12 February 2006

a find as a machine for habitation

A written essay regarding architecture engenders intellectual occupancies of the particular space which – at that particular time – architecture regards as properly its own. Any opinion that is organized around an edifice seeks to breach it in a particular way so as to install therein a machine for habitation by means of thought. Thus we look at architecture in the manner we build, whereas we write about it in the manner we dwell. We argue that a building may be construed in this manner or that, and we mean by this that it may be inhabited in this or that manner. We often deem a work of architecture to exist incipiently, and it is only later on – once we have taken notice of its interior – that we stumble upon its own proper meaning. We fondly imagine that we are deciphering, that we are taking something by storm that was just lurking within the ‘innards’ of an edifice. Even so, any such decipherment also constitutes a constructional investment that foists some new system upon a previous one. Each such decipherment engenders some kind of appurtenance, in such a way as to render meaningless the quibble about what is more important in the act of decipherment: the veiled meaning or the process of producing it. The work actually needs the instauration upon it of a new system providing the locus for appended ‘elucidations’. An essay on architecture consumes itself in a bid to achieve occupancy of private space, to dwell there where the energy of interpretation may be accommodated. It is not so much an accommodation of the energy originating from the project qua project, but rather an acquiescence to a foisted meaning, as confirmation of the unity (that may be only ascertained ex post) formed by the edifice in question and the discourse that is offered accommodation inside the edifice. An essay on a work of architecture accomplishes a certain tentative annexation of a new limb to the body of the edifice under consideration. Discourse is installed in architecture, a fact that allows the edifice to stand as a permanent stage, where the discourse in question may take up lodging, as tenants occupy a house, without incurring any definitive alterations to its space, such that would turn it into something other than it is[1], but merely by constructing their own abode out of that fixed space[2].
As we hold on to this notion, we can stage tentative approaches that shall be concerned with the ‘literal’ aspect of such occupancies: ‘literal’ yet not divorced from certain metaphorical implications. We envision such an essay in as utterly plain and playful terms as possible. A certain notion of ‘built essay’ could conceive the intellectual effort aimed at such tentative transformations of an edifice: how would it be possible for such an essay to become another kind of inscription on the edifice? Our goal is an intervention organized at the level of the intellect, not one indulging in a disquisition on the representational features of the building, but one that would alter those representational features in order to attempt some other installation. Such a strategy could aim at a tentative architectural act, an attempt at occupancy: not only in organizing a proposal to be installed, but also in formulating something. An opportunity would be thereby afforded to discourse (which distorts so as to construct an interpretation) of acting on the images themselves and on the plans of the buildings. The buildings would thus be treated as finds, and the interventions upon them would be tests, where the buildings would serve as raw materials, and the tests would engulf the buildings in order to produce something from them. Preparatory work for various such installations would test the amenability of the building to particular occupancies.When does an edifice become a find worthy of theoretical installations? I know not the answer. We usually hold that an answer to this question is given implicitly, as a matter of course. What deserves to be investigated is usually put forth or not as the case may be, depending on the ease with which a community can formed around it, a community based on common interests. What is thereby precluded is the likelihood of encounters with buildings (whatever their sort) that would be governed by the unfeigned fascination deriving from some indefinable personal attraction. Why do we become interested in this or that person? How do such persons succeed in occupying a significant part of our field of vision? How important are other people’s opinions about those persons? How do we endeavour to install ourselves within them, or to construe them according to our predilections? An edifice may be the setting of an encounter. ‘How is one to approach the landscape that is no longer what one sees, but has conversely become the landscape in which one is seen by others?

[1] Still, prior to any such installation, the space in question has not yet become something definite.
[2] Let this observation be read in tandem with Aldo Rossi’s notion of scena fissa, transposed to a different setting.