Relationship Between Parasite And Host Cultural Studies Essay

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In the commensalistic relation, one party will benefit but the other is unaffected. The host will not be affected as the parasite will adapt to the host and blends into it. It does not cause any harm or disadvantage to the host.

The mutualistic relationship between the parasite and host are interdependent. Both organisms rely on each other to gain benefits and to compensate each other as both fills in the gap of what is lacking or missing. There is a common ground between both parties which makes them suitable for each other in terms of relationship, compatibility and survivability as both needs something from one another. In exchange, living together brought forth good results and reaping the harvest which both organisms are looking to achieve.

Parasitic relationship between the parasite and host are usually regarded as negative since only the parasite gains all the benefits however, there is possibility where parasitic relation turns into mutualistic. In this journal called From Parasite to Mutualist: Rapid Evolution of Wolbachia in Natural Populations of Drosophila, a group of researchers from different Universities discovers that this Wolbachia bacterium shows signs of transformation. They mentioned that the changes in the genomes of the bacteria cause the shift of higher rates of egg productions in Wolbachia-infected host. In their study, they revealed that there is a dynamic interacting system which evolves rapidly over time between the bacteria and the host. (2007)

In architecture, parasite is view as the changes or new adaptations on the interior or exterior of a building space while the host will definitely be the existing architecture itself. The parasite comes into existence when the desire to change or transform the static existing architecture arises. It will become a new breeding ground for this parasite to grow and claim ownership of the shared spaces which belong to the host.

There are certain requirements or characteristics for this parasite to be revealed and take its place. First of all, it is the unclear boundaries between the architecture and its surrounding where the spaces are undefined for instance, the public space or shared space in between the buildings. Secondly, is the abandoned building or places where it is practically dead and parasite could be the way to revitalize, give life or a new meaning to the spaces. Thirdly, the preservation of the identity of a certain heritage where the old building are preserved but new and contemporary changes can happen throughout the building itself. It could also be the expansion or additional space on the existing fabric of the building.

This essay revolves around this mutualistic relationship between the parasite and host which is the architecture as it has the positive impact towards one another and potential of having numerous possibilities to reach greater heights together.

Spaces in between buildings and public spaces

What is the boundary of the public spaces? Does the space in between buildings belong to anyone? The boundaries and ownership of those spaces are unclear. Allen mentioned that 'Public space is a concept that is on the one hand hardly ever defined with any degree of specificity, and on the other never questioned as to its value.' (as quoted in Architectural Design 2008 pg.102) The unclear boundaries and spaces are a perfect breeding ground for parasite since it will claim the ownership of the space to its own. These spaces have the potential for changes and something different or totally new can be explored.

Another brighter point of view about this parasite is that it could be a catalyst of transformation. At some point of a time where changes and needs of the user arises, parasite can actively play its role to maximize its influence in the relationship. The mutualistic relation can be seen in this scenario where the host also benefited from this parasite as the spaces are being fully utilized rather than leaving it empty and to be called wastage of space. It also creates a connection between the buildings or spaces resulting in better interaction among users and brings infinite possibilities of different type of usage towards the same space. An example of a clever use of public spaces is the Westside Bruenen by Daniel Libeskind. Westside mall is a spine of public space with a wide variety of shops and restaurants. It connects the urban area with the countryside. Figure A shows the connection of the mall over the highway.

Figure A : Westside Bruenen

Abandoned buildings

The abandoned buildings are practically dead spaces frozen in time where no activity or life source detected. It is just an empty large shell with no souls inside. These spaces need a revival or resurrection to restore back the original meaning of the existence of the building it once had. Transformation is very much needed here to bring the place back to life with the chance to breathe once again. Lebbeus Woods described that the spaces of transformation are everywhere, it can also be found in the abandoned spaces as well as the places of destruction. He also mentioned that we must redesign spaces and structures that do not meet our needs. (1997)

Buildings are meant to be built with the capacity to stand against harsh weather and environment but up to a certain point of time it will slowly starts to deteriorate. By this time, it has to be maintained in order to prolong its survivability and usage. If not, it will come to a stage where the building will be abandoned. In this context, parasite can be the answer for its reawakening from the deep sleep after a long time. A touch of life is what it's really need as the parasite will enter and take ownership of the place.

This parasite can be viewed as a new element that injected into the abandoned building. A totally new spatial design is introduced to this old abandoned shell in terms of programs, function and aesthetic. For example, the plan for Delancey Underground, Manhattan by Dan Barasch is to create an underground park out of the abandoned trolley terminal in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Figure B shows the current condition of the abandoned Lower East Side subway line. It is in a very bad state where the cleanliness is out of question and the water puddle of mud can be seen everywhere with some left over pieces of wood. It is a place of very low hygiene environment and uninviting site to be seen as well.

Figure B : Lower East Side of Manhattan Subway Line

Figure C : Proposal for the Lower East Side of Manhattan Subway Line

The potential plan for Delancey Underground is shown in Figure C. The plan is to transform the space into an oasis where people can respite, maintain connection to this place by keeping the original infrastructure elements. It is definitely revitalizing transformation and a cure to the underground subway line from its current condition. The parasite and host are constantly seeking benefit from each other in this case. This mutualistic relation will aid the two parties to improve the condition of the current state as both needs each other.

Preservation of the heritage building with new expansion or additions

Preservation and conservation is part of the heritage that passed down through generations. This legacy should be kept and continue throughout our lifetime. For instance, preservation and conservation efforts are carried out carefully in Singapore. It is part of the urban planning as the historic buildings create a link back to the past where the existence of the building are part of the culture and heritage in specific locations within the city fabric. The link can be seen as a reminiscence of the past thus reminds us of the former glory of the building. By preserving the old heritage buildings, cultural identity can be retained without completely losing its essence and uniqueness. Preserving the past and celebrate the future is a very important key element towards any country or places of rich cultural heritage.

Singapore architectural heritage buildings exhibit the skilled craftsmanship and architects investment in the country. The combination of technology, skills, knowledge of the past and present makes preservation possible. The preservation of the past is not just merely the facade of the building or any decoration and ornaments of the exterior building but also retaining the intrinsic spirit of the dwelling with the original atmosphere in the interior spaces. It requires careful thoughts, sensitivity of the site context, understanding of its history and the correct measures to be taken into consideration for a successful preservation and conservation planning.

Singapore is a multi-cultural hub because of the large flows of immigration into the country as Singapore attracts talented and skilled professionals to live and work here. Unknowingly, they have brought in their very own religion, beliefs and cultural practices. The globalization is also one of the reasons for this rich cultural exchange. It is like a double edges sword towards Singapore as it provides diversified opportunities for Singapore to grow to become a strong and developed country but at the same time, there is risk of losing its very own identity. The international influence might consume Singapore identity as a cultural diversified country but nonetheless, Singapore have managed to balanced out the plan for preserving the rich cultural heritage with the intense development and transformation of the country be it in infrastructure or economy. At the official opening of the new Peranakan Museum on 25 April 2008, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong mentioned that the museum was part of the plan to make Singapore a vibrant cultural art scene. He also commented that the abundant cultural life will cultivate a sense of pride towards the heritage and history thus strengthening the nation's identity to Singaporeans. (MICA Press Releases & Speeches 2008)

There are potential for the parasite to take its place in the architecture which is the new host. It can be viewed as the possible expansion or additional spaces in the building without disconnected the link of preservation of what is inside and outside. Once again this mutualistic relation will foster good relationship between the parasite and the host as they need to work together in order to achieve what is impossible to be done alone. On one hand it needs to preserve and conserve the past but on the other hand it has to meet of the current needs of the people. For example, the colonial architecture is very well preserved on National Museum of Singapore and the new contemporary glass and metal frame extension wing inside is consistent.

Figure D : National Museum of Singapore

Figure E : Glass Rotunda extension wing

Figure F : The contemporary glass and metal frame extension wing

The careful consideration and sensitivity to the museum result an organized extension. It does not overpower the other but allow both to breathe in the same space. The parasite and host are respecting each other's boundaries and achieved a new level of cohesion. This mutualistic relationship is worth to explore even more.

Theory of Symbiosis

Parasite and host have a symbiotic relationship. Both have their own specific boundaries and different from each other but the intriguing relation is that both of them work together for the good in the mutualistic context. The theory of symbiosis is one the approach which can be taken into consideration as the mutualistic relation is closely related to symbiosis.

Kisho Kurokawa has identified symbiosis is related to Buddhism and it touches the area of "coexistence" (2005). It is an important concept that derives from the root of modern Japanese Buddhism. The teachings of Professor Shiio deeply planted into his mind about the coexistence Buddhism where Buddha exists within all living things. Humans do not live independently but rather exists in a cycle whereby each life is a result of the other. Human beings consume other living things such as vegetables and meats in order to sustain oneself. We have to acknowledge that the fact of our survival are also depending on other life forms is the symbiosis itself not just regarding it as a food or raw materials only.

A There are a lot of organisms which lives inside a human body and that human survived because of it just like metabolism. It is a cycle. Our body is just like a host for a large numbers of other living organisms which makes human being involves in a very complex symbiotic relationship between other organisms such as bacteria, viruses and other living substances.

Kisho Kurokawa mentioned that symbiosis is relevant when there is respect between two sacred zones of opposing factors be it in different elements, characteristics, cultures, beliefs, structures, systems, and components. They have to acknowledge and recognize the sacred zones of each other. How does this two different entity come together when there are such a huge gap or extreme differences? The answer is through a mutual exchange of understanding or extended dialogue and new discoveries of infinite possibilities of mutual contributions that benefits both. ( 2006)

Another important point of symbiosis to be made possible is through the existence of an intermediary space. The presence of this intermediary space is essential for the two different entities to have a common ground to work together where mutual understanding can be found here. It does not only exist as a static space but rather conforms to the pattern or flows between the two opposing elements where it could be dependent and very progressive. The unclear boundaries of intermediary spaces which are the overlapping, permeable, intersecting of interior and exterior spaces are the special features towards Japanese art, culture and architecture. The Japanese cultures are based on the philosophy of Symbiosis which has a strong connection towards architecture as well.

Symbiosis creates opportunity for two opposing elements to have a relationship while still remain different on its very own way. The relationship is always progressive, dynamic and always changing. It is more effective if a spatial distance is placed between both of them, giving it a zone where they can cool-off and breathe together. These zones are to create possibilities of continuation of something which is disconnected and non-related. It does not force one or the other to obey and compromise its own value but rather a crucial point towards a successful symbiotic relationship.

Kisho Kurokawa mentioned the symbiosis between private and public is the intermediate zone which is originally the communal space in the urban fabric of Japan. During the 21st century of redevelopment of cities, communal spaces have to be revived in a diversified manner. This includes the recreation of small pockets of natural environment spaces and also the protrusion spaces under the buildings. For example, in Figure G & H: the Head Offices of the Fukuoka Bank which belongs to a private property but still remain open to the public. (1991)

Figure G : Fukuoka Bank front view Figure H: Fukuoka Bank intermediate space

In the past Japan achieve symbiosis with nature by the means of borrowing landscapes which is the integration of the nature and views into one's life but it is no longer possible now. The population density is not low enough and depleting natural landscape does not allow for this technique continue. The crucial part for this technique is that human are part of the landscape and there is someone who is keeping an eye on us.

The symbiosis approach of the parasite and architecture is very fascinating. This theory supports the mutualistic relation between both of the opposing element. It redefines the characteristic of intermediary space allowing them work along well.

Case Studies

Figure I: Morgan Library expansion 2006 by Renzo Piano, New York

An expansion to the Morgan Library by Renzo Piano, 2006 in New York is a challenge for him to insert a new element between the three historic buildings with unique appearance of different timeline. The expansion is carefully and sensitively planned as the new vertical slots of glass structures are used where it meets the historic buildings. It is clearly shown in Figure I. Through this slightly revealed intermediate space, pedestrians are allowed to have a glimpse of the deep central courtyard thus defining the clear boundaries between the new expansion and the historic buildings. The expansion is done in a very modest contrast intention of not disrupting the landmark but also to create a connection between the new and old.

There is a large central atrium which connects the three historic buildings together as a result, harmonious and coherent holistic atmosphere are created. The central atrium is filled with lights and provides a sense of invitation to the users in Figure J.

Figure J: Central atrium Figure K: Model showing the whole expansion

Figure K shows the overall expansion that took place between the three historic buildings and the scale of the whole project are planned with the right proportion towards the context. There is a basement expansion as well. It is the place for the book vaults and theatre to reduce the visual scale of the overall expansion.

The expansion is a representation of the parasite where it connects to the different host with mutualistic relation and it shows a symbiosis of spaces between buildings while restoring the old and celebrates the future.

Figure L: Dresden's Military History Museum 2011 by Daniel Libeskind, Germany

Daniel Libeskind created the expansion with the intention of penetrating through the existing museum with its history to bring a new experience and a strong intrusion. The first look at the museum is already a very bold statement of the architect. The expansion will provide a sense of connection between the violence, military history and the fate of the city to the public. It is also an emotional interruption of the rigid exterior of the museum with its massive wedge of glass, metal and structures.

The extension can be seen as a parasite to the museum. It has the character of a bold infiltration and direct penetration into the space which belongs to the host. This is just only the tangible side but the intangible side of the story is that the parasite expresses itself with a deep meaning of history; furthermore, it injects the revisited emotion of the past in a city annihilated by the bombing at the end of WWII. The parasite is a catalyst of transformation in this context as the area where the museum is located is deserted for quite some time before extension. After the completion of the extension, it brought Dresden district back to life into a place of international destination for its history and culture. The mutualistic relation can be seen clearly in this manner where symbiosis between the parasite and host brings positive impact. It also brought forth a totally new meaning to the museum with its new extention.

Figure M: Model showing the wedge integration into the museum

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References (2006) Each One A Hero - The Philosophy of Symbiosis. [online] Available at: [Accessed: 27 Oct 2012]

Kurokawa, K. (1991) Intercultural architecture: the philosophy of symbiosis. London, Academy Editions

Kurokawa,K., Schmal,P.C., Flagge., I., & Visscher,J. (2005). Kisho Kurokawa: metabolism and symbiosis. Berlin, Jovis

MICA Press Releases & Speeches (2008) Speech By Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong At The Official Opening Of The New Peranakan Museum On 25 April 2008. [press release] 25 April. [online] Available at:

Rafi Segal, Els Verbakel (2008) Architectural Design 2008 Volume 78 Issue 1, Cities of Dispersal, Wiley Academy

R Weeks, A. et al. (2007) From Parasite to Mutualist: Rapid Evolution of Wolbachia in Natural Populations of Drosophila. PLOS Biology, 5 (5), p.2

Woods, L. (1997) Radical Reconstruction. New York, Princeton Architectural Press