In the mid 15th century the idea of temporal beginning was introduced, referencing the past and a beginning. The Modern movement sought to substitute a universal idea of relevance over a universal idea of history to make its appeal. Modernism, far from breaking free of history actually fell into an illusion, they were traped in their own eternal continuum. With the fall of modernism and our progression forward we have recognized that there is an end to the ability of architecture (or neo movements) to express itself as timeless. All movements, including the classical and modern, are part of a single historical continuum, and as such it is unimportant whether the origins of an architecture are natural, divine or functional. Fiction becomes simulation when it fails to realize it is fiction. The simulation of representation in architecture has led to an excessive concentration of inventive energies in the representational object. The simulation of reason in architecture has been based on a classical value given to the idea of truth. Simulation of modern movement’s history was that any present day architecture can simultaneously be about presentness and universality. Simulation attempts to obliterate the difference between real and imaginary, dissimulation leaves untouched the difference between reality and illusion. A new architecture proposes a condition of reading architecture as a text.

Sola-Morales – Weak Architecture
Architecture finds clarity in the comparison of two opposing forces. Relationships between forces are constantly in flux and cannot be defined in a specific order. Architecture gains its strength through discreet flexibility, contrast, diversity and tension.  Cohesive flexibility allows the context to weave and find connection points which momentarily unify the world around us. Weak architecture uses a non-dominant approach, which is its strength.
Deleuze and Guattari – Introduction: Rhizome
The Rhizome is an attempt to organize neither an object nor a subject. The Rhizome is an assembly of speed, acceleration, and rupture. The Rhizome brings logic to the in-between as it acts as a method of constructing the elements that comprise the middle. It brings a logic and connectivity between the strata via organization.

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