Architecture and Implicit Perception - Matthias Ballestrem
Architecture and Images - Corinne Rose
Spaces of possibility - Anton Burdakov
Philosophical Grounds for a Geophonic Agenda in Architecture - Giuseppe Di Salvatore
Antinomies in architectural reflection- Lidia Gasperoni and Paola Sturla
Testing Architecture : Towards a philosophy of architecture in the writings of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett - Esteban Restrepo
"The live space": architecture, empathy, movement - Roxana Vicovanu
Architecture and philosophy of history - Max Winter
Matthias Ballestrem: "CONES 03" / Martin Gropius Bau Berlin / February 2013. Foto: Simon Menges
Architecture and Implicit Perception
Perception is a constant activity of interpretation. It procedes with or without our conscious attention. In recent years, psychology and neuroscience have been adding hints on how important implicit perceptional mechanisms are for the way we understand and learn about our environment. Since it hardly ever catches the conscious attention of the beholder, architecture can thus be understood as a constant dialogue partner for unconscious information processing - an implicit art. In this sense, implicit perceptional mechanisms are defining the grammar for the interaction between architecture and the human nervous system. And the other way around, architectural structure and form are defining the potential activity of the perceptional mechanisms.
But how and what kind of information does this dimension of communication transmit? What is the effect on our lives? In my talk I will try to present the theoretical basis and some practical strategies that I have been developing to approach this other dimension of architectural signification.
Architecture and Images
Within a photography or video work I circle the “psychology of a building or an urban structure” by approaching the subject of investigation within micro-analytical steps, observing it for days up to several weeks trying to unfold its complex structures or to reveal concealed contexts. Keeping my camera as still as the building it may reveal how architecture breathes although it stands still, how it lives through phases although it seems to be lifeless, and thereby giving it a voice to disclose its inner structure although it seems to be built out of dead material.
Thereby the interplay between the visual material and the architectural structure is following two directions. A focus on human beings leads to the psychology of spaces, whereas an analysis of built structure and urban context leads to an investigation of its inhabitants or users. The interaction may also be aligned in both directions at the same time.
No matter which medium I use, my goal always is to explore and inspect the deep inner structure of the subject I investigate, to get into the psychology of it and to reveal every detail, especially the hidden side which in everyday life often is processed in a subconscious way.
Spaces of possibility
What does it mean to find something meaningful, significant, or valuable? What makes some interests short-lived, and others long-lasting? What is motivation and how does it direct human actions?
The absence of absolute values does not stop belief and motivation being directed to all sorts of goals - a familiar duality. My work deals with how built and natural environment can become invested with meaning, not in a theoretical sense, but as a matter of observation. What places do people care about and what does this make them do? What are the conditions for the biological ‘meaning and value’ system to anchor itself to a specific part of the physical world? Using my own interests and intuition, I aim to create spaces of possibility; situations and environments, however unreasonable, in which meaning might present itself.
Sometimes this involves using precisely constructed setups highlighting experiences of space and time flow. Other works explore space in images and its complex relationship to physical space. Increasingly, I am focusing on space as setting for real and fictional events, and the process of building as the embodyment of human conflicts, desires and communal effort.
Giuseppe Di Salvatore
Philosophical Grounds for a Geophonic Agenda in Architecture
The aim of my contribution is to propose a specific interface between architecture and philosophy, which can finally have important both theoretical and applicative consequences. I want to focus on the role of sounds in architecture, but only in so far as it is sustained by a broad philosophical conception of space and perception. The main arguments of my intervention will be dedicated to this philosophical justification. With such a wide background, themes like sound landscape and spatialized sounds will be treated with an original approach, which implies at the end some indication on how to build an agenda for applicative research in architecture.
The philosophical justification moves from two principles, shaped with the aim of resuming the Deleuzian “baroque” conception of visibility sketched by Bernard Cache in his Earth Moves (MIT Press, Cambridge MA 1995; new version in French: Terre meuble, HYX, Orléans 1997). 1) The principle of double objectivity: the objectivity of genius loci, thought as a primitive grammar from which architecture can stem in an expressive way; and the objectivity of perception, thought kinesthetically as inseparable from the things themselves. 2) The principle of indiscretion: against a segmented and/or atomistic-plus-compositionalist conception of space, “indiscretion” implies both continuity and singularity, the last being articulated in its intrinsic (inflexions) or extrinsic (extrema) version.
From these two singularities we can introduce the notions of “inflexion” and of “vector”, which, together with the one of “frame” (typical of architecture, but in a way only secondary to the other two notions), constitute the elements of the territory as expressive articulations of the place. From the point of view of vision, inflexions (or surfaces), vectors, and frames are the analytical intruments to classify all images. And, more generally, they correspond, respectively, to geography, furniture (design), and architecture.
This conception of space and perception, in Cache’s work described mostly in terms of a theory of vision and visibility, needs a temporal counterpart. As the “baroque” idea of “inflexion” is the pivotal element of the conception, we cannot but assume its intrinsic scopes, among which we have to count the inflexion of space and time. Here is the connection between a Cache-inspired theory of space and visibility, and the task of a similar theory of time and sound, to be analyzed through the notions of “sound surface”, “sound vector”, and “sound frame”. The result will be inflexed i.e. expressive chronography and geophony. Only geophony is the domain of my inquiry, because it is obviously better fitted for architecture than chronography. Geophony, so constructed and justified, will give us an interesting agenda for applicative research in architecture.
Lidia Gasperoni & Paola Sturla
Antinomies in architectural reflection
Our common presentation deals with the problem of theoretical, practical and aesthetic conflicts in architecture. In order to explain from a critical point of view the failure of a dogmatic strategy and the enrichment of a skeptical and perspective method we use the Kantian concept of antinomy. The first part of the presentation concerns the philosophical sense of the antinomy in order to consider abstract conflicts, which are not empirically provable. Specifically Kant uses the concept of antinomy and describes three kinds of antinomies: theoretical, practical and aesthetic. Generally, the antinomy is a conflict between two opposite positions (thesis and antithesis) which contradict each other: one states the contrary of the other. This contrast is not resolvable in the antinomy itself by demonstrating that the thesis (or antithesis) is true or false. Instead, it is possible to investigate the reason of this conflict, and try to define the limits and rules of the application of each sentence that constitutes the thesis or the antithesis. The concept of antinomy could be very useful in order to understand the conflicts that arise in not-empirically provable theories and the strategy to approach them without falling into an absolute skeptical position, in which no decision can be made. And architectural reflection entails many aspects, which cannot be resolved empirically and on the other hand how the antinomies can explain the permanence of conflicts in architectural reflection and in its signification.
We try to translate Kant’s discourse on antinomies into contemporary architectural debate. The discipline of architecture stays in between theoretical, practical, and aesthetic field. We will highlight examples of dogmatic approach and top down strategies into design field. These processes (although understandable because of need of closing the design phase, and build the object), often bring a strong reductionist attitude into the project, preferring to accept one thesis instead of starting a critical discussion on contradictions. Today this dialectical habit is challenged by the need of considering the built environment within the context of complex systemic relationships (what we commonly call nature). Architecture stands into reality, and the interactions between economic, social and ecological forces with buildings are often unpredictable.
Within this context, Landscape arises as a mediator of antinomic conflicts. In this paper, we will intend landscape as a medium that generates relationships between urban infrastructures, indeterminate and adaptable solutions for spaces, and ecology, and as cultural category, a critical instrument to read and interpret the contemporary city, and its relationship with natural systems.
Testing Architecture - Towards a philosophy of architecture in the writings of Franz Kafka and Samuel Beckett
Humans build architecture as architecture builds humans. Men and architecture affect each other, one is molded by the constitution of the other. A technical advance or a typological invention in architecture directly affects the ontology of men. Furthermore, an economical transformation or a political revolution directly affects the being of architecture. Since the discovery of architecture man has been bound to it physically and symbolically. But, why do men have so much faith and trust in architecture?
The tracking of the origin of architecture would only be an archeological enterprise if we consider the origin of architecture in a chronological way. Nevertheless architecture is always beginning: each man, each architect, reproduces the origin of architecture in the first moment he starts to dream, wish, conceive or project his own dwelling or someone else´s. He is moved by an archetypical impulse that he shares with his ancestors: the impulse of architecture, that´s the creation of some order in the physical space. If archeology searches for material traces of origins, philosophy interrogates this primordial gesture, the impulse that moves men to ´architecturalize´. To philosophize about architecture means to bring architecture back to its most fundamental state, to the thin threshold between ´non-architecture´ and architecture.
While they were not philosophers Samuel Beckett and Franz Kafka explore this limit point in some of their writings.
They (re)create a hypothetical time when architecture isn´t yet achieved, when the dispositive called architecture is still in a test period where it could be rejected or accepted as convenient. In Kafka´s Der Bau, for example, a protohuman creature wishes to dwell peacefully, that´s why he begins to build an architectural prototype that could neutralize the forces of exteriority; in spite of his efforts, his constant failure increases his paranoia (the typical spatial experience for animals), leading him to consider his own submission to architecture. On the other hand in Beckett´s novel Molloy, the homonymous character, refuses architecture all the time, becoming impermeable to its physical and symbolical impositions, living in an ´anarchitectural´ way. Through some of the writings of these two major writers, we will immerse ourselves in a metaphysical temporality of architecture, a temporality of the strangeness of architecture itself, a temporality when architecture, before being approved, remains only as a possibility, as a prototype.
“The live space”: architecture, empathy, movement
Although far from being new, the notion of architectural space understood as a dynamic experience resulting from the embodied observer’s perceptive and emotional activity, as well as of his interactions with the built environment, has received only recently an attention comparable to the intense interdisciplinary dialogue that marked scientific aesthetics, particularly in Germany, at the end of the 19th century. Arguing against Sigfried Giedion’s and Bruno Zevi’s canonical theories of space as something which appears in front of an abstract observer, contemporary architectural historians and theorists like Paolo Amaldi invoke phenomenology and define space as an entity configured by, through, and for, a perception in movement, a succession of various situated points of view. Numerous are the critics, theorists and artists who, taking up on Sergei Eisenstein’s comments on the cinematic quality of architecture, put forward a conception of space as a series of montage operations, calling for movement and temporal sequences, and transforming space into a research object for media studies. Neuropsychology, to name the latest most prominent contributor to this interdisciplinary reflection on architectural space, brings new insights into the perceptive and cognitive processes occurring during the interactions of the individuals with their environments, and further supports the idea of space as contingent upon the bodily multisensory experience.
Going back to the beginnings of this dynamic paradigm in the psychological aesthetics of the 19th century will help us put into perspective some of the questions guiding today’s effort to define architectural space: what does it mean to see architecture? What distinguishes architectural space from the measurable space available to ordinary perception? If moving and walking are the conditions by which a dynamic space exists, what can we say about its temporality? What transformations must the observer’s body undergo in order to endow space with a dynamic quality? How does one create space? In order to answer these questions we will 1) recall the role of Einfühlung, empathy, in the understanding of a three-dimensional space animated by the perceptive body (Robert Vischer, Adolf von Hildebrand, August Schmarsow), and 2) examine the notion of “live space” (“espace vivant”) defined by the revolutionary theatre stage designer Adolphe Appia and by the architect Le Corbusier.
Architecture and philosophy of history
The perception of buildings always includes a specifically historical dimension. What might seem a well-known feature of our conception of architecture, nevertheless leaves open important questions regarding the status of that historical dimension: what is it exactly that lets us conceive a building as a historical or contemporary one? If it is not just the time elapsed since its creating (as the perception of old but surprisingly ‘modern’ buildings suggests) then what is it? On the contrary we experience the phenomenon of decisively past and even ‘dated’ creations. At stake is thus a theory that integrates architecture not only into the field of historical knowledge as such, but explores the particular perception of its artifacts as examples of a certain historical context. Departing from a theory of history that explicitly refuses the notion of a past being able to be represented, I am going to take history of architecture as a prototype of history in general. The historical significance of an architectural structure does not relate to its age as it could be dated scientifically. On the contrary, the age of a building is usually defined with respect to its stylistic elements that – in theory – could also be reproduced by an exact copy. What creates historical succession is thus not the time elapsed, but the integration of some general elements into a theoretical framework. This leads to the discussion on whether such a framework distinguishes itself by a specifically spatial dimension.