Idealism In Architectural Design Cultural Studies Essay

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Before we get carried away with the keyword, what always be recognized is that architecture is too frequently seen simply as a game of episodic quick starts and restart, an aesthetic or technological achievement, as the object or container for cultural, political, economic aspirations, as the carrier of function over meaning, as an end in itself. Surely there exists more "unknown unknown" we can't get our heads around, the factors over the horizon that we can't effectively speculate about. Even the whispers of them are not visible. They're black swans. In point of fact we're not, and we're visibly losing control of the few levers that we already had. Our economic and planning systems are not structured to deal with these aspects of objective reality. We don't really have institutions that are willing to go there. They're really literary and metaphysical problems. And we're now trying to architect or speculate these things, as if holding small matches in a very large darkness. The solutions to these problems might come from "a more mature civilizational approach to the realities on the ground", an approach that employs "speculative prototyping" to deal with complex and unstructured problems. That is where ambiguity generates and comes into play.

Venturi considers that "architecture is form and substance - abstract and concrete - and its meaning derives from its interior characteristics and its particular context." These oscillating relationships are the source of the ambiguity and tension characteristic to the medium of architecture. We can understand as that architecture has a special physical relationship with life. It is not primarily either a message or a symbol, but as an envelope and background for life which goes on in and around it. Almost like the "horizon" brought up by Heidegger when discussing the boundaries that he felt people identify around places. It served as a metaphor for the contexts in which people appreciate things, themselves and others. Individuals know such boundaries by experience but can't locate them exactly. The elusiveness of these horizons betrayed the ultimate mysteriousness of life. The world, for Heidegger, is "parcelled up into intersecting places of many sorts, sizes, shapes, and scales, activities involving the identification of these places remain subjective, tentative, shifting and contingent". While life unfolds as a complex field of relationships and movements, numerous possible forces are shaped mentally and abstractly projected into architecture, making it increasingly ambiguous.

ltalo Calvino tells us in his "American lessons" about the Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi who saw the beauty of literature in its vagueness, openness, and indeterminacy. Also in his marvellous book Invisible Cities, Marco Polo reports to Kublai Kahn of a town called Despina which appears different depending on the side from which it is approached. Coming from the land with the camel, the town is seen as a ship which takes you away from the coast; coming from the sea by ship, the town is seen as a camel which takes you away from the desert of the sea to a fresh water oasis. They convey the meaning that works or objects of art that move us are multi-faceted, they have numerous and perhaps endless layers of meaning which overlap and interweave, and which change as we change our angle of observation. An interpretation is, that power and multiplicity applied in architecture must be developed from the indeterminacy that constitutes it. "A flexible building should allow change. This may be done by redundancy, the absence of determined content or use." In modernist architectural discourse indeterminacy in buildings is usually discussed in terms of flexibility, a term associated with function and efficiency. "The design of indeterminate buildings", according to Archigram, "which offers a range of possible solutions, enable the users' choice according to incidental needs, demands and desires." Furthermore, Bernard Tschumi has based many of his ideas in cinematic montage and has defined architecture as "making room for the event", arguing for an "architecture of event" and an "architecture of disjunction" where space, movement, action and event can permeate each other. In his built project of the National Studio for Contemporary Arts in Tourcoing, the large roof acts as a hangar offering an ambiguous space between itself and the lower building it shadows. "An in-between, a place of the unexpected where unprogrammed events might occur, events that are not part of the curriculum", Tschumi explains.­ In a book appeared in 1987 Kisho Kurokawa has introduced an idea that architecture is seen as "another nature" rather than as artificial production. In this view of taking on another new shape of nature, what used to be secluded becomes urbanizational, a changing and multifacet substance that would accomodates juxtapositions of opposites. Together with Richard Meier in "The Whites" they endeavour to establish a free talk between human, nature and architecture. This symbiotic thinking gives a new aesthetic concept wherein space, function and visualisation are concerned in a different way, with the great importance of hyper-form and inter-generative sustainability.

The Blur Building in Yverdon, designed by Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio for the Swiss Expo 2002, is "in contradiction to the tradition of Expo pavilions whose exhibitions entertain and educate. BLUR erases information." With dispersed sources of stimulation throughout the fog mass, visitors will be drawn to explore this suspenseful, disorienting, and unfamiliar setting. The chaos, depicted in such atmospheric space, is characterized by a non-linear thinking, portraying the world as a world varying, atactic, chaotic and out of determinism. Most importantly, chaos has constructed an obverse-reverse-combination way of thinking, holding that the world is displayed in a manifestation of confusion and clarity. Because nonlinearity system as such is a paradox, a deep integration of order and disorder, randomness and certainty, unpredictability and predictability, free will and determinism. It leads people into a multi-dimensional, diverse, predictable, adjustable, flexible and open universe. Kazuo Shinohara has always pursued a goal of "progressive anarchy" and "zero-degree machine". Insouciant and impromptu, he tries to combine together these images with some heterogeneous forms, generating compositive imagery to deliver the unique significance implied in what is constantly changing. Wolf Prix, the prolocutor of COOP HIMMELB(L)AU, is also a heavy-weight exponents of Deconstructivism with the fragmentary structures they called "open architecture". He advocates a possibility beyond marginality, in a way out of confinement, richly perform and select, while simultaneously built on the ground of reconstructing multiplicity and complexity of our world. In the three most influential buildings in 90s, including Bilbao Guggenheim Museum, Aronoff Center for Design and Art, Berlin Jewish Museum, when the alogical spatial sequence and unordered chaos mentality unfold before our eyes, it is realized that there is something modern architects couldn't overlook, the interluding and countering between spaces, or the contradiction and conflict in building components, or the integration of any heterogeneous and incompatible elements.

Today's architecture hankers after infinity: break the rules, embrace the nature, human, "letting space", free flow of time and space, making us confused but identified, combining the past, the present and the future as one, even shake our sense of reality and rationality, especially permanency. Anything disturbing, provoking, unreasonable that it undergos, is exactly what irrationalists summon and favor, the very ambiguity they have been groping for and practicing. In the competition for an extension to the London-based Victoria & Albert museum, Libeskind's The Spiral has built on a notion in which positivism, rationality and linearity gives way for uncertainty, contingency and thinking in terms of operations. "The twenty-first century will not be about finding ourselves, but losing ourselves much deeper in the history that created the future." One of the most important characteristic of contemporary thought resides in the fact that a Socratic notion of finding the essence of the self is being replaced by the Nietzschean idea of asking at the feasibility of the self. In the struggle against linearity and regularity, the Spiral-experience, the labyrinth-like artistry and chaos, the inherently ambiguous and paradoxical structures, tries to resist the idea of essence in general, and give possibilities to marvel over the complexity.


A unique perspective of idealism in architectural design,

Coleman, Nathaniel, Utopias and Architecture, Routledge, 2005

An inspiration challenging the architects to question the meaning of the architect as creator:

Vattimo, Gianni, "The end of modernity, the End of Project?", Rethinking Architecture, a Reader in Cultural Theory, p.154, Routledge, 1997

Libeskind's declaration on surrealistic architecture:

Libeskind, Daniel, Fishing From The Pavement, NAi Publishers, 1997

Some hints to understand and establish active relations with the world:

Mateo, Josep L., Occasions, ACTAR, eng. 2009

A new concept:

Bauman, Zygmunt, Liquid Modernity, Polity Pr, 2000

Sennett, Richard, The Uses of Disorder: Personal Identity and City Life, Faber & Faber, 1996

Excerpts from the lecture "Inaugural Address" given in TU Delft:

Barbieri, Umberto, "Res Aedificatoria - frammenti di una riflessione", 2003

An online essay about genealogy and mediation in contemporary Japanese architecture:

Angelidou, Ioanna, INTERTWINEMENTS, 2011

JDS Architects, "Can We Sustain Our Ability to Crisis?", Agenda, Actar, 2nd ed. 2011

Venturi, Robert, Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, The Museum of Modern Art, 2nd ed. 2002

Sharr, Adam, Heidegger for Architects (Thinkers for Architects), Routledge, 2007

Heidegger, Martin, "Building Dwelling Thinking", Poetry Language Thought, Harper & Row, 1971

Calvino, Italo, Lezioni Americane, European Schoolbooks Ltd, 2002

Calvino, Italo, Invisible Cities, Harvest Books, 1978

Price, Cedric, From Agit-Prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price, Black Dog Publishing, 2007

Sadler, Simon, Archigram Architecture Without Architecture, MIT Press, 2005

Tshumi, Bernard, Event-Cities, MIT Press, 1994

Hill, Jonathan, Actions of Architecture: Architects and Creative Users, Psychology Press, 2003

Kurokawa, Kisho, The Philosophy of Symbiosis, Academy Press, 2nd ed. 1994

Diller, Elizabeth, Blur: The Making of Nothing, Harry N. Abrams, 2002

Nute, Kevin, Place, Time and Being in Japanese Architecture, Routledge, 2004

Prix, Wolf, "On the edge", Architectural design, n. 9-10, 1990

Papadakis, Andreas, Free Spirit in Architecture Omnibus, John Wiley & Sons, 1992

Libeskind, Daniel, The Space of Encounter, Thames & Hudson, London, 2001